Laura Albert

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Laura Victoria Albert
Laura Albert in her study
Born (1965-11-02) November 2, 1965 (age 50)
Brooklyn, New York City
Pen name JT LeRoy
Emily Frasier, Speedie, Laura Victoria, Gluttenberg
Occupation Author
Genre Fiction

Laura Victoria Albert (born November 2, 1965) is the American author of writings that include works credited to the literary persona JT LeRoy, whom Albert described as an "avatar",[1] saying she was able to write things as LeRoy that she could not have said as Laura Albert. Albert was born and raised in Brooklyn. She has also used the names Emily Frasier and Speedie, and published other works as Laura Victoria and Gluttenberg.

Writing and other activities[edit]

Laura Albert published the JT LeRoy books – Sarah (2000), The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things (2001), and Harold's End (2004) – as "fiction," not as "memoir." However, "The permeable membrane between author and subject was tantalizing, since "Sarah" was described by the publisher as semi-autobiographical fiction.""[2] "The Heart is Deceitful is Above All Things" was marketed as 'autobiographical short stories" in many publications. [3] The persona of "JT LeRoy" was acted out by Laura Albert's family member in a wig and sunglasses. "Another woman, Savannah Knoop—who was the half sister of Albert’s boyfriend, Geoff—played the role of JT LeRoy during public appearances."[4] She attests that she could not have written from raw emotion without the right to be presented to the world via JT LeRoy, whom she calls her "phantom limb," according to a 2006 interview in the Paris Review. "I had survived sexual and physical abuse and found a way to turn it into art," she later wrote in The Forward. "Having struggled with issues of gender fluidity when there was no language for it, I created a character both on and off the page who modeled this as yet to be named state of being."[5] "Looking back, Laura Albert anticipated just about all of it," commented author Adam Langer. "Long before we had split our personas into the lives we truly live and the ones that we choose to create on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and everywhere else, Albert created her own avatar."[6] Another commentator insisted, "Albert had ingeniously hacked the literary establishment."[7] Albert later told the San Francisco Bay Guardian, "For me it was created the way an oyster creates a pearl: out of irritation and suffering. It was an attempt to try to heal something. And it actually worked, and it did so for a lot of other people. The amazing thing is, now I can be available to people. [...] It's OK with me if someone doesn't like my writing. But they shouldn't try to tell me how I'm obliged to present my work."[8] Writing for The New York Times in 2016, Albert noted, "I meet a lot of young people and they're shocked that it was an issue to even have an avatar. Because they've grown up where you have multiple fully formed avatars."[9] Asked about the notion of having fooled people by writing as JT LeRoy, Albert has stated, "No audience for any work of art needs to worry about being fooled. Art is the opportunity to change the way you think, which means you can never be fooled – you either have that experience or you don't."[7]

Albert has remained controversial. In August of 2016, San Francisco Magazine wrote, "The question of Albert’s intention and integrity has for the past decade been central to what people talk about when they talk about JT LeRoy. The saga wasn’t simply a question of a pseudonymous writer duping readers and a bunch of celebrities. Using the persona of JT, Albert, who was then in her 30s, formed emotionally intimate telephone relationships with a number of people, writers like Dennis Cooper and Mary Gaitskill among them, who believed they were helping an abused HIV-positive transgender street kid by offering him both their time and their lit-world connections."[10]

In November 2010, Laura Albert appeared at The Moth to tell her story on video. For a screening of actress/director Asia Argento's film adaptation The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things (2004), Albert presented video of her Skype conversation with Argento, in which the filmmaker declared, "I'm so proud of this movie, and it's the best thing I've ever done. And I'm blessed to have read that book and to have met you and to have done this movie. Blessed. [...] And I'm so proud of you for everything you've done. You were bold to choose the path that you did. You're a real artist, Laura." In July of 2016, for an article in The Guardian about the UK release of Author: The JT LeRoy Story, Argento voiced different feelings: “A way I thought I could get rid of the resentment was to just not talk about it. It is something I cannot forgive. Believe me it’s hard to carry this burden. I would be very grateful if one day this stops in me. I couldn’t do movies as a director for 10 years. Because I’ve been fooled. I’m a fool! How could I not see it? It made me feel worthless to be honest. I didn’t have a lot of self esteem after that. It took me a long time to rebuild it. I was lost. So forgiveness … it’s a beautiful thing, of saints and martyrs, but I can’t let it go. I was fucking manipulated, it’s time for me to say that.”[11]

Laura Albert wrote "Dreams of Levitation," Sharif Hamza's short film for NOWNESS, and has also written for the acclaimed television series Deadwood. The film "Radiance," which she also wrote, was made an Official Selection of the 2015 Bokeh South African International Fashion Film Festival. She collaborated with director and playwright Robert Wilson for the international exhibition of his VOOM video portraits, and with the catalog for his "Frontiers: Visions of the Frontier" at Institut Valencià d'Art Modern (IVAM).[12] In 2012 she served on the juries of the first Brasilia International Film Festival and the Sapporo International Short Film Festival; she also attended Brazil's international book fair, Bienal Brasil do Livro e da Leitura, where she and Alice Walker were the U.S. representatives. Brazil's Geração Editorial has re-released the JT LeRoy books in a boxset under Laura Albert's name, and she and JT are the subjects of the hit Brazilian rock musical JT, Um Conto de Fadas Punk ("JT, A Punk Fairy Tale"). On March 11, 2014, the San Francisco Chronicle reported[13] that the Academy of Friends Oscar Party in San Francisco invited JT LeRoy – played by gender-fluid fashion model Rain Dove Dubilewski – to walk the runway[14] as part of its HIV/AIDS fundraiser. Recent documentaries about JT LeRoy include Author: The JT LeRoy Story (2016) directed by Jeff Feuerzeig, The Cult of JT LeRoy (2015) directed by Marjorie Sturm, and The Ballad of JT LeRoy (2014) directed by Lynn Hershman Leeson. Writing about having curated a recent photographic exhibition that included Mary Ellen Mark's 2001 portrait of JT LeRoy for Vanity Fair magazine, Chuck Mobley of San Francisco Camerawork insisted, "There were a lot of moral judgments being made (by educated people who should know better) that were exhausting and simplistic. [...] The grievances aired seemed petty and obscured a far more fascinating and intellectually stimulating story."[15] Other have felt quite differently like Armond White, who writes, "When Albert’s fraud was finally exposed (after she wrecked the credibility of several publications, book companies, a film studio—plus many gullible readers) the reaction was justifiably angry and strong."[16]

She has taught at Dave Eggers' 826 Valencia and the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, and has lectured with artist Jasmin Lim at Artists' Television Access with SF Camerawork's Chuck Mobley, in conjunction with a window installation about her work. A spokeswoman for the successful "Heart for Eye" campaign to raise funds for eye surgery for children, Laura Albert hosted a television segment and was both an interviewee and an interviewer of inspirational women such as Anastasia Barbieri and Anh Duong. She was photographed by Steven Klein for QVEST magazine and by Kai Regan for his "Reckless Endangerment" at ALIFE; she has also done fashion shoots for Christian Lacroix and John Galliano. Laura Albert profiled Juergen Teller for the 2003 Citibank Photography Prize catalogue; and published her reminiscence of Lou Reed in The Forward. She was a catalog contributor for the "Blind Cut" exhibition at New York's Marlborough Chelsea and collaborated with Williamsburg band Japanther, releasing a limited-edition cassette under the name True Love in a Large Room, with original artwork by Winston Smith. She has also written for dot429, the world's largest LGBTA professional network, and been an invited speaker at their annual conferences in New York.

Authorship controversy[edit]

In a New York magazine article in October 2005, Stephen Beachy suggested that LeRoy was a literary hoax created by Albert.[17] Beachy suggested that Albert was not only LeRoy's friend Emily Frasier, but also Speedie, LeRoy's street-hustling friend, as well as LeRoy himself. Albert has since confirmed that she is the writer behind the LeRoy books.

Investigation showed that the advance for LeRoy's first novel, Sarah, was paid to Laura Albert's sister, JoAnna Albert, and that further payments to LeRoy were made to a Nevada corporation, Underdogs Inc., whose president, Carolyn F. Albert, is Laura Albert's mother.

The New York Times published an article about Disneyland Paris with the JT LeRoy byline in the Sunday magazine T:Travel supplement in September 2005.[18] After the publication of the New York article, the Times found that expense receipts included an Air France itinerary for three people instead of the four described in the article. Employees at Disneyland Paris and two Paris hotels confirmed that the person claiming to be JT LeRoy matched photographs of Laura Albert, who told the employees she was traveling with her husband and son.

On January 9, 2006 an article in the New York Times gave evidence that the role of LeRoy was played publicly by Savannah Knoop. Albert explained the circumstances of JT's existence in a Fall 2006 Paris Review interview with Nathaniel Rich.[19]

Many of "JT LeRoy"'s early supporters were angered by the authorship controversy. As noted in the San Francisco Chronicle, " . . . some who were sucked in to LeRoy's 2 a.m. phone calls and pleas for emotional and artistic support have expressed outrage since the hoax was revealed. "It's not cute. It's not irrelevant. It's a cruel con, straight up, and the whole writers' community suffered for it," wrote Susie Bright, the San Francisco author and feminist "sex-positive" crusader, on her blog. "I'm sure there are examples of hoaxes that don't leave such a trail of used people." As well, Another San Francisco author and activist, Michelle Tea ("Rent Girl"), a former sex worker, has said: "Laura Albert is a traitor to writing itself, specifically to memoir. ... It's such a slap to the artists who really are toiling away to create meaning from the hardships of their live," Tea said. "It turns the redemptive quality of a lot of writing into a total farce."[20]

Fraud charges[edit]

Antidote International Films, Inc., and its president Jeffrey Levy-Hinte announced plans for a film adaptation of Sarah to be directed by Steven Shainberg. According to The New York Times, when Shainberg "learned who had truly written 'Sarah' an inspiration came to him to make a 'meta-film,' a triple-layered movie that would blend the novel with the lives of its real and purported authors in a project he took to calling 'Sarah Plus.'"[21] The Times also reported that this new project "required the rights to Laura Albert's story, rights that she in no uncertain terms refused to grant."[22] Levy-Hinte stated, "that the lawsuit was less about getting his money back than about sticking up for fair dealing and telling the truth. I’m kind of a person of principle. I wasn’t willing to simply walk away and take a loss with no apology or reasonable explanation.”"[23]

In June 2007 Antidote sued Laura Albert for fraud, claiming that a contract signed with JT LeRoy to make a feature film of Sarah was null and void.[24] ABC News questioned whether Antidote’s lawyer “may have misfired by comparing Albert to Shakespeare in an attempt to claim that authorship matters. ‘You think Shakespeare would be Shakespeare if he didn’t write it — whoever Shakespeare really is?’ he asked.”[25] On June 22 a Manhattan jury found Albert liable in monetary damages for the tort of fraud because she had signed her nom de plume to the movie contract. She was ordered to pay $110,000 to Antidote, covering the option contract, as well as an extra $6,500 in punitive damages.[26] In reporting the verdict, The New York Times noted that Jeffrey Levy-Hinte said, “if Ms. Albert, who never made a fortune from her literary works, could not afford to pay the judgment, he might have to consider laying claim to the rights to her past and future books.”[27] On July 31, 2007, the court ordered Albert to pay an additional $350,000 in legal fees to Antidote.[28] After having appealed, the damages awarded were reduced by settlement with Antidote in 2009, and Laura Albert retained the rights to her books and her life story.[29]

According to Filmmaker magazine, "Antidote v. Albert has succeeded in extending the 21st century’s most fascinating literary hoax into a whole new discursive realm. While some have argued that the case is about the right of an author to create a pseudonym for him or herself (and Antidote has proposed that it’s just about the non-ability of a fictitious person to enter into legal agreements), the verdict is a step towards defining the responsibilities of the alter-ego. In an age in which many if not most people employ fictitious identities in everything from puffed-up dating profiles to Second Life avatars, Antidote v. Albert seeks to identify the responsibilities of identity — even a fictitious one."[30]


  1. ^ Albert, Laura. "Laura Albert at The Moth "My Avatar & Me"". YouTube. Retrieved 2013-01-30. 
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Langer, Adam (August 2013). "Laura Albert" Interview Magazine.
  7. ^ a b LASTLOOK. "5 Questions for Laura Albert - LASTLOOK". Retrieved August 22, 2016. 
  8. ^ Eddy, Cheryl (June 26, 2013). "Still Beating" San Francisco Bay Guardian.
  9. ^ "Ten Years Later, the 'Real' JT LeRoy Tells All". The New York Times. August 1, 2016. Retrieved August 22, 2016. 
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ "JT LEROY - Dissident USA". Retrieved August 22, 2016. 
  13. ^ "Long-lost Ukrainian uncle has left you $5 million". Retrieved August 22, 2016. 
  14. ^ Jasmin Lim (March 11, 2014). "JT LeRoy Lives at". Retrieved August 22, 2016 – via YouTube. 
  15. ^ "Laura Albert with Mary Ellen Mark's portrait of JT LeRoy at SF Camerawork". Retrieved August 22, 2016. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ Beachy, Stephen (October 2005). "Who is the Real JT LeRoy? A search for the true identity of a great literary hustler". New York. 
  18. ^ LeRoy, JT (September 25, 2005). "Uncle Walt, Parlez-Vous Français?". New York Times T:Travel magazine. 
  19. ^ Rich, Nathaniel (Fall 2006). "Being JT LeRoy". The Paris Review. 
  20. ^
  21. ^ Feuer, Alan. "In Writer's Trial, a Conflict Over Roles of Art and Money". (June 22, 2007) New York Times. Retrieved 2013-09-10. 1 5755C0A9619C8B63
  22. ^ Feuer, Alan. "Judge Orders Author to Pay Film Company $350,000 in Legal Fees". (August 1, 1007) New York Times. Retrieved 2013-9-10.
  23. ^
  24. ^ Feuer, Alan. "Writer Testifies About Source of Nom de Plume". (June 20, 1007) New York Times. Retrieved 2013-9-10.
  25. ^ ABC News. "Jurors: LeRoy Hoax Was Fraud, Not Fiction". (June 22, 2007). Retrieved 2013-9-10.
  26. ^ Westfeldt, Amy. "Jury: novel bought by company fraudulent." U.S.A. Today. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  27. ^ Feuer, Alan. "Jury Finds JT LeRoy Was Fraud". (June 23, 2007) New York Times. Retrieved 2013-09-10.
  28. ^ Feuer, Alan. "Judge Orders Author to Pay Film Company $350,000 in Legal Fees". (August 1, 1007) New York Times. Retrieved 2013-9-10.
  29. ^ Hogan, Ron. "Laura Albert Settles Film Company’s ‘Fraud’ Suit". Retrieved 2009-09-14.
  30. ^

External links[edit]