Author and reporter Jeannette Walls

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As a glamorous entertainment reporter and New York socialite, Jeannette Walls interviews the rich and famous at the hottest red carpet events. When she began her career, she not only wanted to cover high society—she wanted to live it, too. "I was married to a very well to do man. … I lived a life right out of Vanity Fair. I thought I had everything. But at the same time, I was a complete phony."

Far from her posh Park Avenue apartment was the home in West Virginia Jeannette left behind years ago. Her family's small house had no indoor plumbing, and instead of a toilet, they used a bucket in the kitchen. Jeannette's alcoholic father and eccentric mother could not hold down jobs and the family was penniless. "We'd go for days sometimes without food," Jeannette remembers. "We'd sometimes look in the garbage [around] us for food."

At age 17 with only $100, Jeannette boarded a bus to New York determined never to look back. With sheer determination, she finished high school, graduated from Barnard—an Ivy League college—and became a rising star reporter—but Jeannette's past followed her.