Book summary of Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark
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What Is the Book About?
When Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff met at a 2015 Halloween party, they found a passion for real-world crime stories. Immediately a friendship flourished and they decided to begin a podcast to explore these topics. Since then, with millions of listeners, My Favorite Murder has become a global hit. The podcast’s success has resulted in the overwhelming sale of live shows and a book deal.
Both Georgia and Karen overcame significant barriers, including problems of mental health and eating disorders that shaped the way they see the world today. The book is a dual memoir of Kilgariff and Hardstark.
Critics have noted that though the book does touch on true crime, it is largely a mixture of memoir and self-help. It was released on May 28, 2019.
About the Authors
Known for her biting wit and musical prowess, Karen Kilgariff has been a staple in the comedy world for decades. As a performer, she has appeared on Mr. Show, The Book Group, and Conan. She then transitioned to scripted television, writing for shows like Other Space, Portlandia, and Baskets. Her musical comedy album Live at the Bootleg was included in Vulture‘s Best Standup Specials and Albums of 2014.
Georgia Hardstark has enjoyed a successful career as a food writer and Cooking Channel on-camera personality, which began with the invention of the farcical cocktail, The McNuggetini. She went on to co-host a travel/adventure/party show called Tripping Out with Alie & Georgia, and a regular gig on Cooking Channel’s #1 show, Unique Sweets. She capped that off as a repeat guest narrator on Comedy Central’s hit show Drunk History.
Summary of Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered
In this summary of Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff, Georgia Hardstark, you’ll find out
- How Georgia became a “Murderino”;
- Why it’s never too late to start therapy; and
- Why victims are never to blame for a murder.
Screw Politeness When It Comes To Your Well-being
Being a woman can be hard in society. Women sometimes find themselves in uncomfortable situations, but for fear of seeming rude, they act politely. This politeness? It can get women into trouble, sometimes even murdered which Karen and Georgia discuss in their podcast. Throughout this chapter, Georgia details an experience in which she should have stood up for herself and spoken out about something wrong and uncomfortable, but instead, she was polite because she didn’t want to seem rude. So in this chapter, Georgia tells why you should f**k politeness and avoid getting murdered.
Growing up for Georgia Hardstark was difficult and is when her insecurities began to surface. She was self-conscious about her flat chest paired with her hyperactivity, this led Georgia to suffer from low self-esteem; however, she was able to find solace and acceptance when she discovered the underground feminist punk movement Riot Grrrl. Through Riot Grrrl, Georgia learned how to become an outspoken feminist ready to advocate for herself and the women of the world.
During this time, Georgia also learned the difference between kindness and remaining polite when getting taken advantage of. She realized the importance of advocating for herself and she details an experience where she fails to do just that…speak up.
While working as a waitress in Los Angeles after graduating from high school, Georgia was approached by a regular customer to model for his photography business. Lawrence, the customer, showed Georgia his portfolio and on the day of the photoshoot, Georgia put a little more effort into her appearance, wearing cute platform sandals and even putting on a bit of makeup. Upon meeting up with Lawrence, he suggested that they drive to the Santa Monica Mountains to get the most picturesque views for the shoot. Immediately Georgia felt uncomfortable, but she didn’t want to disappoint him so she agreed.
Being a “murderino,” or someone that is a fan of true-crime and has an interest in murders, Georgia instantly felt that she was going to become a murder victim while traveling in the car with Lawrence, she knew in her gut that something wasn’t right. And while they were on the top of the mountain, Georgia noticed the dead look in Lawrence’s eyes that confirmed her suspicions about him were correct. She had every right to be afraid. But she continued to appease Lawrence and make him happy, even taking off her shirt when he asked her to for a picture.
Luckily, she did not become a murder victim that day, and Lawrence casually dropped her off in the parking lot where they had originally met. Georgia hopped out of the car and ran away as fast as she could. She felt ashamed for what she had done, for allowing an older gentleman to take topless photos of her. She knew it was wrong, but she realized that while she didn’t speak up for herself at that time, she couldn’t blame herself for what happened either. Georgia mentions that murder victims can’t be blamed either, they aren’t to blame when someone takes advantage of them, it is solely the fault of the predator.
Years later, Georgia found herself at a bar late at night when a man bought her a shot, blatantly ignoring Georgia’s consistent refusal. Instead of accepting the shot, she poured it onto the floor right in front of him. Learning from her past, she no longer feels the need to be polite in the face of predators and those that display a lack of respect and encourages murderinos to feel the same when put in an uncomfortable situation.
Politeness is fancy curtains in your front window. Kindness is the home-cooked meal on your dinner table.”
― Karen Kilgariff #staysexy&dontgetmurdered
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Good Friends Are Required To Be Healthy
If you spend any amount of time on the internet, you’ll know that the concept of self-care, or treating yourself well, has gained traction in recent years. The majority of self-care advocates recommend prioritizing your health by taking up yoga or adopting a vegan diet. But for Karen Kilgariff, self-care is simply about taking responsibility for your problems with the support of therapy and close friends.
Karen had a full-time job that was consuming all of her energy. In conversations, she would blame others for anything that went wrong and gossip about these experiences with other coworkers.
She decided to find a therapist to help her address the issue and her therapist told her something that she wasn’t expecting, something that many of us might experience. She told her that Karen was depending on too many people to be her friend. She overshared with colleagues that would listen and she should reserve these conversations for a few close friends. She should make her circle smaller with people that she knows she can trust.
This lesson eventually hit home when she was out to lunch with a friend. While she was venting to her friend Laura about her toxic relationship with a narcissistic man who would never love her back, Laura eventually snapped. You see, Karen had been complaining about this relationship for months, and she often complained to Laura who patiently listened, but this time it was too much and Laura had had enough. Laura flat-out told Karen that she needed to give up on this relationship and move on, that it wasn’t healthy.
At that moment, Karen had an epiphany. This is the kind of friendship that her therapist was talking about, people that you can trust to tell you the truth even if it’s hard to hear. Since then, Karen has realized that friendships are important for your mental health and those true friends will tell you the hard truth even when you don’t want to hear it. If you need a more professional perspective, therapists are a great way to dig deeper into your underlying problems and there is no shame in seeking professional help.
“I think its good to just say what you’re thinking out loud. Some guy comes up to you on the street and starts asking a bunch of personal questions, you can say ‘Whoa, this is weird behavior, I don’t know you. You seem like a predator.’ If he gets mad and calls you a “bitch”, it doesn’t mean you’re a bitch, it just means you were right.” -Karen Kilgariff”
A Lesson in Shoplifting
While Karen learned the importance of friendships later in life, Georgia learned the importance of close friends and family when she was 13-years-old and found herself getting caught shoplifting at the local mall. Despite being caught breaking the law, the experience offered insight into how important it is to rely on families for support and comfort.
As the child of a single mother whose meager income and child support barely covered the bills, Georgia couldn’t afford the luxuries that her Orange County classmates enjoyed. It wasn’t easy wearing relatives’ hand-me-downs, so it was no surprise when Georgia developed into a rebellious 13-year-old with a shoplifting habit. She wanted to take control of what she owned, so she turned into a rebellious teenager who began shoplifting G-string, pricey shampoo, boxes of Marlboro Red cigarettes, and a Red Hot Chili Peppers cassette tape.
But one day when she was shopping at Charlotte Russe with her friend Meg, Georgia noticed a suspicious woman staring at her as she stuffed a pair of cheap earrings into her pockets. As Georgia was whispering to Meg that they should make a run for it, the woman grabbed Georgia by the arm and took her into the back of the store while Meg escaped without getting caught. Sure, stealing a pair of earrings is just petty theft, but it wasn’t the police that scared her, it was her parents.
She avoided calling her mother who she knew would torture her with a long lecture and an embarrassing spanking, so she called her father instead who was much easier on her and her siblings. When her father came to pick her up, they both cried. Luckily, the security guard allowed them to leave without pressing charges, only giving her father a bill for the earrings plus a security charge and a small penalty. While the situation could’ve been worse, Georgia learned an important lesson that if she was ever in trouble, she could always rely on her father to help her out. This lesson translated later in life when she realized that friends and family support one another even when they make irresponsible mistakes.
A True Crime Obsession Sparks Friendship
let’s discuss how Georgia’s interest in true crime began as early as the 1980s. After watching Pet Semetary, Georgia became fascinated with Stephen King and began reading his books such as Christine and The Dead Zone. She quickly realized she loved the feeling of suspense and fear that she got when reading these kinds of books. She made the transition from fiction to non-fiction when she picked up The Stranger Beside Me, a biography about serial killer Ted Bundy written by Ted’s friend Ann Rule. Immediately, she became fascinated by real-life true crime stories and became a “murderino,” the term coined by the My Favorite Murder Facebook fan page for those that have an obsession for all things true crime.
Over the years, she realized that her obsession went further than just watching TV shows with the members of her family like Unsolved Mysteries and America’s Most Wanted. Georgia found herself digging deeper into her passion by reading autopsy reports and analyzing blood splatter patterns, and quickly realized that people weren’t as interested as she was and found her obsession to be unpleasant and even disconcerting. She began interviewing new people she met by gauging their interest and looking for hints of interest in her obsession, hints like being interested in Law and Order or CSI.
Now, let’s get to that Halloween party in 2015. Georgia overheard a lady explaining a story about a car accident she had experienced the day before. Georgia approached Karen individually as individuals left the group to seek a less macabre discussion and asked her about the facts. They soon began speaking about the newly broadcasted HBO TV series The Staircase, which followed the trial of a man who had killed his spouse. For hours, the ladies continued to talk and planned to meet for lunch.
“Friendship leads to human connection, which feeds your soul. More than kale or spinning or fifteen-minute naps under your desk, conscious communication with your clutch friends is the best form of self-care.”
Diagnosis Doesn’t Mean Disaster
Depression. Anxiety. Bi-Polar Disorder. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. PTSD. There is a multitude of mental illnesses that people suffer from every day, and becoming diagnosed with a mental illness can be scary. There’s a stigma and people wonder if others will treat them differently if they share their mental health struggles. People assume that they will be seen as weak or unworthy and experience a new kind of discrimination. But Georgia and Karen are here to discuss why diagnosis doesn’t mean disaster, it’s a first step in healing yourself and coping with your mental illness.
Throughout her life of therapy, Georgia has learned some important lessons about receiving a mental health diagnosis. Having been going to therapy since the young age of six, Georgia has been diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety, depression, and OCD. But even though she has received all these diagnoses, she realizes that it is important to put a label on mental illness for a variety of reasons and that a diagnosis does not mean disaster.
A diagnosis is simply a generalized label for symptoms, and are necessary to begin taking the first steps in healing yourself. If you know exactly what is going on inside your head, you can take the proper steps to cope and deal with those symptoms. For instance, Georgia knows that she suffers from ADHD so she has sought a therapist to help her cope with her symptoms so that she can prevent the illness from affecting her daily life, her career, and her relationships. Secondly, Georgia explains that a diagnosis is necessary for insurance companies to cover the cost of treatment; however, a diagnosis isn’t everything, and anyone can benefit from seeking therapy whether they have a mental illness diagnosis or not.
For instance, Georgia sought the help of a life coach to help her overcome her lazy tendencies. She hated herself for not being motivated to do the things she loves like writing or going to the gym. In fact, this is something we all might relate to and struggle with on a daily basis. How many times do you tell yourself you’re going to go to the gym, and then never find the motivation to make it? Well, Georgia benefited from a life coach in helping her overcome this lack of motivation. But through her experience, she realized she didn’t need to find the motivation to do the things she loved, she simply just needed to show up. Basically, she didn’t need to feel like her best self to do things. Even if she didn’t feel like going to the gym that day, she would have to at least show-up and put in some effort once she was there.
However, it’s not just about going to a therapist and talking about your problems, it’s also about finding the right therapist. It’s important to find a therapist that you connect with and can sometimes take a lot of trial and error. So, be patient and don’t be scared to leave one therapist to find someone else that you connect with more.
― Karen Kilgariff #staysexy&dontgetmurdered
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Karen’s Journey to Becoming a Comedian
Growing up, Karen, like many girls, struggled with an eating disorder and found herself working at a frozen yogurt shop that only exacerbated her toxic relationship with food. She later found herself working in retail and realizing that working a minimum wage job wouldn’t sustain the kind of lifestyle that she was longing for. However, the many jobs that Karen worked throughout the years helped her learn her passion for comedy and realize that personal safety means being able to pay your bills and feed yourself with your own job.
Throughout high school, all the cool girls worked at the yogurt shot, so naturally, Karen got a job there as well. During this time, Karen was struggling with an eating disorder that caused her to binge eat to deal with the stresses of being a teenager, but since the cool girls worked there, she didn’t realize that working with sugary yogurt might become detrimental to her mental health.
One day when Karen was working a slow day, she decided to enjoy a cup of frozen yogurt while enjoying a book since there weren’t any customers to serve at the time. Being an employee, their boss, Thelma, encouraged employees to eat the product to be able to better help the customers. Well, it wasn’t until Karen was enjoying her third cup of frozen yogurt that Thelma snapped at Karen and told her to get back to work. Of course, Karen realized she was overeating, but she was more surprised at the reaction from Thelma. Now, she is mortified by her actions that day, but being a teenager, she couldn’t see Thelma’s perspective at the time. Eventually, Karen was fired for inappropriate conduct when she carved her initials into the store’s fudge. Though she was embarrassed for being the only one of her friends to become fired from the yogurt shop, she felt freedom and relief when she realized she didn’t have to work around sugary foods anymore.
It wasn’t until Karen was working at Gap, that she realized that she needed to do something to change the course of her life. Low-wage jobs weren’t enough to pay her bills and feed herself, she couldn’t even afford the clothes that she was forced to sell. Her animosity towards her job worsened when she realized she must pretend to be cheery and helpful when she desperately hated her job and needed a way out. She was exhausted and poor. She decided to quit her job at Gap and focused her energy on finding more stand-up gigs. Of course, this all paid off for Karen as she went on to have a successful stand-up comedy career.
Karen and Georgia stress that when it comes to personal safety, or “how to not get murdered,” then you need to be able to provide for yourself by paying your bills and feeding yourself. Personal safety also goes deeper than just providing for yourself though, it also means being healthy mentally. Having a healthy mind means seeking out help when needed, and switching jobs when you find yourself unhappy or in a toxic work environment.
Stop Victim Blaming
They wanted to evaluate true crime accounts and describe methods that females could learn to defend themselves from predators when Georgia and Karen started “My Favorite Murder”.
Victim blaming happens all the time. Georgia and Karen took the criticism to heart and sought out how to shift the conversation and their approach to true crime. They looked into a case they covered in Toronto to explain the concept of victim-blaming in further detail. Back in 1987, Toronto’s Scarborough district experienced a series of violent attacks and rapes against women as they disembarked the buses late at night. Toronto’s police searched for the perpetrator for months but continuously failed to come up with any suspects.
Eventually, at a press conference about how the city planned to continue to approach the situation, the local constable announced that women were to blame for taking the bus so early in the morning. He expressed that when traveling during those hours, women can’t expect to be protected from people such as rapists and murderers. Just a month later, a member of the municipal council proposed a curfew just for women to help solve the “problem.”
During this time, the mother of Karen’s friend Paul was living in Scarborough and found herself in an eerie situation one morning when she was going for a swim at the pool of her apartment complex. She became increasingly nervous as the man was walking around the pool, watching her. Luckily, the man quickly disappeared once a group of parents arrived with their children. She would eventually see that man again, on her television screen, when the local news covered the story of the Scarborough Rapist being arrested.
It turns out that the same man was a serial killer who had been torturing, raping and killing victims over the course of six years. That day at the pool, Paul’s mother had been doing nothing wrong. She had simply been going about her daily business and was lucky that she didn’t become another victim of the Scarborough Rapist. But had she become a victim, would she be to blame? She wasn’t walking around in the early hours of the morning, she wasn’t getting into cars with strangers, and she certainly wasn’t drinking or on drugs. But, why does society blame those that do? Paul’s mother was living her life that day at the pool as were the women who got off the bus late at night, neither of which should be blamed for the actions of another. If they became the targets of a murderer or rapist, it is never the victim’s fault, but that of the perpetrator.
Karen realized that she had been victim-blaming, and through the criticism of their listeners, Karen and Georgia decided to change the way they approach giving advice for not getting murdered. Instead of suggesting ways in which women can protect themselves, it’s more important to discuss the warning signs of a perpetrator including identifying typical behaviors and actions of a murderer. Their tagline for staying safe? Stay sexy & don’t get murdered.
“you’re responsible for your own quality of life. Accepting that fact is the first step in the journey to that distant oasis that is watered by the ancient spring of self-care.”
Throughout their lives, Karen and Georgia have had their ups and downs and have learned many lessons along the way. Their latest success, the My Favorite Murder podcast, has taught them an increasingly important lesson in today’s society. By sharing stories of true crime and teaching listeners how not to get murdered, Karen and Georgia realized it’s simply not enough to offer advice like not getting into cars with strangers. In fact, Karen and Georgia now realize how that advice is a form of victim-blaming and instead offer advice on how to identify the warning signs of someone with ill intentions.
They have also realized how important it is to seek help when falling into a dark place, and how relationships with friends and family are important for improving your mental health. While perpetrators typically suffer from a form of mental illness, it’s important to know the warning signs of mental illness in the people around you as well within yourself. The topic of true-crime can easily be connected to that of mental illness and throughout their memoirs, Georgia and Karen discuss their own struggles with mental illness and suggest seeking help to heal your brain and mind. At the end of the day, stay sexy and don’t get murdered.
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