Many of us at one point or another will consider our families dysfunctional; some of us in jest and some with deadly seriousness. I can almost bet, though, that there are few that can compare to actress Tina Alexis Allen’s family, as she reveals in her new memoir, Hiding Out: A Memoir of Drugs, Deception, And Double Lives. Tina was forged in fire, under pressure to hide things about herself and particular members of her huge family for far too long. With this book, Tina sheds the last vestiges of lies, secrets and guilt.
Tina was the thirteenth child born to Anne Allen and John Worthington. By all outward appearances, the family was the perfect Catholic clan; lots of children, all named after saints, parents who were actually knighted into the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre by Pope Pius XII. Sir John ran a hugely successful Washington, D.C. travel agency that ran pilgrimages for the poor and sick. Mom raised the kids, occasionally helping out with the family business. Tina herself was a sports star, later attending the University of Maryland on a basketball scholarship. Under all of this veneer of respectability, several things were going horribly wrong.
Tina suffered ongoing molestations at the hands of her two older brothers. Because her father suspected her attraction to women, he decided to share his world shattering secret with her: he too is gay. Her father drew her into his world of partying, alcohol and sneaking around to gay clubs. Tina found she didn’t bear just the burden of her own secrets; she aided her father in his deceptions as well. While attending college on a basketball scholarship, fighting for a place on her school team and managing secrets of her own, Tina grappled with the complicated mess her life had become. Add in some Washingtonian politics, mixed with suspected Vatican espionage, and you have a story you can’t put down.
This is not a book for the faint of heart. Tina scrubs her soul clean within its pages, uncovering and exposing the web of lies her young adulthood had become. She does not mince words or dance around her subject matter. While she assures you in the book’s introduction that she is okay, that she survived and all is good, the reader will be amazed at Tina’s resilience and what she endured. There is disturbing subject matter here – incest, an elementary aged child in a relationship with a teacher, and wild, drunken escapades with a shameless father who seemed to have no boundaries when it came to his youngest daughter.
What is great about this book, though, is through it all, despite it all, you see the unyielding love and respect Tina had for both her parents. We feel deeply for her mother, a woman who bore and raised thirteen children and always put them before herself. Tina believes she is a saint, a genuinely loving and spiritual being. Tina is even respectful of her brothers, and sometimes her sisters, despite them not bestowing the same consideration on her while growing up. Tina even remains loyal to her father’s memory, viewing him as flawed and complex, yet acknowledging the good he did through his travel agency.
Tina is also her own success story; after becoming enamoured with the fashion world after college, she went on to earn an MBA and worked as a fashion executive in NYC. At 31, she went into acting, and landed the role of Shurn on WGN’s hit series Outsiders. She is also the co-founder, with her long time partner, of Gina Raphaela Jewelry, which “merges art, fashion, and social consciousness.”
Tina’s writing style is straightforward and to the point. She is able to deftly portray a time in her life and in American culture (the 80’s) as well as varying places and cultures around the world. We get an intimate glimpse into what it was like to be gay during that subversive and decadent time period. Reader, you will feel like Tina is talking directly to you; one of her goals was to encourage others to speak up and out, feel empowered to tell their own stories. Tina Alexis Allen succeeds on all levels with this memoir you definitely will not forget.
Hiding Out: A Memoir of Drugs, Deception and Double Lives is available now, in bookstores and from online retailers. You can visit Tina’s website for more information or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and GoodReads.
Photo by Bobby Quillard