- I Left It on the Mountain (2015) memoir
- Mississippi Sissy (2007) memoir
Memoirist and celebrity columnist Kevin Sessums was born near Forest, Mississippi, in 1956. His parents died by the time he was eight. His father, a great basketball player who had once been drafted by the New York Knicks, died in 1963 in a car accident at the age of 32. After the death of his mother, who died at the age of 33 of esophageal cancer in 1964, Sessums and his brother Kim (now a obstetrician/gynecologist and sculptor living in Brookhaven, Mississippi) and his sister Karole moved in with his maternal grandparents.
Seesums knew early that he was different and describes his growing up years in detail in his memoir Mississippi Sissy. He was often called Sissy. But in many ways, he was wise beyond his years. The orphans, as he and siblings were known, experienced the kindheartedness, but also the hatred and malevolence of many people common in Mississippi in the 60’s. As a child, Sessums pretended to be spy, realized he did not belong, and knew he would someday report on all he witnessed. Even as a child, he differed politically, culturally, and religiously from his older family members. He loved to play that he was Arlene Francis wearing a mask on What’s My Line? and, as a result, was sometimes called Arlene by his relatives. His father also sometimes called him Kevinator. As a child, he loved to read, especially with his mother before she died.
When Sessums was in high school, he attended a book party that Frank Hains, who was arts editor of the Jackson Daily News, threw for well-known Mississippi writer Eudora Welty. Sessums later was invited to the home of Frank Hains for a cast party of New Stage Theatre’s production of Long Day’s Journey into Night in Jackson. Hains was an active member of New Stage as was Eudora Welty. In later years, Sessums ‘s brother Kim fashioned a bronze bust of Welty and gave it to her.
Acting in several productions at New Stage helped Sessums to get a drama scholarship to Millsaps College. He also apparently attended Juilliard School in New York City but dropped out. He did some acting in New York.
In his memoir Mississippi Sissy, published in 2007, He writes about his troubled, tragic childhood and teen years
Sessums worked for a time for Andy Warhol at Interview. By the 1990’s Kevin Sessums was a celebrity journalist who wrote with a six-figure salary for Vanity Fair. He began working there in 1990 and was treated as an insider in the celebrity culture. However, he had a falling out with editor Tina Brown at Vanity Fair where he had been for nearly fifteen years and where he had written at least twenty-seven cover profiles for Vanity Fair. Graydon Carter became editor of Vanity Fair after Brown, and he did not always like Sessums’s personal style. Sessums, who had begun used drugs, lost his job, and for a time was even on food stamps.
In 2009 Tina Brown founded The Daily Beast, and Kevin Sessums freelanced for her, writing celebrity Question and Answer columns. However, by 2011, Sessums was using crystal meth intravenously. He left New York and went to Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he attended 12 –step meetings and volunteered in a soup kitchen. However, he relapsed six months later. He was kicked out of a friend’s house and went back to New York where another friend took him in. As a result of his casual sex and his drug use, Sessums had also been diagnosed as HIV positive. He realized he had to do something, so he returned to Provincetown six months later and began to get his life back together. He began writing his next memoir called I Left It on the Mountain, released by St. Martin’s Press in 2015. In it, he writes about his fall and his rebirth.
Today, in 2015, Sessums is clean and making a comeback. Richard Klein hired him to be editor-in-chief of FourTwoNine, a glossy startup magazine published by the gay and lesbian professional social network, dot 429.com. Sessums’work has also appeared in Elle, Travel + Leisure, Playboy, Out, and Show People. He currently lives in Sans Francisco. At fifty-nine, he has had a thirty-year career, which he is capitalizing on in his new job. He has also begun working on a novel.
- New York Times article Former Vanity Fair Celebrity Journalist Looks for Comeback by Laura M. Holson, AUG. 8, 2014
- An Interview with Kevin Sessums, March 2007 by Stephanie Merchant