February 19, 1958
Morley, West Yorkshire, England
She created one of the most beloved and controversial female protagonists of the 1990s in the smoking, drinking, perpetually-dieting and man-obsessed Bridget Jones. However, Helen Fielding herself, an accomplished journalist and former television producer when she began penning Bridget's misadventures, is a far cry from her insecure alter-ego. While defending Bridget as a comic character in the tradition of silly, shallow men like Bertie Wooster, Fielding also cites Jane Austen as inspiration. Her follow-up to the bestselling Bridget Jones's Diary (1996), Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (1999), was successful as well, and Fielding also worked on the screenplays for the film adaptations of both books.Born the daughter of a homemaker and mill manager in West Yorkshire, England, Fielding studied English at St. Anne's College, Oxford. In 1978, she was part of the comedic Oxford Revue along with Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis that performed at the Edinburgh Festival. Fielding was hired by the BBC after graduation as a researcher and producer. For the next decade, she worked on children's and other entertainment shows as well as current affairs programs and Comic Relief, for whom she did several segments on Africa that inspired her first novel. While her former colleagues - and in Curtis's case, her ex-boyfriend - succeeded in show business, Fielding appeared to be spinning her wheels somewhat; in 1994 her first novel, Cause Celeb was published but went mostly unnoticed, and she toiled away in print journalism after leaving the BBC at the end of the 1980s. Everything changed, however, when she was asked by the Independent newspaper to write a column about single life. Fielding balked at what the column would force herself to reveal about her private life in front of a national audience on a regular basis and opted instead to create a character to explore the life of a single, slightly neurotic career women. Thus Bridget Jones was born. Diary-style, Fielding anonymously chronicled Bridget's trials and tribulations through her regular diary entries which included reporting such figures as weight and units of alcohol consumed as well as her disappointments with work and with men. The column was a hit, and a year later, Bridget Jones's Diary (1996) was published. The book was not an immediate success; not until it was released in paperback the following year did it become a bestseller, but suddenly everyone was talking about Bridget Jones. Many decried her as a poor role model for women, a stereotype ripped from the pages of magazines like Cosmopolitan and confirming men's worst misogynistic assumptions, but many people, Fielding included, pointed out that Bridget was meant to be read as satire. For better or worse, the success of Bridget Jones's Diary was credited with launching the lucrative genre of chick lit. Fielding continued her column until 1997, this time for the Daily Telegraph, and the second Bridget Jones book, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason was released in 1999. Fielding collaborated with Richard Curtis on the screenplay for the film Bridget Jones's Diary (2001) starring a heftier-than-usual Renee Zellweger as Bridget. The screenplay received both WGA and BAFTA nominations and won an Evening Standard Award. Fielding had moved to Los Angeles by this time and was in a relationship with Kevin Curran, a writer for the TV show "The Simpsons" (Fox, 1989- ). Fielding's fourth book, Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination (2003), was also about a journalist, but was less successful than the Bridget books. She collaborated again with Curtis on the screenplay for "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" (2004), and in the same year, her first child, Dash, was born followed by Romy in 2006. Bridget returned to the pages of The Independent in 2005 in a new regular column by Fielding.