TODAY   |  April 15, 2014

Teen ‘didn’t believe it’ when offered movie deal

Maya Van Wagenen, 15, documented her year-long experience following a 1950s popularity guide in her book “Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek.” She tells Kathie Lee and Hoda that when Steven Spielberg offered her a movie deal for the book, she didn’t believe it.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> when maya was 13 years old, she had a hard time being social and making friends until she came upon a 1950s handbook in a closet on how to be popular.

>> her father had picked up the book years earlier at a thrift shop called betty cornell's "teenage popularity guide." some of the advice included wearing pearls, and girdles.

>> she gave some of the advice a try.

>> like everyone else on this planet, you want to be liked, you want to be popular. turn yourself inside out as you would an old pocketbook, shake out the dust and tidy up the contents.

>> maya documented her experience in a new book titled "popula

"popular: vintage wisdom for a modern geek." she was going to be here with her friend betty, but she wasn't feeling well this morning. we send her our good wishes. i hope she doesn't have that bug going around. for a shy little girl , you're doing awesome.

>> thank you.

>> must have been kind of surreal to look at "time" magazine and see you were one of the most influential teens they chose.

>> it was insane. i didn't believe it. i thought my parents were joking at first. they said, it's real. i said, no, it's not.

>> you first looked at the book, was it ridiculous that this is what girls at your age at the time thought?

>> i couldn't believe how outdated it was and the advice, i have to be doing this, this is so different from everything that normal teens, you know, teens do now. and so but what i realized as time went on is the thing that was not outdated was the message and the message is, you know, true popularity is kindness and less about what you wear and how you look and more about the person you are.

>> the cool thing about what you did, it is one thing to tell everyone you're going to do something. you decided you were going to try these thins out and not let anybody know.

>> not even your best friend .

>> what was the purpose behind not telling anybody.

>> it was a social experiment. i didn't want to jeopardize the reaction. i wanted to see if it really worked, from a secret. it wouldn't be be oh, yeah, let's pay attention to her because she's doing this.

>> she might write a book and write nasty things about us. some people were cruel, though.

>> i wanted genuine reaction. recently on twitter, somebody said, remember that girl maya van wagon from high school , she wrote a book, we should have been nice to her. i didn't want any reaction that wasn't genuine since i wanted to be able to --

>> what a thrill to ultimately to meet the woman behind the actual book. that moment -- it looked surreal.

>> she's still a beautiful woman.

>> she is.

>> so beautiful.

>> what did she think had you walked up and said, hey, i look up to you, i love what you wrote?

>> she was so excited. it meant a lot to her to have that, you know, even all those years later have someone to still validate her writing and say, you know what, it still works and it is still true. and so she tapped into that, you know, universal truth.

>> one thing to write a best-selling book. a whole other thing to get steven spielberg to call from dreamworks or whoever did and say, we want to buy the rights to this for a film. tell us about that.

>> i remember i got the call when i was in new york for publicity training, so it was fun. and i didn't believe it. it was so exciting because, i knew there was people trying to sell, you know, media rights, but when i got that call, just so excited and so they optioned the rights for 18 months to see if they want to do something with it.

>> i think they're very smart over there. all the best.

>> congrats.

>> you look like an easter egg .