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When I was little,I predicted exactly how and when I would get famous. I would be a glam teenage actress on the stages of Broadway and I would be so fricking good no one would look away!
Little did I know my first taste of fame would have something to do with Facebook, me coming out to the world as being in recovery for an eating disorder and so so much controversy!
For a while I have done small scale body positive activism, I am a regular blogger for a teen body positive site and I also was an intern at the National Eating Disorder Association. These things became a part of my own recovery process from an eating disorder.
I felt like if I could reach out and tell people they were more than how they looked, then I could help remind myself of that important message. I only told a select few of my friends about my activism work because I thought people would start sleeping once I tried to explain it or think I was a weirdo for not being a normal chick and dieting.
And the friends I told about it, I usually didn’t tell them why it was important to me and my history with body image struggles.
My activism work felt like a small, secret hobby that I never thought would ever give me anything other than personal satisfaction. Recently I have gotten very into playwriting and am currently at grad school in Ohio pursuing an MFA in it, so that really was the passion in my life I poured the most time into.
So when Endangered Bodies, an international body positive group I work with before, asked me to lend my name and my voice to a new international petition to change Facebook's "I feel fat" status I said yes because they are cool and I assumed like most of the activism work I’d done, it would get two clicks on Facebook then people would go back to making out with their boyfriends and ignoring what I was up to.
When I first got involved with the petition they told me it was not going to be a big deal, that I might get interviewed a few times but just try to talk about their mission and I would be fine.
At the time I was so fricking busy at grad school in Ohio that the only thing I could really think about was the short play I had to write that week about a chick eating cupcakes, so I would have said yes to pretty much anything because girl, when you are in “grad school mode,” it’s hard to really understand how the real world works or how the decisions you make can interact with it.
I knew things were about to get weird when I got a Twitter direct message from a reporter from the Dot in San Francisco who asked to speak with me directly! Usually on Twitter the only people I get DM’s from are creepy artistic directors of theaters who want to hook up with me and not produce my play but maybe pretend they might produce my play.
So when the woman from the Dot messaged me I was so so unprepared! I remember I was surprised because she didn’t give me much time to prep for the interview, she asked me if I could phone chat with her in an hour or two. In my head I was like “Whaaaaaa that’s not enough time for me to go over my main points and sound smart!!”
But I agreed because she was fancy and I’ve seen TV shows like "Gilmore Girls" when characters work it newsrooms so I knew that journalists worked at a fast pace so I could either go with it or…I couldn’t think of the other option! I was ready!
So I quickly jotted some notes down on an ugly legal pad and did some nerdy stretches so I could make sure I actually felt my body and then I waited for an actual reporter to call me!
My first interview went alright. I probably said “like” about 90 times. But Selena was very easy to talk to and for a second I felt like I was just chatting with a friend about an issue I cared about. I tried not to think about the fact that she was writing this up to share with REAL live people on the internet.
One of the most important things that came from that chat was I made the choice to share my story. When Selena asked me why this issue was important to me, I didn’t want to get all intellectual and smarmy and say that all girls should know what if they call themselves fat, they are taking an adjective used to describe a body and using it to describe their feelings; I wanted to be myself and say why this really mattered.
My heart just burst open and I knew I needed to tell her that when I grew up the only thing I heard in my head was “I feel fat” and I want better for other people. Now mind you, Endangered Bodies never told me I had to share my own story, I just knew I had to do it because I cared so much about this cause and screw it, I’m an a artist, isn’t the point of our lives to reveal all our dirtiest secrets through our work!
Within two days I started getting emails and twitter DM’s requesting to interview me about my change.org petition about “fat is not a feeling.” I also was starting to notice the media and news were taking to this item and people had A LOT of opinions.
Some people thought the petition was a result of women having too much time and there was no activist ideology behind it while some female-friendly groups seemed to realize what we were doing and were cheering us on in hopes of making the Internet a more body positive space.
On each article there were hundreds of comments from people saying what they really think, so I tried to remember the advice I read in the tabloids from trashy celebs, “Don’t read the Internet comments, ignore the haters!
Probably the coolest interview I did was with People Magazine. I am a big reader of People and I never thought they would want to hear my opinion on body positivity and it’s connection with Facebook use!
So when I got an email that said “People: request for interview” in its subject line I almost screamed! The interviewer was so so sweet and seemed really supportive of what I was doing and told me to stay in touch.
Slowly word got out at my school and I got a lot of weird stares and some people called me “the Facebook girl.” But most of my friends were really supportive and were entertained by my random 15 minute of activist fame. One of my friends even gave me advice on how to battle mean random dudes on Twitter!
So overall I learned a few intriguing lessons. First of all, you can’t predict how and why fame will smack you in the face. Also, just because your Change.org petition went viral, doesn’t mean people will remember who you are in 2 months. At the end of the day even if no one is buying a Catherine Weingarten calendar or stuffed animal. But I know that I did help make Facebook a more body positive space…and I also have some really cool stories.