Lady GaGa & The Fame Monster

Image: Bang ShowBiz
Image: Bang ShowBiz

Lady GaGa is in the press today talking about fame and therapy. I heard about it listening to Carson Daly on the way to work today on AMP radio. Producer Angie quoted GaGa saying:

“But, the truth is that it is very hard to be famous. It’s wonderful to be famous because I have amazing fans. But it is very, very hard to go out into the world when you are not feeling happy and act like you are because I am a human being too and I break, and I think there is an assumption… that I cannot break because I am an alien woman and I am unstoppable.”

She continued, “I do put that pressure on myself; I have to be high to be creative. I need that, that’s an error in my life that happened for over 10 years. Can I be brilliant without it? I know that I can be and I have to be because I want to live, and I want my fans to want to live.”

Carson Daly, ever the Devil’s Advocate, said “Well, she could just stop and do something else.” And he’s right but he’s also wrong. For me, I’ve always loved performing and entertaining even when it was playing “restaurant” for my family or acting out some skit I made up as a child. Later, my performances became more elaborate and I fell in love with theatre. But those performances (especially the older I got) brought with them a lot of anxiety and pressure. Yes, I know it’s fucking self-imposed, but it’s also the most difficult thing to “just get over” and that’s why people without that anxiety don’t get it.

So for Lady GaGa, there’s probably parts of her that love fame, I’m sure, and parts of her that hate it and have a hard time coping. It’s not just fame, it’s the pressure to perform a certain way, to look a certain way, to put your heart and soul and creation out there for people to judge and rail you for–and rail you for your art, they do. Then the questions of “Did I do the right thing by going commercial or am I just selling crap?’ (GaGa recently said she didn’t know if her music was any good.) The public is so very brutal to anyone and everyone. Whether you’re an avant-garde artist or a pop star, you’re never safe from criticism. And while not all criticism is debilitating, some of it is. If you haven’t faced that type of criticism, you can’t really speak to it. Once you rise to fame, people aren’t always happy for you. You have people despising you just because of the “lucky breaks” you’re getting and they’re not. And then you have all these “new friends” crawling around you, wanting to just be there as you make it. It’s a really weird space to occupy and very few people handle it well. Some, more seasoned actors, seem to handle it with grace and poise…AFTER about fifteen years in the spotlight, and with the help of a team of professional managers. But it takes all that time to really find your place and find out how to tune out the criticism while also engaging with your fans.

In an earlier interview with “Good Morning America,” GaGa says, “I was actually going through a hard time during “Born This Way,” and I was kind of insecure. I became a star really quickly and I didn’t really have time to put my feet in the ground and have a sense of myself through it all because it really is a machine and you just keep going.”

I know the general public doesn’t give a fuck about GaGa or her “pity party” as some of you will call it. When I bring this topic up most people tell me to fuck off and tell stars to fuck off and then complain that I talk about pop culture too much. But, like I said, if you’ve never put yourself or your art into the public before, you really should be the one fucking off. You have no frame of reference to really speak with authority on the challenges of being in the public eye in some manner. And while artists and commercialists choose this, it is the one main method to get our art seen. Art must be seen and heard and engaged with for it to be art.

GaGa went on to talk about drugs and her addiction to weed, that being the vice she used to cope. But how many other stars turned to something more dangerous and didn’t seek out therapy like GaGa? What if the assholes who say ‘Fuck off, GaGa’ admitted that seeing a shrink is a far more positive method of  coping than going full Linsday? And that clearly if you need drugs or a shrink to cope, it is a real, actual problem?

Former child star Mara Wilson talks about the phenomenon and why child stars seem to go crazy and I think she makes a lot of sense. Hopefully reasonable people will understand that fame really is hard to handle and be a tad more sympathetic and less dismissive. So the fuck what if someone decides to make some money selling their art? That doesn’t mean we can’t be a bit sympathetic toward them when they’re suffering.

Cyberbullying: How Internet Vitriol is Damaging All of Us

Image credit: Respectu.com
Image credit: Respectu.com

It’s no news to you that I deal with a lot of cyberbullying and vitriol by running this blog. In fact, something I haven’t talked about at all is the amount of damage it did to me emotionally in the past two years. That’s why I’ve been running away from this blog, distancing myself on Facebook. The pain I already experienced in the cult just kept being repeated over and over with each bullying email or comment.

I’ve been in therapy for a few months now. I sat down on the couch at the therapist’s office and just started crying. “How could people be so mean?” I said. “Why can’t people just accept me for who I am instead of trying to change me?” But it wasn’t just that. Those were sort of the cursory issues–the deeper issue was the constant barrage of vitriol that came in day after day on every social media outlet I was on and every email account I owned. You can run, but we will find you, it seemed like they were saying.

And the one that really scared me was this bug-eyed man from Texas who started harassing me. I had every right to fear him and it wasn’t because he was just there, on the internet. No, it was because when I told him no to a request he had, he went ballistic. He attacked me every single day, anonymously sometimes, but from the same IP address, on every medium he could. A few months after I blocked him, the harassment was still going on. I noticed a Facebook “friend” profile who emailed me and asked where I worked. I went to look at her profile pictures and started to wonder if it were really the bug-eyed man impersonating a woman in order to find out my location. There were photos of women on fire, creepy pictures of women getting tortured and even a kitten with a gun pointed at it (I love cats).

It was around this time that I stopped blogging and I deleted hundreds of Facebook friends. I cut my friends list down to only people I knew online, even though most of the people I’d met online were kind and harmless. I was so scared, though, and I needed to feel safe. (As an aside: If I deleted you during that time, trust me when I say it was nothing personal. I now have a page instead of a profile and you can find it here.)

I scrubbed my Facebook of anything that would give away my location or the location of my family. I started taking extended breaks from social media and email. I went to the beach more. I went back to writing traditionally, with space and time away from the text before I hit “publish.” Maybe I’ll start blogging about something benign like babies or food, I thought. Certainly no one would bother me then. I wasn’t so sure, but I knew one thing: I missed blogging with all my heart and more than that, I missed the connections I’d made with so many wonderful people.

And then at the beginning of the summer I started interviewing therapists. I’d tried a few different things to get rid of the fear, but none of them seemed to work. When I met my therapist I knew right away that I’d feel very comfortable doing something I hadn’t done in years: tell someone how I really felt, deep down inside. I hadn’t shared anything that intimate with anyone in awhile.

It was immediately easier and easier to live without fear, and a few weeks into therapy, I let it all go. I told her how much I’d been dealing with, how I’d stopped trusting people, started hiding, and worse yet, I felt my opportunities were just passing me by because I kept hiding. I was too afraid to be in public after being harassed, so I missed out on speaking engagements and meeting new people. I was afraid I was going to be too terrified to publish my book; after all, it was fear that was holding me back from publishing my memoir even though I’d had interest from so many people. I couldn’t even write a page without being overcome with fear. I wrote and rewrote gibberish.

One afternoon I sat in therapy and recited a recent email I’d received from a pastor. The pastor had no idea the email had brought me to tears, but it had. It hurt me deeply and it also scared me. It was another reminder of how many friends I’d lost by coming out as an atheist and a reminder that even my family had attacked me and made me feel like they couldn’t love me because I’d lost my faith.

When I brought it up to anyone, the main question people asked was, “Why is this bothering you so much?” They didn’t get it.

My therapist did.

“It’s very hateful and judgemental,” she explained. “Everything you experienced in the cult–people pushing you to believe and act a certain way–that’s how these people are treating you.” She raised her eyebrows as I told her story after story of the hate people had shown me.

Image credit: Gcflearnfree.org
Image credit: Gcflearnfree.org

Of course the irony is that most of the people who harass me or who won’t accept me are ministers or religious, but Melissa Ford writes about this problem as an issue the whole internet is facing. In her post on BlogHer, Melissa explains what happened to a mommy blogger who’s come under fire for writing about another woman harassing her daughter in WalMart over a pink headband. The internet has gone crazy accusing this blogger of lying. Regardless of whether she’s telling the truth or not, she was on the verge of suicide because of the public scrutiny. Melissa writes:

According to the Orlando Sentinel in an August 6 story, [Katie] Carpenter told police that she received 11,000 emails and harassing phone calls after the post went live. Invoking the Baker Act, Polk County officials placed her into protective custody when she voiced thoughts of suicide to police. From the Sentinel story:

Carpenter told deputies, according to the report, “that the attention obtained by her story and the negative comments and communications to her had become too much stress and she could not handle the situation…anymore,” and was thinking of killing herself.

Somehow, in all the coverage online and in the media, people are overlooking that there is a very real person in pain. Or, at the very least, no one is behaving as we would if we were face-to-face with someone in emotional pain. While we know better than to jeer at someone having a breakdown in front of us, we tend to forget that when we can hide behind the screen. (Emphasis my own.)

I’ve learned a lot by being attacked online and I’ve changed the way I interact with people on the internet. I try to remind myself that they don’t deserve an ounce of my energy or time or even a response. When I disagree with a friend online, I remind myself to treat them as if we were face-to-face–even if it’s over politics or religion. I remind myself that I’m a professional writer who has an audience that is also very, very kind to me.

In many ways, these lessons have been good for me as a writer and more importantly, as a person. They’ve helped me to think twice before I write about anyone, even a public figure. They’ve made me realize that no amount of right or wrong or passion excuses being cruel to someone over politics or religious differences. I’ve realized that my friendships and my relationships with family members mean far more to me than whether my candidate-of-choice wins an election.

DSC_0308
A photo I took on a recent trip to the beach.

Most of all, I’ve started writing again and I’m reminding myself that my voice can be useful in helping shift the conversation to a smarter, more collaborative conversation; instead of a hate-filled bash session. I’ve started developing a new blog. In the summer I wrote the first draft of my novel and really feel like I’ve found what I’m supposed to write. I shelved my memoir for now and as Julia Scheeres told me the other day, “Only write what you want to write. That’s my best advice. You can always come back to the cult story.”

It’s funny, really, after I started working through my fear, I was asked to speak at two different events and other TV opportunities (with really great companies) were in discussion. My creative energy started coming back and I started reaching out to people more and more.

The internet is still a bit scary for me, but I’m diving in again and am going to kick ass. I’m trying to change my perspective some, and in doing so, I feel like I’ve found my momentum again. Whatever I lost in the past two years by hiding is slowly coming back. I’m excited to see where things go in the next few years and what new things I write. After all, I’m blogging because I love to write and I love to hit publish and I love to connect with people.

If you’d like to help make the internet a better place and educate people about the damage cyberbullying does to all of us, share this post and the post from Melissa Ford. Let’s make the internet fun again!

Meditation

I spent five minutes before work in my car meditating today. Nothing to it, although for years I’d been thinking you had to do certain things to get it right (and you probably do), but for now this works.

I was at the doctor’s office the other day and some actress (of course, it’s LA…we are the hub for all-things “zen”. I kid.) said she pulls over in her car for 10 minutes and just tunes things out. I think she used the Twitter app all the kids are using to meditate now, but that’s irrelevant.

After years of praying an hour in the morning, before meals and essentially allowing my mind to be a wind turbine full of prayers, guilt-ridden assessements of myself and my performance and how those didn’t measure up to “God”, I was of course completely opposed to anything resembling prayer or “quiet time” as we used to call it. However, meditation has many benefits and I’ve found that I’ve been able to work through some of my issues surrounding the similarities.

Either way, it’s time to reinvent the “quiet time” portion of my life. The zen. The peace. The sitting outside by the beach WITHOUT smoking a bowl, perhaps.

I have some FUCKING ANXIETY, ya’ll. Which has actually gone away rather rapidly in the past month, but I do deal with it and many people suggest meditation as a therapy for anxiety, so home cures it is!

Boys & Dating & Anxiety

I think people like me shouldn’t be allowed to date. I have the worst anxiety when it comes to meeting new people–and my expectations are so high. I’m such a fucking sappy ass–I just want my relationship to be springtime in Paris, with puppies and raindrops on roses…and even if you think something is going perfect, in a relationship (even the brand new ones) it doesn’t matter what YOU think is happening–things must be mutual and sometimes the other persons interest, or lack of interest or fading interest can fuck up my perfect little springtime fantasy (like when you have sex with a guy and then he checks his OkCupid account when you’re lying in his bed naked….that. And then your best friend tells you how stupid it is to sleep with someone on the first date, or 2nd date and how that’s not any way to get a long-term relationship). And sometimes, things are going fine but in my mind, they’re not regardless of how much you tell someone with anxiety to stop stressing, it just doesn’t happen. (See also: the most emo blog online)