Sept. 9, 2013
My Life as a Public Figure: The Good, Bad, and Being Called Ugly. How Happy Herbivore has Changed Me. A Brutally Honest Memoir Post.
I have friends that dream of stardom (to be fair, I live in Los Angeles) and although I like attention (am I not supposed to admit that?) and I have always been a bit of a social butterfly (I'm the hub, not a spoke, as my husband says), I never looked at actresses, actors, or media personalities and thought, "Yes! I want THAT!"
I never dreamt of fame. Dreamt of being rich, sure, (don't we all fantasize about winning the lotto?) but not being famous.
I guess I always saw past all the glamour. I didn't know exactly how hideous living in the lime light could be, but I had my suspicions that it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows...
I know I should say, "I don't care what people think" — but that would be a lie. I do.
Though I'm working on that.
Anyway, my birthday is later this month and this last year has been a big year for me. Happy Herbivore will also be 6 next month. Sometimes I think, "whoa! how is she SIX? Where did the time go?" and other times I feel like, "how is she only 6?? she's giving me grey hairs already!"
I don't know if it's the successes, achievements, or just general lapse of time, but lately I've been reflecting more and more on how my life has changed. How Happy Herbivore changed me. How it changed my life.
In many ways, the change has been amazing. A dream. A fairytale.
And in other ways...
I don't know that I want to say the other ways are "bad." Different, yes, but not necessarily bad.
For example, when I first arrived in this business I was a sweet softie. I was increasingly sensitive.
As such, the early years of Happy Herbivore involved me crying on the floor in my bathroom with some regularity. Anytime someone said something mean to me, or about me, I cried. Hate mails would eat me up for days. I had to stop reading Amazon reviews.
Some of the emails and comments I received (and still receive) are just cruel. It goes well beyond constructive criticism.
Amidst all my tears, friends and family would say things like, "focus on the people who do love you. Focus on all the good emails you receive. Don't give these jerks time or attention."
But let me tell you, that is easier said than done.
Especially when people are ripping you apart at your very core by calling you fat, stupid, ugly, a loser, an embarrassment to your parents. Telling you to go kill yourself or not have children because you'd screw them up. (These are some of the "nicer" examples.)
I was so happy (and maybe a little relieved?) when Matthew Inman (author of The Oatmeal) admitted he too struggled with this this in his comic, "some thoughts and musings about making things for the web." (As a warning, Inman's language is not as PG as mine).
By the way, Inman and I share the same birthday. I like to think that's proof magical things happen on September 24th ;)
Anyway, point is: I eventually grew a thicker skin. I'm not soft anymore. Gone are those days of crying. Now when someone says something mean, I roll my eyes and hit delete.
That's a good thing, right?
Or is it?
Sometimes I feel sad that I'm not who I used to be. Maybe she was sensitive, but that sensitivity wasn't always her krpytonite. It made her a great, emphatic lawyer, for one. Maybe without that caring, super sweet nature, she couldn't have created Happy Herbivore. (Why am I talking about myself in the third person?)
The other thing I've learned to live with is all the judging. I know I open myself up to it by sharing so much of myself publicly and online, but my mind is still blown by how people judge and react to what I do. (Or don't do, in some cases).
I talked about this in depth in my post, "Applaud Progress (It's Not All or Nothing)." For years, people told me I wasn't vegan enough, so I stopped identifying as a vegan. When I do organization blog posts for Minimalist Monday, I'm always surprised by the not-so-nice comments and emails that come in about the products I use or don't use. Oy vey.
I know I can't please everyone, but sometimes it feels like people just wait in the wings for me to slip up. To find something I'm doing wrong so they can point it out.
The comments are never nice/helpful, either. Not, "Oh Lindsay, did you know?..." — more like "I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU USE THAT, I'M NOT FOLLOWING YOU ANYMORE! I'M RETURNING YOUR BOOKS!" (That's a direct quote).
As you might imagine, there are days where I just want to scream "leave me alone!" and honestly, sometimes I do.
But because I love my job. Because I love what I do. Because I believe I am fighting for a good cause. And BECAUSE I LOVE MY FANS — I take it. I try to wash it off as fast as it gets thrown on me, but I can't lie. It's exhausting and defeating at times.
(And maybe now you understand why I'm so passionate about my "progress not perfection" mantra! Because no one should feel judged, especially when they are trying to do something positive. Focus on the progress people are making, the good things they do, not where they might fall short! I discuss this topic at length in my post, "Build Them Up (Why I'm Not a Skinny Bitch)" and my year later reflection, "I'm Still Not a 'Vegan' Anymore.")
As you might imagine, I'm now hypersensitive in a new way. I carefully choose every word I say. I stress over my words. I fretted for three days over whether or not I could say "turd" in a newsletter. (It was part of a joke).
I try to think of every possible interpretation or angle something will go. And I know I'm not alone. I'm friends with a few actors, and people who do social media for big celebrities, and they freak out and stress out as much as I do. Probably more.
When I was a kid, my mom was always saying, "Lindsay! You need to THINK before you speak" and now I *really* do.
I went from having no filter to having 20, which I admit is probably a good thing. I have always tried to be politically correct and polite, but I'm much more reserved in speaking my mind, or sharing my opinion.
Which I'm not allowed to have anyway, as it turns out. Even when I post something on my personal Facebook page, if it's even a tiny bit political, I'm torn apart. I'm told to shut my mouth and stick to cooking.
Okay folks, I know my career is in food, but there's so much more to me as a person. I wonder if these people only talk about topics involving their job?
How limiting! We're all so much more than our jobs. I am so much more than Happy Herbivore. I'm a real person with feelings and opinions and a whole life outside of Happy Herbivore.
I have to navigate in this world too.
I need to express myself. I need to figure out my feelings. I need to explore. I need to talk about stuff so I can process it. I need to post pictures of my trips for the same reasons you need to post pictures of your vacations.
I know the easy solution is to lock it all down and go into hiding, keeping my private life in private seclusion, but I have always prided myself on being transparent.
I want people to know me, the real me.
I admit I read trash mags from time to time. Why? Because I want to know who my favorite actress really is off-screen. What is she like? What's her favorite color? I'm curious. I admit it.
I figure you're a little curious about me too ;) After all, you're letting me into your kitchen and trusting me with your taste buds.
My favorite color is green, by the way.
Above all, I don't want to lose myself. I don't want to be afraid to be myself publicly or privately because of my "job."
I wonder if other CEOs have this worry... it's a bit strange to be in the business of yourself. I remember reading a memoir by Tori Spelling and she mused, "My job is to be Tori Spelling. How do I take a day off?"
My greatest fear has been (and always will be) that no one will like me, and being a public figure has made me face that monster.
And I wasted so much of my youth being afraid to be myself... so...
You can love me or hate me, but all I can be is me. And, apparently, learn to live with the public scrutiny. ;)
Speaking of public scrutiny, I've also become very empathetic and borderline protective of real celebrities. Perhaps it's because I live in L.A. and I see them all the time around town being real people and doing real people things like going to a movie, or eating dinner with friends, or picking out furniture at Ikea (all true real-life experiences).
For example, a little while ago the news broke that Ben Affleck was cast as the new Batman. At first I was like "hmm... that's interesting. I'm not sure he'd have been my pick..." and before I could continue my thought as to who my dream Batman was, I thought, "Oh god. I hope he stays offline today."
I hadn't even signed into my Twitter or Facebook, but I knew what was there. Millions of tweets and updates dissing on him and his new role, which I'm sure was a personal dream and highlight achievement in his career. That's a grain of salt I hope I never need.
Similarly, right after the news came out that Bethenny Frankel was getting divorced, I somehow ended up on her Facebook page, and the comments people were leaving on her Wall were enough to make me want to find a bridge to jump off. It was awful.
I found myself on her page again a few months later, and the comments to a picture she had posted (her with her pup and daughter) were just hideous. Her skin must be thicker than pleather...
And finally... two other surprise changes that have happened: the strange amount of unsolicited advice that comes my way (but not in the good or helpful way), and:
How often people try to use my books against me. This situation (or a variation of it) happens frequently: "If you don't do this, I'm never buying your books again." Umm... okay?
I never really know what to do when people threaten me by saying they won't buy my books. I mean, yes, I would love it if you bought my books (that's why I write them...) — but I don't understand using past or future support to try to control someone.
Don't get me wrong: I am thankful for everyone who has ever supported my work, and I am very humbled. I know I owe all my good fortune and success to the people who do support me. I guess I wonder if this is what it's like to be a politician... to ask for support, get it, and then have to be in debt over it. Hmmm...
I'm still trying to find how to live with that. And how to live with worrying that I'll do the wrong thing and everyone will hate me.
Like I said, my greatest fear... but...
I get it, not everyone likes me. And boy do they like to remind me of that ;)
BUT some of you do, and you're the you's who matter to me ;)
My friend Natala (who works for Engine 2, and frequently vents to me about the hate mail and mean comments they get, too) says, "1/3 of people will love you. 1/3 of people will hate you and 1/3 of people won't care about you. Focus on the people who love you" (or something like that).
And that's what I try to do. I'm still a work-in-progress, of course.
I'm not trying to create drama, stir the pot, or fish for compliments.
I just felt I needed to release my long, unorganized, rambling thoughts on my life since Happy Herbivore.
I believe in the work that I do. I do what I do for my fans. I try to keep my focus on that.
Yet I'm also looking for my balance.
When Cory Monteith died earlier this year, a friend of his said to me, "sometimes fame is the worst thing that can happen to a person," and I think that's true.
No, I'm not comparing myself to Cory. No, I don't think I'm "famous," but my life has certainly changed in ways I never expected it to and not all of them are good.
One of the most painful and difficult experiences for me as "the Happy Herbivore" is when people attack my parents and husband. And this happens with some regularity, I'm sad to say. I can't post or update about them without nasty comments and critiques of them coming with it.
I have a lot of guilt and grief over that.
Yet I think the push back makes me want to be myself even more. I want to be authentic.
In that post I wrote,
"Yes I am Happy Herbivore but I'm also Lindsay Shay Nixon and I was Lindsay Shay Nixon first. Point is, as I became a "public figure" I took care to stay true to myself, and be myself, and be both uncensored and real — not become vanilla or yellow, muted to appease everyone like a politician pandering to the masses, because I couldn't live with such dishonesty.
I can only be me. I have to believe it was who I am that got me where I am today. So why would I change now? Success will not scare me away from my true self. If I've offended you, I'm sorry, that was not my intent, but it's hard to exist without bumping elbows from time to time. I choose to love and respect people who are different than me in every way. It enriches my life, and hope you do too."
And yes, I nearly crapped my pants the moment I hit "publish" on this blog post.
BUT I don't want to live in fear. Here's my story.
*** Update: 10:42 am: I am in tears. Between the 100+ comments here, several more on the Facebook post, all the emails and tweets pouring in... I'm just.. crying. I.... I don't know what to say except, I LOVE YOU HERBIES! and I'm so glad I said this, so we can all take a stand against cyber bullying. I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU! xoxoxo
I'm trying to comment back personally to everyone -- if I missed you, know that I read it and thank you.
**Final Update: 8:00pm
I am truly blown away by all your amazing comments, emails, tweets, facebook notes. I have cried and cried and cried. I have never felt so loved.
Although it wasn't on my radar at the time I wrote this post, I now hope this blog can be a beacon for change against cyber bullying.
Some closing thoughts for today: progress not perfection! each day I strive to be better than I was yesterday I LOVE YOU HERBIES!