Not in any way, shape or form. I’ve never believed all publicity is good publicity. In fact, I answered this same question in Forbes about a year ago like this: “Anyone who says this is either delusional or a masochist. No one in their right mind believes that any publicity is good publicity. That’s just what well-meaning people say to their friends who get bad publicity so they don’t feel quite as crappy. Bad publicity is bad publicity, end of story.”
I will make one caveat to that, something that I’ve come to believe over the past year: at a certain point, if you are attempting to raise awareness for something greater than yourself, you can, in theory, justify all sorts of negativity. If you believe you have something to share that might help people in some way — a cause or a particular sentiment or a belief set or a worldview — That can put snarky press into perspective. You think to yourself, ‘as long as this publicity leads people to my message, which I believe in deeply, it doesn’t matter if a percentage of them don’t get it and don’t like me.’ But that’s next level. You can’t do that if your goal for publicity is just vanity or approbation.
Are you worried about how people will respond to this show, or are you used to criticism at this point?
Oddly, I’m less worried about what other people think than I have been in my entire life, and this (newfound) sense of self is – ironically – the greatest gift this show gave me. Because of the choices I made about the content of the show – to embark upon a serious quest as to why I haven’t had a healthy long term relationship – both experiential and in writing, for my ELLE.com column “Guinea Pig of Love” – it felt like ten years of therapy stuffed into four or five months.
Brutal. I hated some of it, really hated it. But it was THE BEST THING that could have happened to me, because as it turned out, I had been trying my entire life to garner positive reactions from the outside world – everyone from my parents to my friends to the men I dated to strangers on the internet. I wanted them all to love me. I thought that if they did I would be happy. But (duh) that’s not how it works. Maybe I knew this intellectually before, but I certainly didn’t know it in my heart.
So how did the show teach me that? By forcing me to show my worst, my messiest, my least lovable sides. Because you CANNOT possibly be on your best behavior for the number of hours they film you. I finally stopped trying to be perfect, and started just being myself. And at the same time I was in therapy, both conventional and not very conventional at all, in which I was forced to confront a host of issues stemming from my deep seated self-loathing, which began in childhood (doesn’t it always?). I didn’t feel lovable, and so it mattered deeply to me whether people praised me or criticized me. Whether they called me pretty or called me fat. Whether they thought I was talented or a hack. But now? It’s not that those insults don’t still sting. It’s that I know they don’t really matter. Not much does, when it comes down to it. I don’t mean that in the nihilistic sense – I mean it more in the Buddhist sense. Just be present with those you love, learn and grow and actively engage the world, take time for the spiritual, make your mistakes because you pushed yourself, not because you didn’t, and maybe hit a creative high now and again. Then forgive yourself when you don’t. That’s all you can really do.
Do you think this will change anyone’s opinion of you?
I don’t know, honestly. On the one hand, I hope so. On the other … who can really tell? I find the most common reaction I receive when I meet people in person who had heretofore only known me only through the myopic lens of New York gossip media is: “You’re totally different than I expected.” Of course I am. I was rarely who they portrayed me to be. I was rarely who I portrayed myself to be. And that, of course, was the problem. I guess I don’t really know how people will perceive me. I can’t always see myself accurately from the vantage point of others. Never could.
Some people have said this is a comeback. Do you consider it one?
Not really. I was incredibly proud of my syndicated social media column last year … THAT felt like a comeback to me. This feels much more like the end of a very, very long journey. I suppose it’s because comebacks feel like something you chase, something you need, something you’ll die without, something you’re doing to PROVE IT to others. I liked checking this off my list of things I’ve always wanted to do, but I didn’t need it for my ego by the time I got it. I sort of Eat, Pray, Loved my way out of the obsession with (what I believe to be) this false idea of success. I guess I just changed. I moved on. And isn’t “coming back” the opposite of that? I guess if they called it a “come forward” I would be more comfortable using that term. But that just doesn’t have the same ring ;-)
Do you feel like you were presented fairly on the show?
Truthfully, I have only seen the first episode, so I don’t know yet. I hope so. The producers were incredibly brave, thoughtful women who really cared about the show and I daresay about me, so even if I disagree with individual choices, I know they did what they felt best to tell my story in a way which resonated with the audience. I also am writing “blogs” (my first one was 3,200 words, so it’s more like a treatise) with explanatory commentary on Bravo’s site, so I do feel like I have a forum to expand, if you will, upon what the TV show portrays.
And most importantly…