Lauren Duca is a name you’ve probably heard. Her article ‘Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America’ is the most widely read article on Teen Vogue’s website, ever. Although she knew it would do well amongst her friends, she had no idea how big it would be and how much attention she would get from the piece. Then came the debate with Tucker Carlson, which was huge. Her following doubled on Twitter after the gas lighting piece but then went to over 100k after the on-air debate. She still keeps her email address in her Twitter bio (“I need to keep it open for writing opportunities because it’s crucial to have some line of communication!”) Since graduating in 2013, she’s been writing a range of different things and was an entertainment reporter and a culture columnist. Then, she went freelance. She talks to us about going viral (186k on Twitter and counting), being grateful and how she feels to be a woman right now.
Lauren Duca: “I refused to suffer in silence. It’s a hurtful, hard thing and we have this tendency of bravado and always being tougher and not caring but that’s not how humans experience the world. If someone says something nasty to you, you’re gonna feel bad about it. I’m not ashamed of that and I had to come to terms with that.”
Taylor Magazine: How did you make the decision to be a freelance writer?
Lauren Duca: I was always scared to leave Huffington Post but very quickly felt that I had outgrown it and I just needed to make the jump. It’s always scary at first but it’s about getting the responses quick enough and having a network of people that you can work for. Honestly, the dream for me was always to be freelance and I just thought I’d give it a chance after a couple of years once I had built my name up. People sometimes think of freelance as less than. It’s definitely a struggle sometimes, but it’s the widest variety of work you can have. It’s the best way for me to do my work but it is hard, I don’t think everyone can do it. There are some amazing writers who need the structure and the assignments and that’s how they do their thing. I just love having different ideas and I like working with different people – it’s been great.
Taylor Magazine: What’s your biggest accomplishment to date?
Lauren Duca: Probably the gas lighting article but I’m hoping the next biggest one is going to be this book I’m working on which is where the gas lighting article came from. I didn’t know how to write anything else so I poured myself into this proposal and wrote it in two days. That all happened before the piece took off. It seems like it made sense to publish it. The book is due to be launched in 2018, if everything is on a quick schedule and who knows what will happen it that time?
Taylor Magazine: That sounds really exciting! What have you found to be your hardest professional struggle?
Lauren Duca: The past few months have been insane. The Tucker Carlson clip and him saying, “You’re not welcome to this political conversation,” was the idea that even in subtle ways you’re treated differently when you’re a young woman. You’re not taken as seriously so there’s a reason why women aren’t as confident. It’s still a struggle. And of course, harassment. I know for a fact that you could have a man and a woman write the exact same piece and the nastiness that the female writer would get in return will always be tenfold compared to what it would be for the man. There really are these obstacles – it’s a fact and sometimes you need to accept that and get on with it because wallowing in it won’t help. For all female writers, you’re not crazy… it is just harder.
Not everyone can take extended harassment. Obviously what I’ve gotten is so absurd but in general, most things I wrote I was getting a little of that. It takes its toll and I don’t know that everyone can handle that. It’s crazy that it’s something you have to endure. That’s my biggest fear – that these young women that could be great writers will be persuaded to not go into that field and that’s very upsetting. Twitter could definitely be doing more to stop it and overall, something very toxic is going on.
Taylor Magazine: How do you handle the abuse and extreme harassment?
Lauren Duca: I had to take a step back from it all. It took me a couple of weeks to say, “This is not okay and this is taking it’s toll,” and that’s what I had to admit. I refused to suffer in silence. It’s a hurtful, hard thing and we have this tendency of bravado and always being tougher and not caring but that’s not how humans experience the world. If someone says something nasty to you, you’re gonna feel bad about it. I’m not ashamed of that and I had to come to terms with that.
I wrote a bit about it for Teen Vogue and I got a message from one of my trolls actually apologising – he basically said sorry for “shitposting” me and that he was a father and realised that this was not who he wanted to be. I very flatly responded, “Okay, but why were you doing that?” He said he got caught up in it and that he was a Trump supporter and was ashamed. Another thing he said was that he was intimidated – he saw me not back down in that Tucker clip and that scared them a little bit. My realisation down the line was that people are also saying really nice things about me and I decided for myself to lean into those things and spend a little extra time reading those and soaking those in – it’s probably 20 nice messages to 1 nasty message. I’ve been trying to give myself some more time for the kind ones.
Taylor Magazine: You’ve had a lot of celebrities rooting for you on Twitter and admiring you! Has social media been more of a positive or negative thing for you?
Lauren Duca: Social media is critical in terms of bringing conversations to light that aren’t being covered as they should and allowing access to a variety of sources and consuming news. On a personal level, I’ve gotten so much work and so many opportunities tied to Twitter – is it possible that some of the people would have found me otherwise? I got my job at Teen Vogue because of my presence on Twitter and my writing. Promoting myself, writing and then getting a drink with the editorial director of Teen Vogue is pretty funny. I just thought we were gonna be friends. I had three drinks and was having a great old time, but I had no idea this was a job interview! But even having actual celebrities engage with your work is insane. It feels so crazy every time. It does wonders for me and my work – overwhelmingly positive.
Taylor Magazine: What are you scared of in this field as a female writer? Is there anything that feels daunting?
Lauren Duca: Probably something around the harassment. There are some lunatics out there who are probably just lashing out behind their TV screens. It’s made me angrier and more passionate as a feminist. Some of these people have way too much time on their hands but if I can handle this, I can handle anything. I’m still here, I’m sticking around, so please stop wasting your time trolls! But if you’re going to keep doing it, you’re not going to silence me.
Taylor Magazine: I like that! What does the word feminist mean to you?
Lauren Duca: I like to use Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s definition of feminist, which Beyoncé has also dropped. Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes. People get caught up in the definition a lot but it’s about fighting for equality. I love enhancing that definition and I hope that one day feminism isn’t stigmatised anymore.
Taylor Magazine: What advice would you give to your younger self?
Lauren Duca: Stop worrying about what everyone thinks – even though I still need to tell that to my current self!
Taylor Magazine: What advice would you give to others who want to make a difference or be vocal about their beliefs and thoughts but don’t know how to go about it?
Lauren Duca: You have to commit to doing something and you have to commit to not letting fascism win. Donald Trump truly wins when we become apathetic. Stay angry and commit to doing something. There are so many ways to start that process. Depending on what the issue is, show up! Go to the protests. Just commit to doing a little something every day. It feels hopeless sometimes but I went to the march in New York and I felt so much hope. Make sure your voice is heard. Hillary won the popular vote and by the way, so many people didn’t think Trump was going to win but didn’t vote, and woke up to the news that he was President. The resistance is huge. Don’t feel hopeless. Ask people who are getting involved how you can get involved.
Taylor Magazine: We’re a lot about self-care, feeling happy and content and doing something each day to make you feel god. If you are having a down day, what do you do to lift yourself up?
Lauren Duca: I hug my dog! I cannot recommend enough having a pet – she keeps me so sane and pulls me out of getting stuck in the negativity and the fear of this moment. Take a minute to breath – this is an impossible time for so many people, you’re not alone or crazy. If you feel despair and hopeless, remind yourself that a lot of people feel that way and take action and fight back. But also give yourself a chance to breath sometimes. Hug your dog or whatever your version of that is! I swear she has puppy powers – it’s crazy how much better I feel right after I give her a squeeze. Treat yourself!