The Blog

The Interview That Crossed The Line -- And What I Still Believe About Vulnerability

I still believe in the power of vulnerability -- that openness is the key to empathy, and that empathy is the key to human connection.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

At the 2014 Grammys, I performed "Same Love" alongside Madonna, Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, and Queen Latifah while 33 couples were married on live television. And then I floated to the planet Orkjar on a golden pop-tart, because in what universe does a chubby lesbian get to be a red sparkling princess lady that sings about gay love? I cried for hours in the rehearsal, overwhelmed by the implications of what we were about to do.


The day after that surreal performance, I felt electric. I was in the middle of recording my first full-length album, and was scheduled to appear on a live celebrity talk show to promote my single. It was one of those shows where they recap vapid useless celebrity gossip, so naturally I couldn't wait to dish on the moment when I pulled up to the glitzy after-party in a dirty red minivan with my parents, or when my girlfriend and I danced with a tipsy Anna Kendrick, or that my mom continued to insist that Skrillex was the nicest boy she'd ever met, and we ought to "sing a duet." Unfortunately, this interview on this TV show was nothing like that. This interview pulled the golden pop-tart rug out from underneath me.

The morning-after interview started the way most interviews do: "How was working with Macklemore? Did you know Madonna was going to come out on stage? Do you shit cupcakes?" For some reason, the interview took a strange turn. Perhaps it was the interviewer's hunger to be taken more seriously, to have a compelling story, to catch tears falling on the couch a la Barbara Walters. But whatever the reason, I was asked without relevance or warning about my childhood abuse, as well as being raped in an army barracks as a teenager. Any hopes of giggling about Skrillex evaporated quickly. I was aware that the information of my sexual abuse was out in the world, but that morning, when I was putting the final touches on my makeup, my sexual traumas hadn't crossed my mind once. Why would they? I tried to respond as best I could, knowing that it was live television, but everything afterward was a blur. As soon as the cameras were off, I went into a full-blown panic attack. I didn't know it then, but this same situation would happen multiple times in the year.

I questioned so much after that interview. Have I done this to myself? Is this what happens when you are vulnerable and open? How do I take back control of the telling of my own story? I started noticing weird shit after that interview -- the disassociation we create between us and celebrity. How much I craved honest connection, and how I realized I was only receiving a strange form of being collected. I started realizing my own fascination with celebrity culture. Started wondering why people hate the Kardashians so vehemently -- or, on the other side of the coin, adore them and obsess over their facial structures. It dawned on me -- people have misdirected anger at the Kardashians or celebrities who have a disproportionate ratio of fame to talent. They don't actually hate Kim Kardashian. They are upset with the culture that fetishizes them -- where media prioritizes and praises ratings rather than substance. The Kardashians are simply opportunists. I began fearing the heavy societal commodification of celebrity culture, and was deeply saddened with the realization that music consumption is only vaguely a part of the equation for successful artists.

I wrote "Ribcage" because I was exhausted. I wrote it because my truth was hungover and needed a sarcastic joke. I wrote it because "Secrets" was an optimistic version of vulnerability, and because self-empowerment doesn't always come wrapped in a bow.

I will continue to talk about my own sexual trauma when I feel safe enough to, and when I'm in control. I still believe in the power of vulnerability -- that openness is the key to empathy, and that empathy is the key to human connection.