Interviews

Talking heartbreak, haters and authenticity with Amelia Perrin

You know those girls on Instagram whose lives just seem SO perfect, you’re not entirely sure they’re real? Where it’s all designer handbags, pink fluffy coats, rose-gold beauty products and bouquets of flowers? If you’re thinking of someone in particular, my guess is it’s Amelia Perrin. But there is more to this ex-beauty queen than meets the eye – she’s a champion of girl power, the embodiment of confidence and sass, and a pretty great writer too.

I first came across Amelia when I was at uni, and had just started writing for The Tab. Amelia was Tab royalty, and she’d written a piece about how she discovered randoms on the internet ‘catfishing’ her selfies (stealing them and using them as their own). The story exploded – within days, she was splashed across news sites including The Daily Mail, with punters in the comment sections branding her a slut, writing nasty things about her looks and occasionally being downright threatening. Having once received a comment on one of my Tab articles accusing me of being a shallow bimbo who would never meet a boyfriend’s parents (lol), I always wondered how she dealt with the barrage of abuse, especially since she was still just a student like me. Just recently, another one of her posts went viral – this time it was on her personal blog, and was her open and honest reflection on her breakup with a well-known journalist, who was ten years her senior.

It’s safe to say Amelia puts a lot of herself online, and as someone who is constantly grappling with finding my digital self, I was keen to find out more about how she copes with it all. So I was thrilled when she agreed to be my first Millennial Pink interview (not just because I knew her pictures would match my blog theme perfectly, obvs). We chatted about putting your heart on (the) line, how to deal with being misunderstood, pursuing a career in media, insomnia and, of course, #MillennialProblems (because what is this blog if not an outlet to moan, amirite?) I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did.

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AT: You wrote a post recently about your breakup – can you tell me a bit about what that was like? Did you consider not posting it? 

AP: I definitely considered not posting it. It was actually a weird bet with my friend that led to me posting it in the first place. We both felt stuck in a writing rut and we promised each other we would post one thing we were proud of. I had that written in my drafts from months earlier, so I went back to it, for the bet. I had written it when I was deepest ~in my feelings~ I guess. I was hurt and angry and honestly, before it was edited months later, it was much more of a messy rant. It was two thousand words longer for a start. Looking back on my catharsis-writing months later let me pare it down, and helped me decide what was short-term anger talking, and what was long-term, necessary reflection. I honestly thought about not posting it right up until I hit ‘publish’. Then I remembered one of the lines in it (sorry to quote myself, how lame), “why are women expected to take the high road when they’ve been so hurt they feel numb?”, and I was like: fuck it, I’m posting it. I was tired of covering for a man who had wronged me, for the sake of mutual friends, for the sake of career moves, for the sake of ‘looking good’ online. I’m a woman, and I’m allowed to have feelings. It was made harder by people ‘knowing’ us online, and worse still by total strangers messaging me for gossip. I felt on one hand, if I published it and let people know what was going on, I was further allowing strangers into the most intimate details of my relationship. But on the other hand, I had allowed them in, and they deserved to know it at its worst, not just at its best. But mainly, I posted it for myself. From a logistical point of view, I have a new boyfriend and I didn’t want people to think I was ‘two timing’. Mainly, I wanted to allow myself to publicly put my feelings out there about an important part of my life, rather than just throw out a few ‘lols’ tweets about it and move on.

AT: How did people respond?

AP: The response to it was wild! I didn’t expect people to even read it, really. It was just an unassuming blog post, no clickbait title or names dropped. But I had so many people, both publicly and privately, message me telling me it resonated with them. Which is sad, but I’m glad it a) confirms to people that we all go through the same stuff, and also b) that men ain’t shit. The most shocking reaction I got was from men. A (male) friend of a friend messaged to say he’d just finished it and was bawling his eyes out, as it made him know he had to break off his six-year relationship. I thought the story was coming from a very classically ‘female’ position, so to have men message me about it was unexpected.

AT: Does that experience ever make you think/worry about how much you put online with your new relationship?

AP: Yes, but also no. I fell out of that bad relationship into a new, great one, very quickly. And you could argue every relationship seems ‘great’ at the beginning, but this is the first time I’ve really felt valued and appreciated in everything I do. He’s a very supportive sweetie. I didn’t post about him for about four months because people still thought I was with my ex, but also because I was like ‘what if it ends up like my last relationship? What if I have to go through this horrible, public breakup again?’. And I know it might seem hypocritical because of how I spoke about feeling inauthentic posting pictures like everything was fine when my relationship was as its worst, but I would feel a lot less like my authentic self by hiding my relationship from the internet entirely. I grew up online, I’m known for oversharing online, so ‘hiding him’ would feel deliberate and weird.

The only thing that really made me feel icky in my previous breakup was strangers messaging me for details. Sadly, if you’re a woman who is visible online, people seem to think you owe them something. But it’s totally possible to observe, be interested and follow, but also remember people are human beings behind the screen. You can find yourself invested in people you’ve never met, and you can also remember that just because you’ve never met them, doesn’t mean they aren’t real. If we all have a little more empathy for one another – both irl and url – sharing stuff online wouldn’t feel like such a big deal.

AT: I’m also really interested in that dynamic of having an older boyfriend… do you think it made you mature more quickly?

AP: Nah. When they say girls mature faster than boys mentally, it’s true. I’ve always had older boyfriends, and I’ve never felt less mature. I briefly dated a MUCH older guy, and on one date had to explain what was happening in a play we were watching, and at that point I was like, ‘wow fuck, men really don’t get wiser with age, huh?’ I’m kidding (ish).

AT: You started on the Tab and your catfish post went viral – was this something you expected? How did you deal with the fallout from that?

AP: I didn’t expect it at all. There are thousands (if not millions) of fake accounts out there; I was just writing about my personal experience discovering catfishes using my images. I had no idea it would become a ‘thing’. Loads of publications posted about it – even Cosmo covered it (they actually wrote my favourite piece about it; instead of just covering what had happened, they talked about how the weird backlash of me posting about it to receive strangers calling me sluts was uncalled for).

I’d had a few stories before then ‘go viral’ but none on the scale of that catfish one. It was exciting, but it also made the problem worse (my photos were even more ~out there~, so even more catfish accounts popped up), and the irony wasn’t lost on me that all these publications were using my photos and name without permission when the whole point was I wanted people to stop stealing my photos and name (haha). It also opened me up to a lot of abuse; it got posted to the Lad Bible and their clientele were suitably horrible. It also upset a lot of my family; they didn’t understand the context and were skipping straight to the comments sections on the Daily Mail etc, and just read all the nasty stuff. So from that respect, and all the worried phone calls I received, it wasn’t super nice.

AT: I read you said that the Tab always wanted your articles for the selfies – what did you think about that? I can imagine that’s kind-of flattering but a icky at the same time. Do you mind being known for your selfies?

AP: You know, at the time I didn’t really understand click-through rates and shit. I was just flattered my articles were getting attention, as it was the first time I’d ever written anything. I understood pretty quickly that my pictures were basically used as clickbait, but at the end of the day they still let me write about whatever I wanted and didn’t edit my tone of voice out; it was a starting point for a career I didn’t even realise I wanted until I started writing for them, so I don’t regret that. The only thing that’s a bit gross is how pictures I took – of myself and for myself – were used to drive traffic; at the time I didn’t realise clicks were so important, and that they have a monetary gain. I definitely don’t regret taking the selfies though, because I look FINE.

AT: I know a lot of the things you write are quite sarcastic and jokey – do you ever feel like you’re misunderstood? And does this bother you?

AP: Hmm, I don’t know where to start with this one. Sometimes, in the past, I think I’ve been wilfully misunderstood when I’ve clearly only been joking. I used to have CuriousCat (an online, anon question platform) and I would often get abuse masked as ‘call outs’. Basically, people held everything I said, did or posted to the maximum level of perfection. No matter what I posted, they’d read into deeper layers that weren’t there, or try and foist some subtext I supposedly meant on a tweet.

It made me feel like nothing I ever did was right, and worse still, that I was doing barely anything and somehow still managing to offend people. I didn’t care about the mean comments about my face, weight, personality, that’s all whatever, I cared that people’s anon comments made it seem like I was a nasty, purposefully spiteful person. One example is when I couldn’t help someone out with advice on a specific skincare product I’d never tried. This somehow warranted the response that I was rude, my career ambitions were a failure, and I was a fraud to call myself a beauty blogger. Another was when I made a YouTube video entitled ‘What I Eat in a Day’ (a popular YouTube ‘trend’ video), and I was told I clearly had no regard for people with eating disorders, as I should have included a food Trigger Warning in the title. Another classic CuriousCat ‘question’ was, after tweeting a photo of a sweet message in a card I received, being told I’m materialistic, high maintenance and would die alone. The internet can really be wild sometimes.

And some of the criticism, at times, was valid. I mean, I don’t agree going through an anon channel to tell someone, but I have been privately criticised and educated on things I’ve done or said, and this is totally fine. I encourage it. I once used a phrase I didn’t know the origin of, so I didn’t know it was offensive. I was corrected, and I’ve never used it again. If you’re in a position of privilege, it’s so easy to make a comment you don’t see as offensive, because it wouldn’t touch you. I’m glad people online have educated me, so I know not to make shitty, problematic jokes that might legitimately offend people.

AT: I always find it interesting that some people who seem so confident online actually struggle with confidence issues and anxiety. Have you ever had to cope with anything like this?

AP: I’ve been on medication for anxiety and depression in the past. I now just take anxiety medication and have therapy for my insomnia, but everything’s related. I’m very outgoing in real life as well as online so being diagnosed with anxiety genuinely confused me for a while. To the doctor I was like, ‘but I’m not sitting at home too nervous to go outside, how can I have anxiety?’, but it takes many different forms. For example, I’d be the bubbliest person in the room, but I would sit in my car and have a panic attack any time I had to drive it anywhere, and I’d freak out if I had to go to the supermarket alone. I didn’t sleep more than half an hour a night for weeks at a time, but I’d be sociable and super high functioning during the day. It didn’t make sense to me, but I realised anxiety and confidence issues don’t always manifest in the typical ways you might think. It sounds super clichéd but you really do never truly have a 100% picture of what someone’s mental state is like. Until I started talking about my anxiety and sleep issues in more depth on Twitter, you probably would have had no idea anything was wrong; and that’s true for so many people, not just me.

AT: What’s your game plan now – going into beauty journalism or pursuing being a writer/blogger on your own terms? Does a career path in media scare you? 

AP: I’ve always loved magazines. I think I was the only person in Essex that bought the sole, £7 copies of Nylon and Teen Vogue from one very specific news agents. It makes me so sad that print media is dying just as I could feasibly work in it. We all know digital is the way forward, but there’s a reason there’s always a two-year-old Vogue in the dentists; magazines are treats, magazines distract you, magazines transport you (far more than a scrollable listicle could). But beauty journalism, be it print or online, is what I want to do. I’m obsessed with every tiny facet of the beauty industry. Blogging is great (and serves as my current beauty outlet while working in other journalism sectors), but it only pays the bills for a miniscule number of bloggers! Being a full-time blogger would be fabulous, but I’m trying to be semi-sensible here (although many people would say journalism is not a sensible career choice). But yeah, if you’re on a beauty desk that needs a poppin’ writer with solid beliefs that a) volumising shampoo, b) eye creams and c) essential oils are scams, hit me up.

AT: What’s your biggest piece of advice when it comes to growing your following? Do you make a conscious effort to do this?

AP: It sounds lazy, but I don’t make a conscious effort to grow my following on Instagram really, being a social media manager is a full-time job for a reason! But I do try and implement a few things to make my content good enough that hopefully people will stick around. I’ve recently started using an app called UNUM, which allows you to see how photos will look in your feed. I use this to double check how a photo will look before I post it. Like, if it’s food, I get paranoid I’ve posted too many burgers in a row (classic me), the same goes for selfies, or lifestyle shots. Mixing it up is the key. I also take loads more photos than I ‘need’ so that I can keep a bank of photos to post later, I try to post on Instagram once a day (but I have no real clue whether that helps or not). But I’m always on Twitter, mindlessly live-tweeting my life away.

AT: What’s your biggest beauty secret?  

AP: Planning your brush washing strategically! Your brushes should technically be washed every time you use them, but nobody has time for that. I wash them once a week properly, but your makeup always looks best the second makeup application after a deep clean. So, if you have a big event coming up, wash your brushes, do a light makeup with them the day before, and using them for the second-time post-wash for the event will guarantee your makeup is great.

AT: What’s the hardest thing about being a millennial? 

AP: Probably a weird feeling of lacking purpose. I know it’s clichéd to be like ‘millennials can’t buy houses’ and in a way, why should owning a house define feeling like you have a purpose? But I do think wildly increasing prices (of houses, and everything) versus stagnant (and shit) wages gets a lot of people down. And it’s not just because of the house, it’s everything that goes along with typical, accepted standards of having your shit together. It’s that without a house, you feel less successful than the generations before you, it’s that everything seems further away and less possible, like marriage, children – all that normal adult stuff – seems impossible with the way things are going.

The other thing is the fact we have news and information blasted to us 24/7, through social media. It’s very unique to our generation. We know about events and tragedies before the news even finds out about them. When you wake up in the morning and check your phone first thing to find a BBC news alert about a new school shooting, and then you open Twitter to discover something awful Trump has said, and you repeat the cycle of refreshing, learning, and feeling sad, every day for the rest of your life, it gets overwhelming. Just the feeling of shitty stuff going on that you know about immediately but can’t do anything tangible about, and then the feeling of guilt at almost not wanting to know that accompanies it. My mum doesn’t have social media and only watches the news occasionally, so might hear of something bad happening once or twice a month, whereas millennials – constantly online for both work and pleasure – know everything, immediately, both big and small, it all adds to that feeling of lacking purpose; that everything is bigger than you, and that all you can do is passively watch from your screen.  Sorry that got a bit depressing, I should have answered with, like, something about avocados.

FOLLOW AMELIA:
Blog: Ameliaperrin.com
Instagram: @ameliaperrin
Twitter: @amelia_perrin

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