Felicia Day is one of those names that either makes you shout "OMG!" or quizzically ask "Who?" Day was a fixture on shows such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer, created and starred in the gaming-focused web series The Guild, co-founded the prolific YouTube channel Geek & Sundry, and is an all-in-all badass lady geek icon. One of the first big internet stars, Day penned a memoir that comes out tomorrow. Whether you nerd out on video games, makeup, or musical theater, you'll find it an entertaining source of personal inspiration.
In You're Never Weird On The Internet (Almost), Day opens up about her unconventional childhood, what it was like defying Hollywood stereotypes, and her struggles with anxiety and depression that paralleled her personal success. Throughout, the book is punctuated by humor, advice, and cringeworthy photos (5th grade dance recital, anyone?) to which we can all relate.
We chatted on the phone with the multifaceted writer, producer, and actress about her memoir, her experiences, and what's up next. If you still aren't convinced of her chops, she also confessed to being a "kitten whore," so you know she's awesome.
What is “weird” anyway? Do you think “weird” has a different meaning now, with everyone sharing their interests and lives on the internet?
"I think weird just means that you’re not like everybody else. You have interests that aren’t necessarily mainstream, passions that might be considered more niche. It’s almost like weird is a compliment to me, but a lot of people use it to shame people for being individuals. But, the more individual you are, the more likely you can succeed and be yourself and be happier."
It seems that you’ve experienced a degree of impostor syndrome. How do you handle that feeling?
"The one thing no one ever told me was that being successful is just as hard to deal with as being unsuccessful. A lot of my depression had to deal with not feeling I could live up to expectations to satisfy other people. You have to have an inner sense of strength and feeling good enough, as if you were in a vacuum. You have to separate yourself and be independent with your self worth to get through the ups and downs of life. Growing up, I was involved in all these ability-oriented hobbies, and that put a lot of pressure on me to be a high-achieving person — to be the best...which I think influences the idea of being an impostor and not feeling good enough."
Being successful is just as hard to deal with as being unsuccessful.
Many readers will identify with your struggles with anxiety and depression. What pushed you to finally seek therapy?
"I sought help because I didn’t see any other options except imploding. You feel trapped in a way that you don’t feel like you have any control, because everything is going 10 million miles an hour. Through getting help, I realized you always have the control to stay 'Stop!' — you just have to close doors on some things in life (but other doors will open). The fear of the future and the pressure around me drove me to seek help."
What’s important to think about when you’re facing a big life or career challenge?
"Had I known all the barriers to my entering the world of Hollywood, I probably would have been dissuaded. It takes a bit of naïveté to take a big leap and change your life in a big way. But, any time I’ve done that, it's been for the betterment of my life. Being rejected, being told I needed to change, I found myself being who I was even stronger, and that is really why I am here today. I risked not pleasing other people. When you take those big risks, that's when you get the most benefit. That sense of meaning in life, you have to follow it. If one door is closed to you, you have to find a new door — or make it yourself, like I did."
What was it like — and what have you learned — since first being doxxed in 2013, and then again in Gamergate?
"It’s definitely something that's scary to live through. No one can dispute that we are all vulnerable. It doesn’t matter how high-profile you are. The tools are out there to expose things you don’t want...the world [to see], with very little technical barrier to entry. It's very scary to have that information out there and feel secure. You have to be very careful with what you do online — it's there forever. I try to be as cautious as I can, aware of the fact that as a public figure you’re more vulnerable... Take as many precautions as possible for the long-term, and don’t share things you don’t want online forever."
Has anything good come out of Gamergate?
"That incident is a culmination of a lot of things that happened over the year: a battle for what a gamer is. It's just like any group that is dissolving, and people that don’t want it to change. [They don't want to] be inclusive to other people. The great thing that has happened because of how prominent that incident was, is that many, many, many gamers, companies, CEOs, and prominent people in the industry have said This is unacceptable. Nobody owns the definition of 'gamer.' Women have been made more prominent in the media as representing gamers, programmers, and artists, and younger girls can see gaming as a viable place where they can be included."
What needs to happen to make internet communities a more welcoming place for women and minorities?
"There will always be a struggle when people are anonymous and don’t have to suffer consequences. If you have a coffee shop that has people in it who are being racist and hostile, that's an establishment people are not going to want to enter. We’re seeing the physical world have a very analogous situation to the digital world. You need to give people the tools to shut out those anonymous negative people and set a tone. The more...we can get together and take the reigns of our local community, the better. The negative has dominated the dialogue until now."
What’s an important takeaway you want people to get from your book?
"The most important thing is: embrace your weird. The things that make us stand out, that make us odd, that make us not fit into the average situation, are the things that we tend to be ashamed of or abandon in an effort to fit in or be popular. Those things will make long-lasting and fulfilling decisions in our lives, whether it's about the people you make a community with, or it's following something that might make an amazing career down the line. Regardless of upbringing and how you are born, if you have a passion, you should be able to pursue that."
Do you have any current or upcoming projects that you’re particularly excited about?
"My company, Geek & Sundry, has expanded; we work with Legendary. I’m the creative officer overseeing a lot of new projects coming out later this year and next year... I'm working on a longer-form show like The Guild that I can star [in] and write... My role models are Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, and Lena Dunham. I hope to follow in their footsteps."
I upvote any kitten at all. I'm a kitten whore.
What’s your favorite thing on the internet?
"Oh wow. I definitely have to say Twitter. I love good writing, jokes, pictures. I keep in touch with my friends there and don’t feel like a bad person if I don’t know what they’re doing. I love pictures of baby animals; I’m a sucker. I upvote any kitten at all. I'm a kitten whore, I have to say."
What’s your favorite Dr. Horrible episode and why?
I definitely love the second one, where I duet with Neil Patrick Harris. I love that song so much. I feel like we sing it very well together. The filming of it and direction is so funny. There's a ton in Dr. Horrible that is just...it’s unique. It’s funny and sad and emotional all at once."
You can check out more about Felicia Day's book (and buy it yourself) here.