Guests at the Gloria Awards and Gala hosted by the Ms. Foundation for Women this weekend were blown away by unabashedly honest, raw reflections on confidence and self-awareness in speeches given by charmingly crass comedienne Amy Schumer and acclaimed actress Gabourey Sidibe. The usual insipid inspirational speech was ousted in favor of incredibly personal anecdotes about eschewing the norm to find confidence in what society deems faults and missteps. Schumer, in particular, went to the darkest recesses of her memory to find the illuminating moment that strengthened her own resolve when she found herself at her weakest.
A self-described pretty, funny, and confident teenager, she says that while she felt like she was “running” her high school by graduation, going away to college brought a shock to her self-esteem that she hadn’t expected. “My school was voted number one … for the hottest freshman girls in Playboy that year. And not because of me. All of a sudden, being witty and charismatic didn’t mean sh*t.”
“Day after day, I could feel the confidence drain from my body. I was not what these guys wanted. They wanted thinner, blonder, dumber … My sassy one-liners were only working on the cafeteria employees, who I was visiting all too frequently, tacking on not the Freshman 15, but the 30, in record-breaking time, which led my mother to make comments over winter break like, “You look healthy!” I was getting no male attention, and I’m embarrassed to say, it was killing me.”
She goes on to vividly and skillfully detail the all-too-familiar particulars of a hapless hookup with a hot older guy named Matt, a crush from back home that was a senior attending the same college. Catching his eye made her feel like she’d finally accomplished something, and she naively pinned all of her hopes their imagined relationship, “I wondered, would we raise our kids in the town we both grew up in, or has he taken a liking to Baltimore? I don’t care. I’ll settle wherever he’s most comfortable. Will he want to raise our kids Jewish? Who cares?”
“I am not who I sleep with. I am not my weight. I am not my mother. I am myself. And I am all of you…” ~ Amy Schumer
Her hometown hero finally invited her over and she was broken-hearted to realize she wasn’t his cutie-pie coed crush, but a last-ditch drunken booty call. “… I’m not the first person he thought of that morning. I’m the last person he called that night. I wonder, how many girls didn’t answer before he got to fat freshman me?… But I was here, and I wanted to be held and touched and felt desired, despite everything. I wanted to be with him. I imagined us on campus together, holding hands, proving, “Look! I am lovable! And this cool older guy likes me!” I can’t be the troll doll I’m afraid I’ve become.”
“I felt faceless, and nameless. I was just a warm body, and I was freezing cold. I want to scream for myself, “Get out of here, Amy. You are beautiful, you are smart, and worth more than this. This is not where you stay… I could feel I was losing myself to this girl in this bed.” The doomed duo fumbles through a few disgusting attempts at coupling before Schumer’s crush succumbs to a drunken slumber on top of her, leaving her miserable but enlightened.
“Now I feel strong and beautiful. I walk proudly down the streets of Manhattan. The people I love, love me. I make the funniest people in the country laugh, and they are my friends. I am a great friend and an even better sister. I have fought my way through harsh criticism and death threats for speaking my mind. I am alive, like the strong women in this room before me. I am a hot-blooded fighter and I am fearless.” But she’s sure to note though she’s strong, it doesn’t mean she can’t be shaken. And that is the crux of what makes her personal admissions so poignant: the lows she’s sometimes capable of, as we all are, highlight the heights that she does reach.
“I can be reduced to that lost college freshman so quickly sometimes, I want to quit. Not performing, but being a woman altogether. I want to throw my hands in the air, after reading a mean Twitter comment, and say, “All right! You got it. You figured me out. I’m not pretty. I’m not thin. I do not deserve to use my voice. I’ll start wearing a burqa and start waiting tables at a pancake house. All my self-worth is based on what you can see.”
“But then I think, F*ck that. I am not laying in that freshman year bed anymore ever again….I say if I’m beautiful. I say if I’m strong. You will not determine my story — I will… I stand here and I am amazing, for you. Not because of you. I am not who I sleep with. I am not my weight. I am not my mother. I am myself. And I am all of you, and I thank you.” Read the full speech here [NSFW language]. — Casandra Armour