Prior to playing one of those roles, Brunson, 31, was just another aspiring artist in his twenties in Los Angeles.
In his early memoirs, “she even good, “Brunson describes what she found in her adopted hometown that was not available in her hometown of West Philadelphia. It wasn’t just about auditioning for opportunities. “I would create my own scene, my own culture, right there in the middle of Hollywood!” she writes.
Brunson basically did it. But like most stars, she could never have predicted how.
It took about three years to write the personal essays in “She Memes Well,” which document her journey into an industry that could be welcoming one minute and alienating the next, especially to black women. By the time she finished the book, Brunson had lost and then rebuilt her identity on the West Coast.
“I think LA has made me a calmer and more free spirit,” she said during a recent phone call. “I think it’s a little cliché, but it’s true. Philly, which is kind of a hectic city, is great, and I’m happy that I was born there and made me who I am. “
LA, on the other hand, “has a little more relaxing energy. Yes, people still jostle each other, but I’ve grown to appreciate taking my time a little more. Maybe that’s the privilege of me. ‘a career in LA “
There is a lot of turmoil in Brunson’s career. Viral fame has led to roles in film and television; most recently, she premiered ABC’s upcoming comedy “Abbott Elementary”, which Brunson will star in. And the memories transfer Brunson’s mind and energy to another medium.
After taking improv lessons, turning down a prank gig, and making a brief stint as a phone sex operator, she found her tribe in LA, a group of close friends who helped her develop. his self-produced Instagram series, “A girl who never had a nice dateThe skits, in which she played a woman in awe of a man’s minor acts of generosity (“He got the money!” Was her slogan), became her first viral hit in 2014.
“The whole video was a product of me being like, ‘Man, I miss dates,’ because dates were easier in Philadelphia and were a lot harder when I first moved to LA, ”she said. But she maintains her social media success was anything but strategic. Rather, it was thanks to such supportive friends that they knew the Web. They “pushed me to put this video online. … I had never even used Instagram as a platform. I really wasn’t a fan of the Internet at all. “
Soon after posting the video, one of her scenes was turned into a meme which went viral and changed her life forever.
“It was shocking because I didn’t really know what was going on,” she says. “There is a common misconception that the video was on YouTube first, but it was actually on Instagram first. The Instagram video had just come out and it wasn’t even a thing.
Instagram didn’t share much either. “That was before you could just send them out like you can now. You had to show it to someone or tag someone on a video back then. It was amazing, especially because I saw myself failing. never be a surfer for my comedy. I was doing my comedy on stage. … for something I just put on my Instagram profile to get all this attention – that was pretty crazy. It showed me like, OK , here is a whole scene this way.”
Several years and many memes later, Brunson is passionate about the medium. She compares memes to hieroglyphics – symbols encrusted with multiple meanings, open to interpretation, with lives of their own.
“It’s not like I made a meme on purpose,” she said. “It’s usually my face that turns into a meme, and then people decide how that meme will be used.”
Yet the internet hasn’t suddenly removed the traditional barriers to a happy Hollywood life. After landing her job at BuzzFeed and racking up millions of views, Brunson found herself increasingly engrossed in the way she appeared to viewers.
“The truth is, the more I ate pop culture, the more I got lost as a person,” she writes in the book. “I was no longer me.”
She writes about not only losing too much weight in the struggle to assimilate into the mainstream beauty standards, but also losing her understanding of who she really was in a predominantly white industry.
“I loved who I was before I fell in love with the commercials and commercials that drove me this POV villain,” Brunson writes. “I wanted to come back to seeing myself with the same enthusiasm and confidence that I had when I was younger.”
Regaining a healthy sense of self has meant reducing her own consumption of the pop culture that literally feeds her.
“You know what? I don’t need to be obsessed with everything that comes out,” she said. “I also keep a balance in trying to discover things from pop culture that aren’t literally popular. There are things that are just special to me, you know what I mean?”
The same goes for his identity, both public and private – the process of figuring out when to be “the strange person” can actually be a good thing.
“In life, you can’t avoid embarrassing situations or feel like a strange person,” she says. “It’s going to happen to everyone at some point. What you can do is find your space and find your people and, you know, find your place.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.