Terrible, Thanks for Asking

Rebecca Black is Back - Transcript

This is a transcript of a “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” episode entitled “Rebecca Black Is Back.” The text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future for accuracy.

Listen to the episode here.


I’m Nora McInerny, and this is “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.” And I have a purely hypothetical question for you:

What if the most embarrassing thing you did in middle school was the thing you were still most known for today?

Like, what if to this day everyone who heard your name in a professional or personal setting in which you were encountering one another for the first time said, “Wait, is that the girl who pooped her pants on the soccer field?” or, “Is that the kid who fell up the stairs holding a milkshake?” or, “Is that the white girl who came back from spring break in Mexico with cornrow braids and a sunburned scalp and honestly that’s what you get for cultural appropriation?”

Whatever thing still makes you cringe about being 13 years old, imagine if that was what people still knew about you today. Again, not just the people who went to middle school with you… but basically everyone.

Terrible, right?

[MUSIC plays, “Friday” by Rebecca Black]

Reporter: Just five months ago, Rebecca Black exploded. Friday hit 167 million views on YouTube. That’s half the country, making her an instant star. But it also launched a national debate about whether it really was the worst song ever.

In 2011, Rebecca Black was a normal middle schooler… until she wasn’t. So, to set the scene for 2011, what it’s like online at this time: 2011, Instagram is new-ish. We are not running businesses on Instagram. There are no influencers. We are just, you know, plopping down terrible, highly filtered photos that are almost illegible. You and your mom, and my mom, and myself, we were all still on Facebook, and we didn’t hate it yet. It was the place to be. YouTube was a place where people put up random vlogs, where there were a lot of weird prank videos. Justin Bieber was discovered on YouTube. He did covers of Usher songs, then he was on “Ellen,” then he was a big recording star, and then all these little kids were seeing this and thinking, “Oh my gosh. Cool. I wanna do that!”

Rebecca was the kind of kid who just LOVED to perform. She always had.

Rebecca: Where I grew up, there was, like, this little shopping center that kind of had all these little, like, things for kids. There was a dance studio and a karate studio. My brother went downstairs to karate. I went upstairs to dance. And, like, that was just kind of something my parents tried. And I think my brother lasted a few weeks and karate, and it became very clear that it just did not matter to him at all. And I never left that dance studio. Like, I just fell in love with it at — I don't know. I mean, I was I think only maybe 3 years old when I started, and I really never stopped. And that time where, I mean, these are, like, very... beginner level dance classes, what I really just loved was this opportunity to perform. And even though I didn't stay a dancer throughout my entire life, and I regret that to this day, I don't regret that I never stopped performing. And that performing went from dancing to I tried my hand at acting classes, and then I found singing when I was 10 years old. But I think my earliest memories were those days where it just became like the best part of my day. It was the first, like, defining thing where I can remember me going like, “I like this so much. And I want to be doing it.”

And I grew up in, like, such a small community. I went to a really small school where you knew the same people from the time you were 5 to when you were 12, which I mean isn't a big gap of time, but at that point it is your entire life. And it was like the one place where I could go in and just say, “This is mine. I could see myself never getting tired of this.”

Rebecca grew up in Orange County, California in a small ranch community. It’s not like Orange County, the show. It’s not Orange County as seen on “Laguna Beach.” It wasn’t fancy. Both of her parents were veterinarians, and more than anything, they just wanted their daughter to find something that she loved.

Rebecca: They let me just, like, explore. And my mom was always my champion. I mean, she was never a “stage mom,” because she never knew what she was doing in that regard. But like, whatever I needed her for, you know, if it was like, “Hey, I need a costume for this,” she was like, “All right, well, let's go figure it out,” because she just wanted me to have the best chance at, like, living out my whatever my fantasies were at the time. Even though she didn't always have the means to. She would always make it work. 

Rebecca’s mom would drive her to auditions that weren’t really auditions — the kind they have in strip malls where they charge you to be a part of them. She’d drive her to real auditions up in LA. She signed Rebecca up for classes and lessons and went to all of her performances. 

Rebecca: I really feel like the most definitive memory of myself comes from when I entered middle school, which was when I went from being in, like, that tiny little environment of elementary school to in, like, a regular public school. And I was the new kid. And I was really into what I loved, which at that point, like, my kind of performing desires had turned into this love for musical theater. And so I was the kid who just cared so much about it, probably to the annoyance of so many other people. My brain was starting to think in terms of like, OK. I'm in eighth grade now. I know I want to do this. Nobody is really guiding me. So I kind of have to figure this out myself. I'll go to high school. I'll be a part of my programs there, like, my whatever, it's the drama program and the musical theater program, whatever. And then somehow I, like, gotta get myself to be able to apply and be accepted into, like, Tisch, which is a New York school for arts, or Juilliard or, like, Berklee School of Music or something like that.

And so I had a friend of mine who was kind of similar to me in that and had done this project with this company over the summer. And they gave her a song. They created a music video. And that was that. And so I just asked her, like, “What is this? How did you do this?” And she gave me the information. And I don't think I even really cared if it was real or not, because I loved, like, the whole experience of trying out for these things and getting, like, some version of what felt like experience. 

And it was this company that just, you know, kind of did this for kids. You know, you get your own version of a song and get to be in a recording studio and they'd shoot you a music video. And then there you go. And like, none of these kids were, like, pop stars at the time. They were just people I literally knew from, like summer camps and my middle school. 

And when we reached out to this company, they sat us down in their studio up in LA. And I was very nervous. At that point, the biggest thing I was obsessed with was Justin Bieber. And so I was so, like, familiar with my idea of what his life looked like as Justin Bieber. And I mean, I was not walking into, like, Capitol Records’ big, beautiful building in Hollywood with this sprawling recording studio and like... I don’t know, Max Martin sitting at a booth. I was walking into a backhouse in Sherman Oaks, which sounds very suspicious, but it's actually not. That's just a much more common way of making music in L.A. than people think.

And I met these two guys and I mean, I definitely was too young to really understand anything about what... I don't know, formalities people were talking about. I do remember one of the lines that they gave us, which was, “You know, there is an opportunity where if this video gets a hundred thousand views on YouTube, you can start making money off of it,” which I think is much more, like, common knowledge now that, you know, YouTubers and influencers are a thing. But at that point, I was like... “Yeah. Okay, but in what world am I going to be able to get one hundred thousand views on this video?” Like at that point if you got a million views on a video? Oh, my God, you were another level of, like, viralness. 

So I just remember being like, OK, whatever. Like, I'm here because I want to record this song. I want to try this out. I want to do this thing. And in terms of money and all of that, I think the way that it was spelled out was just very simply, which was almost like as if you can get a package of whether you are owning the song or you share the rights or you don't own it at all. And I think my mom just tried to go with her gut and saying, like, “Well, I guess if it's yours and, like, we're doing this, it feels like you should own this thing.” And so that was I think as truly simple as it went.

That right there — making sure you own the rights? That’s a big deal and a smooth move by Rebecca’s mom. And we are going to take a quick break.

We’re back, and Rebecca and her mom have just signed a deal with a company called ARK. ARK produces songs and music videos mostly for kids. And Rebecca is about to record her first-ever music video! She’d recorded the song earlier, but the day before the shoot is the first time she actually hears the song. It’s different than she remembers — suddenly there’s rap just… in the middle of it? But still! She gets to shoot a video… at her house.

Rebecca: I was definitely very nervous. I was excited because this was something that I had kind of made up in my head all of these things to expect and all of these, like, grand expectations. And I got to be… it was like a fun day to be with my friends. Like all the kids that are in the video are people that I went to middle school with. I'd just, like, hit up, I don't know, 15 of my friends and said, “Hey, come spend this, like, day during Christmas break at my house and we'll shoot this thing.”

And to have all these expectations of what the music industry looks like, this was not a glamorous day. This was a day where my dad ran out in the middle of the shoot to go get green screen cardboard paper, or just cardboard paper that was green, to end up being like a green screen. And like, we used leaf blowers as a wind machine and we, like, rode around my neighborhood with this convertible with, like a... I don't know. It was very janky, for lack of a better word.

After we shot the video, I mean, I think probably like once every couple weeks I'd wonder, like, “I wonder what happened to that.” But it just all kind of went silent. And I at that point felt like I'd gotten what I wanted out of it. Like, I really had gotten to see what I thought this was all about. I got to be in a recording studio. I got to shoot this video and hear what I sound like on a recording and... OK, cool. Like, I moved on with my day to day. And every now and again, like, a friend of mine who was in the video would ask me, someone would say like, “Hey, do you know whatever happened to that?” And I'd be like, “I don't know.”

And it was just a random day that I got a notification in the morning when I woke up, and it said like... it was on the company's website, I think, that said, “Now, Rebecca Black's video ‘Friday’ is live.” And I was like, oh my God! Here it is. I didn't even know if this was going to come out!

And I watched it, like, still in bed. And I just remember feeling that feeling of, “This is what I look like on camera. Interesting.” I think I was judging probably myself in, like, the most 13-year-old way possible. And I just remember watching it in and being… like, not thrilled, but not disappointed. Like, I didn't really know what to think. It was just kind of, like, OK. And I went to my dad, because I was staying at his place, and showed him the video and he was like, “OK.” And that was it.

That’s it! She records a song. Records a video. She tells her friends. Nobody really cares. And it’s not like she expects to hit the charts or anything. She’s just gaining experience for her future career in entertainment. She now had experience in recording a song AND making a music video. And she tucked that experience under her belt and moved on with her life. And then...

Rebecca: It was about a month after the video had first went live that I was on my way home from school. And I got a notification on my phone that somebody had put a comment on, like, the... I don't know, the website that it was on or something. Or maybe it was on the YouTube channel. And it said, “Wow, this song sucks but it's gonna be big.”

This commenter was right. Overnight, it would go from a few hundred views to tens of thousands. Part of the reason why it got big was this comedian named Daniel Tosh, who had a show on Comedy Central called “Tosh.0” — the humor was very white guy in 2011. Like, I’m gonna OFFEND YOU because I’m FUNNY! And to be honest, full disclosure, I used to really like it, and I saw him live once. Ehhh. Tosh had a popular blog, and he posted the video in a now-removed post called, “Songwriting Is Not For Everyone.” A post about a 13-year-old child.

Rebecca: And I looked at the post, and it was kind of making fun of the songwriting and just the video in general. And I clicked on it to go to the page, and I definitely started to feel a bit of panic at this point. I was like, “Uh-oh.” And I remember scrolling really quickly to the comments and through the comments and just immediately feeling this pit in my stomach of, “Oh my God, you did something really, really wrong. You really messed up.” And just this feeling of shock and not really knowing what to do with it. I just remember, like, going to my mom and being like, “Ah! Something's happening.” And I started crying. And I've talked about this day so many times and I've explained it, and I remember it on one hand so vividly. But at the same time, like really just what I remember most of all is just this feeling of just a lot of pain and hurt.

And everyone around me — the people who made the video, my mom — was saying, like, “We can take this down and act like this never happened.” And for some reason, that just didn't really feel like an option to me. And being that this wasn't the first time that someone had ever made fun of me for the way that I looked or made fun of me for just who I was, I think I just... was so tired of giving up on something so quickly, and I knew that this had to do with something that I loved and cared about so, so much — not the song, but just the fact that this was what I felt like I really wanted to do with the rest of my life. I couldn't bring it to myself to just say, like, “Yeah, whatever, forget it. I messed up and we'll just pretend this never happened.” 

So we kept the video up and just from that point, I guess, kind of watched it grow. And when I went back to school that first day, I... remember when, like, recess hit, or break, or whatever that morning break is. Everyone just, like, rushed my way. And I wish I knew why. To this day I don't know what the point of that all was — if people were wanting to talk to me or see things. But I just remember this, like, big commotion happening, and then someone kind of like taking... trying to calm it all down. But it instantly kind of went from being like, OK, you know, this is just the girl that's in musical theater to like, whoa, Rebecca Black is at my school. What's happening? I probably felt a really weird mix of like… this is kind of cool? But also, I don't know if this is necessarily good? It's just very overwhelming.

Imagine you’re 13, and you make a thing — or CONTRIBUTE to the making of a thing that is actually largely out of your control. Grownups wrote the song and conceptualized and filmed and edited the video. Grownups put it online. Grownups found it and put it on their blogs for other grownups to make fun of. And then other, more famous grownups, like Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon and Conan O’Brien — WOW... they all made parodies of it. EVERYONE made parodies of it. People who don’t know you are leaving comments telling you that you suck, that you’re ugly, that you should kill yourself.

Rebecca appeared to be in on the joke, or at least rolling with it. She got scooped up by the angel Katy Perry, who put her in a music video and had Rebecca perform with her. Lady Gaga, also an angel, called Rebecca Black a genius. And you know how her mom had bought the rights to that song? It meant that every hate watch of that video became money in the bank for Rebecca. And it also meant that kids at school were not nice. Because kids do not like other kids who try things, and kids are insecure and don’t like when other kids outshine them. We’re all kids, by the way. 

And in every video of Rebecca from this time — even an interview with ABC news about her being bullied online and in real life — SHE IS JUST SMILING! She looks so happy and strong and positive!

Rebecca: I maybe... if you would have asked me at the time. I would have said, “Yeah. I am just so strong and I am so positive and I have a zest for life.” That's probably what I would have said. And there's a lot of interviews and moments of me where people ask me how I did it at the time, and I was like, “It's fine. I'm great. Look at me. I'm amazing. I'm... look at my life. It's fine. I'm doing just amazing.” And it's so hard for me to watch those because I really did think that I was just not affected, and no way am I going to let hate comments get to me, because everybody tells me that I shouldn't let hate comments get to me. And it should just be that easy, right? And it's not. It's fully not. 

One thing that became very apparent to me was... I thought I was good, and I thought I was doing fine, but I clearly wasn't. And it became very clear a couple years after the fact when I was homeschooled, and spending the majority of my time alone, and didn't really have a lot of friends — if really any friends — and I just was the majority of the time very miserable, that I realized through preaching about how strong I was at the time, all I was doing was taking all of the hurt,  and the negative emotions, and the shame and pushing it under a rug and just really let it pile up to the point where, like, there was no way to avoid it. And so I just realized, I think I've felt this... this need to, like, be strong, because that was something that I had always heard from, from even like pop stars that I idolized at the time of like, you know, “You just gotta be strong and look forward and don't let the hate comments get to you.” But all of those things are, yeah, they're great in theory. But you can't just all of a sudden decide that something's not going to bother you. It takes a real lengthy process of learning how to trust your own inner guidance. And I mean, at 13, what 13-year-old has inner guidance?

What ADULT has that kind of inner guidance? We’re going to take a quick break.

And we’re back. Rebecca has gone viral, become a household name. She’s won a Teen Choice Award, performed with Katy Perry. She’s gotten an agent and a manager. She’s been on every major news and entertainment show. The train has left the station, and she’s still not driving it.

Rebecca: It's just when you're that tender and that young, there's nothing to bounce off of. So if somebody says, “Oh, you're not very good at that,” you don't have that thing that says, “Actually, I disagree,” or, “Well, that's OK. I'll work on that.” All you can hear is, “I'm not good at this.” Or maybe it's something different. Maybe it's “I'm ugly,” or I'm... whatever it might be. And so for me, I just took every single opinion that was hurled my way as fact. And at the time, it was a lot of negativity and very quickly kind of being thrown into the music industry, where now you have people who are trying to make the most of what's happening and capitalize off of it and turn you into a bit of a commodity.

I was very quickly, like, thrown into the typical young girl in music, who now people have opinions on your body and now people think that you weigh too much or don't look like this or your hair should be like this. My ability to make decisions for myself was just completely forgotten in my development from, like, the ages of 13 to... probably I mean, I'd say up until like 19 or 20 was when I really finally started learning that something had really missed the mark, and I was missing that sense of self that said, “This is mine.” I had no ability to define myself or have opinions for myself at all.

It is a very hard thing in life to learn that you are not defined by one thing you did or said or made or experienced. That you are not defined by the opinions or actions of other people, no matter how loud their voices are. In 2011, when I first saw this video and watched it become a cultural moment, I was horrified. It was my nightmare — pretty much anyone’s nightmare — come to life. It was the dream where you show up to school without pants or not knowing there’s a test. It was the internet equivalent of falling down the stairs on the first day of high school. It was the internet version of having a bucket of blood poured onto you at prom, and I could not imagine surviving that. All I could see was a 13-year-old girl who had the guts to make a thing, to stand out even in her small town, which is really hard. It’s hard to be a person who wants things and tries to get them, because the risk is that you won’t or that you’ll look dumb trying.

I spent kind of a lot of time as an adult wondering about Rebecca — checking in on her online, seeing what she was doing, feeling relieved that she had appeared to have found a place in the world.

Nora: Tell me about the process of starting to know yourself, and define yourself, and figure out who you are, which... I mean, you are still so young. I'm 37, and I'm like, “Uhh, who am I? What am I doing?” I read, like, one bad comment about myself and I'm like, “You're right. I should quit my podcast. I'm a piece of shit. I'm so sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I will get... I'll leave. I'll leave.” So teach me. What has worked for you, Rebecca?

Rebecca: I'm still working on it. I definitely have a lot of those moments, too. I think... it's not something that I have at all figured out on my own or by myself. It's not like all of a sudden I, like, took ayahuasca and was like, “I'm good.” Around the time of being 18 was, like, the first time that I really found people who could help me process. And I had moved out at that point. I'd graduated high school, and I'd had the conversations with my parents of saying, “I need to do this. I cannot go and do your version of what you think I should d: go to college and have this experience. I know you really want me to. Give me a few years, and then maybe we can talk in the future, but just please let me be me.” So I moved out. And within that first year, I started working with someone who would really help me with processing and a version of therapy. And it was the first time that I felt like I could give myself forgiveness for this horrible thing that I had done, which obviously looking back... there are so many more detrimental things to the world and so many bigger issues. But at the time, I really felt like I had done something so wrong and that I shouldn't be where I am, when in reality it's like, yeah, whatever your opinions are on the song, that's fine. It's not something that I look at and go, “This is the greatest piece of art in the world.” But that’s not the point. I was a 13-year-old who did something creative, whatever. 

That moment of forgiveness, of trying to start not being so upset with myself for feeling like I had ruined my own life was probably, like, the biggest thing in moving forward. And I think also... being able to know myself, as somebody who had more to offer than just this song. I let myself define myself as just this one moment when I was 13, and I was trying to run as far away from that as I could. But the further that I ran, the faster it chased me and the more that I felt like this one moment in time, rather than at this point, you know, someone who's developing into a young woman. 

I just started from there, and I've tried to be kind to myself in the moments where I still feel that shame. In the moments where I still feel… like, I read one comment and think, like, “Oh my God, I should… What? Why did I do that? I should never make music again.” Like, I still have those moments so often. But the best piece of advice I think I've ever gotten is when when you get like a negative thought, like, comes into your head, it's just like asking yourself, like, is that true? Like, OK, yeah, I might feel like I suck. But is that true? Like, what do I know about this, or what other opinions can I give myself on this about how I feel about it?

Rebecca moved to LA to be on her own, and that’s where she still is. And when we speak, Rebecca is still SO young. The ten-year anniversary of something that happened when you were 13 makes you 23. She can’t even rent a car! And she is a grownup, and she’s making her own music, and she’s finding her way in the world, same as any other 23-year-old. 

Rebecca: Along the way, I have... really found a way to find, like, a community that feels like there are people that I would know and love if we all grew up in the same town together, and that's been through my YouTube channel, that's been through the ways that, I guess, kind of show different parts of my life. And and as I have grown, the kinds of things that I want to create have also just changed. And they still continue to change. And I am asking myself more than ever, like, “What can I offer in the sense that it'll feel really good to me but also provide something that's valuable for my audience?” Because I know that it's not just them relying on me — especially during this year, that has been like that, just, shit show that it's been. We really rely on each other. And so I am just trying to take whatever I can — whether it be, you know, like a really valuable lesson, it doesn't have to be this deep talk all of the time, but just making them feel like they have that person there that I wish that I had growing up, that would have helped me kind of, like, be guided through through life.

There’s a saying on the internet: If Britney Spears can make it through 2007, you can make it through today. And yeah, Britney got a really raw deal and hopefully someday we’ll talk about that together. But really I would like to update that phrase to say if Rebecca Black can survive being bullied by MOST OF THE WORLD, you can make it through this. Because truly, the internet of 2011 took a fun video made by a literal child and acted like it was a crime against humanity for a middle schooler to sing a song that was lyrically questionable when really, most of us who are older than Gen Z have a whole lot of cringey, embarrassing, awful, maybe borderline illegal things in our past that we are just lucky enough to have rotting in a landfill somewhere. That Rebecca is still here — that she’s ALIVE, and that she’s still creating and putting herself out there? Someone give me a giant trophy so I can give it to her. You don’t even have to give it to me; just give it to her directly. That would probably be smarter.

Rebecca: It's such a weird balance that I feel like, honestly, I still struggle with at times. And I think that the way that this industry is built is you take a person and build that person into a product, which is just the way that a lot of this has worked for years and years and years and has served many people great things over the years. But I don't know if every person is built to commodify themselves and be able to make that distinction of, like, “OK, this is me as the product that people know. This is Rebecca Black, who is Rebecca Black, who makes this music. And then there's Rebecca, who is just a teenager or, you know, at the time, a teenager and now is a 23-year-old.” And it's something I still ask myself, like, what am I willing to sacrifice? Because there are certain sacrifices to make when you have a product that has an audience. So I think now there is an element of the industry and a part of the industry that is trying to rework that and build more just humanity into the entire process, because it becomes very difficult at times to kind of differentiate yourself from who you are as this brand and who you just are. Because I'm always changing. I'm not meant to be this one thing. And I want to change on my own behalf. I want to change on my own timeline. I don't want to change on somebody else's. I don't want to grow on what somebody else wants me to do. And I guess just being honest with myself of, like, what I'm willing to sacrifice and what I'm not. That I think has been the biggest balancing tool that I found is really asking myself how comfortable I am vs. how comfortable I feel like I should feel, if that makes sense.

In a lot of ways Rebecca is the best case scenario of how going viral can affect a kid. She’s not THAT terrible. She just lived with a lot of anxiety and depression during her formative years! But what about kids now who are being pushed into being viral, into becoming brands. If “Friday” happened in 2020, what would be different? I don’t THINK today’s internet would publicly shame a kid, and also, she’d have Instagram swipe-ups and a line of something or other. Today’s internet almost HUNGERS for kids to be content creators. To be profit centers. 

Rebecca: I look at so many of these kids who are having their own experiences through it now. And I just hope that they've got someone there that is like just purely looking out for them. Because, I mean, now more than ever, I feel like very quickly it becomes, like, the point of just capitalizing off of these kids just happens even quicker than how it happened with me. And I just know how hard that is to understand at 18, or before 18, and how difficult it is to put yourself out there like that at any age. It's hard to put yourself out there. It's hard. Like, both my parents are divorced, and they still talk to me about how hard it is to put themselves out on dates. Like, it's just hard to get yourself out there at any point. And as a kid, I just hope that we all keep moving in a direction where we are taking care of kids, and where we are aware of the fact that they are children. And the one thing that I heard so often growing up, and I still hear now, is like, “I had no idea that you were 13.” Why didn't you have any idea? I get that maybe I didn't look it. But why wasn't that more of a part of the conversation?

Even when it was a part of the conversation, it didn’t change the conversation. People were still awful. Some of the bullying was justified by saying, “Well, but she’s rich!” She wasn’t. And even if she was, SO?! Things were still really hard for her. But it wasn’t ALL hard and it wasn’t ALL bad. And when we reached out to Rebecca about this episode, she declined, based on the title of the show. I don’t blame her. She didn’t want to just talk about how hard things were, and she didn’t want to focus just on the negative stuff and we replied and said, “Yes, of course! Of course! The story is yours to tell. Tell it how you want to.” And she’s not a bright-sider. She’s not here telling you everything happens for a reason and all’s well that ends well. She just really wants to make sure, like we all do, that her story isn’t just boiled down to ONE thing. 

Nobody wants your pity, not even Rebecca Black. Nobody is just a sad story.. Or a happy story. Or a viral story.

Rebecca: I have always felt very grateful for the empathy that I think it gave me. And I guess in the sense of nowadays, I feel like we see so many people just automatically being written off, which some are deserving. Sure. When you do something wrong, you have to pay the consequences. But then again, I think when you're a child especially, or a young person who is still trying to grow and figure out how they see the world and how they want to act, I feel like there should be some room for forgiveness and for being able to at least, like, see where they were coming from or what they were trying to do. And I think that has served me really well. And and just in general, like, being able to empathize with those people who are written off, whether it be…. I have — a huge part of my audience is part of the LGBTQ community. And they have been so forthcoming with their stories on how they have been undermined. And I definitely relate to it in my own sense. And it's helped me understand those kinds of people who are, I guess, their own version of what feels like an underdog. I hope that I would have the same sense of empathy if I never had that song, but I just would never know. And that's one of the reasons I'll never regret doing that video. It's one of the reasons I'd never do anything, I guess, differently is because even though it happened in a really strange and tender way, it did make me who I am as the way that I see the world. 

And I've come to actually start to like myself, and I definitely haven't always. When I was a teenager, I was so distraught and lost and miserable. And I mean, there are still moments that I have where I feel so lost, and I'm like, “What am I doing with my life? Help!” But at the end of the day, I do… I have learned to be kind to myself and to those around me, and I would never change that.

This has been “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.” We’ve linked to Rebecca’s music in the show notes and used a lot of it to score this show, so go check it out.

This episode was produced by Marcel Malekebu. Production help by Hannah Meacock Ross; Jeyca Maldonado-Medina; our editor, Phyllis Fletcher — Flet-cher, I don’t know why that was hard for me to say, Phyllis; and our digital producer, Dord… Dordan Turgeon. That’s the name. Dordan. Not Jordan. Dordan. Our theme music is by Geoffrey Lamar Wilson.

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If you’d like to read more about public shaming, I have a book recommendation. It’s “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” by Jon Ronson. You can get it on our Bookshop.org link in our show notes.

That’s it. We’re a production of American Public Media, APM.