“I realize now that my parents are just regular people with flaws, and my dad is not a villain. He’s just an asshole.”
When Rachel K. ‘17 walked into a crowded Times Square subway station on January 18th, she thought her trip would be the continuation of a decidedly average day. Instead, Rachel met Brandon Stanton, founder of the photoblog Humans of New York. Rachel was soon featured on the page, where her post received over 250,000 likes. Her newfound Facebook celebrity caused such a stir that she was forced to change her name because of all the online attention she was receiving.
Rachel, who is a prominent stand-up comedian on campus (she opened for Chris Gethard last semester) and a member of the sketch comedy group LunchBox, is the creator of a popular mock-HONY page appropriately titled “Hormones of Wesleyan.”
astag_rocky sat down with Rachel for her first official Wesleying interview. Her last name was abbreviated to protect her privacy.
What was your inspiration for Hormones of Wesleyan?
Well, honestly, I was bored in Olin and I wanted to do something to get attention. It was really just supposed to be one joke. Also, I really hated Humans of New York and this girl from my high school started a Humans of Williams and I thought it was so dumb. I was just like, ‘Ok, I’m going to not take that very seriously and do something else.’
Do you have a lot of Hormones?
I’m super emotional and hormones starts with an “h” like humans does. I wanted something in the title that would be goofy.
So I had had a weird day. I was walking in the Times Square subway station and he [Stanton] had actually photographed my school in 2011. So I knew what he looked like and I’ve seen him around a lot because he frequents the same subways and places where he knows people will be walking.
I saw him from afar and I called my friend and asked if I should tell him about Hormones of Wesleyan. He said yes, so I went up to him and said, ‘Hey, sorry, you probably get this a lot but I wanted you to know I started this parody page at my school called Hormones of Wesleyan because I think that the things people say on your page are contrived.’ I was antagonizing him, I really don’t know why.
He said, ‘Yeah I think I’ve seen your Wikipedia page!’ And I was like, no you haven’t, because it doesn’t exist.
I told him about it and he was intrigued and thought it was super silly. He started asking me about myself. We talked for forty minutes and then he ended up taking my picture.
What do you think is the key to being on Humans of New York for any aspiring fans out there?
Either bully him as I did or wear something fucked. You gotta look flashy. I was very much wearing purple.
How did he respond to you criticizing his work?
He took this defensive tactic. I think he talked to me for so long to prove it’s not bullshit. What’s interesting is he has this reputation that precedes him. If he introduces himself as HONY, anyone’s going to open up to him. By the time we were done talking he said, ‘so this is kind of meta, you thought this was bullshit and now you’re telling me things that, if people read, they would think is bullshit.”
What happened was in the week my HONY picture was taken I had a reunion dinner that went very poorly with my father, whom I hadn’t seen for four years.
He [Stanton] was asking me about my comedy and I told him that I thought the dark things in life are funny. I kind of told him my life story. Then he chose that quote.
So the first way things changed was when I was like, fuck, my dad is going to see this!
The second way is that the comments were so mean. I know the first rule of the internet is don’t read the comments but..
You read all the comments, right?
Yeah, I read all the comments. They were like, ‘Oh, this girl probably hates her dad because he didn’t get her the iPhone 6.’ It’s a little more complicated than that.
People were just assuming they knew me. If that’s the way you want to spend your time on the internet, then suit yourself I guess.
I guess that’s one issue with HONY–it doesn’t provide any context so it doesn’t seem real.
Yeah, and, that being said, there were a lot of people who were supporting me and were like, ‘yeah I feel this.’
But what happened is people began tagging me in comments saying, ‘Rachel is that you??’ People found me and started messaging me and friending me.
I asked people to delete the comments and then I changed my name because I was horrified! [laughs]
Did your dad ever find out about it?
I don’t think he’s tech savvy enough. I hope not. But also fuck him kind of.
What’s the future of Hormones of Wesleyan?
I really don’t know if I’m going to continue it. I don’t completely understand how it’s perceived on this campus.
Again, with not reading the comments on the internet, I saw this Yik Yak a few weeks ago that said, ‘Ugh another Hormones of Wesleyan post, it’s a popularity contest.’ Maybe that’s what its turned into but its really not what I intended it to be.
I’m someone who uses Facebook a lot and it’s a place for me to express my humor. I see [Hormones of Wesleyan] as a joke that everyone’s in on.
I’ve also had people come to me and say, ‘I want to be on it, I don’t know what to say, what’s funny?’
That’s not really your fault though.
I think it’s just turned into something that I don’t really love.
Because it’s become about Facebook likes or social media prestige?
Well yeah, and I mean I do love Facebook likes. If I didn’t get Facebook likes I don’t know where I’d be in my life, so I get it. I’ve heard complaints about it across the board that it’s not representative of Wesleyan and I totally agree with that.
I’ve tried to remedy that by making it submissions based. If you send in a submission, it will 100% be posted.
Is part of the fun having it be quirky and random rather than serious?
It’s cool that all these people that you might not be friends with on Facebook but are a part of your community can see something funny. I’m interested in using social media to show people at their worst.
I don’t know what it is. I don’t want it to be controversial, or something that makes people mad or annoyed. If that’s what it turns into, then I just won’t do it anymore. I want it to be as inclusive as possible and just a silly thing that you get to see in your newsfeed every night.