Molls of America
We went to a mall in Brooklyn to hang out and get to know Molly McAleer and there was never a dull moment.
June 2, 2014 | The Future | Print #3
THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN OUR 3RD PRINT ISSUE, THE FUTURE. TO PURCHASE A COPY, CLICK HERE.
Molly McAleer is not the type of person you can easily figure out. Beyond the personality that the Internet has come to know as “Molls”, there is a woman whose ambition is fuelled by a genuine hunger to do it all. As both a writer for 2 Broke Girls and the co-founder of HelloGiggles, she’s wearing many hats, calling all the shots, and not planning to stop anytime soon. I sat down with Molly to talk about how a girl from Boston came to LA and became a woman with a limitless future.
Joanna: If you were just entering the world of vlogging and writing on the internet today – based on how things have changed, would you do anything differently? Do you think it’s harder today?
Molls: I wouldn’t do anything differently because I feel like it happened very organically for me. I think that if my goal was to be a successful blogger, I probably would have thought more about what my “brand” was. I think that’s very important if you’re not a personal writer. If that doesn’t come naturally to you, I do still think you can be a successful blogger, but you need to have an angle. I’ve always had very clear boundaries about what it is I’m willing to write about, what it is I’m willing to share. I feel confidently that I did it the right way.
I think that people tend to write shorted pieces now online – especially in the Tumblr world. It’s considered an annoyance, like a “tl;dr” sort of thing if you write more than three paragraphs. I feel like I came from a very “pure” era of Tumblr when people were just writing their feelings, and being honest and doing the type of blogging that they would have done on a WordPress or a Typepad. I guess my own advice to myself would be to try and not fall into that trap of just reblogging gifs all day…
In your own eyes, have you seen your personal brand change over the years? Did you have any sort of plan for how you wanted to be perceived?
No, I mean I was just writing about my life. It wasn’t that I had a plan for how I wanted to be perceived but more that I had a plan for what I was willing to share. I don’t write about my family, I try to stay away from that. I try to stay away from writing about any current relationships. For the most part even past relationships – just because I don’t think it’s fair to the guy. But no, I wouldn’t have done anything differently because it was very pure – writing the truth about my life. Definitely only small percentages of my life.
Has your Internet presence ever been detrimental to relationships? Are men ever intimidated by your success or your work?
I would say…no. Occasionally there can be the wrong type of guy. The right type of guy has never held anything I’ve ever done against me. They’ve understood that it’s all a part of a greater thought. It’s not just a vomitous, teenage self exploration type of thing. I’ve dated guys who thought that, but they weren’t the right type of guy. The guys I’m drawn too now seem to appreciate what it is that I do. I will say though, that ever since I got the job on the show, my financial situation has changed a great deal. Cause I didn’t make much money blogging… I made enough to pay my rent and my cellphone bill but I didn’t have a lot of extra cash. Now I’m literally in a different tax bracket and that makes dating a little bit harder. That brings a certain judgment…because I like nice things, and I’m open about that, and I treat myself to things. I feel very strongly about being a single woman who takes care of herself – nobody’s going to buy me jewelry, I’m going to buy me jewelry. That freaks guys out, I think, way more than anything.
Going back to when you were blogging and just starting out… Once you moved out to LA, did you know what you wanted to do? You have said before that you’ve always wanted to be recognized as someone who was funny but you didn’t really know that necessarily meant through writing.
Well I went to LA because I interned there the summer before. So I thought that I would be a publicist by day and then at night I would work on my sketch comedy and my stand up, and find my way in LA through that. And then I quickly realized that performance was just not my thing. I’m cool with a little bit of performance art – but I am not an actress, I’m not a stand up. I kind of realized very quickly that an office job means I didn’t really have a lot of time for art, and the only place I could turn to as an outlet was the web. So I decided I would find my audience on the web. Cause I don’t want to go to the comedy store and try to get an agent. I want it to happen organically. At the time I had been blogging for my whole life, since I was like eleven. It seemed natural to start a new web presence. I got on Twitter December 27th in 2006, so I’ve been on there since the beginning. And all that was perfect timing.
I guess there was a moment when it clicked when I was at Defamer. I had a link to my personal blog next to my name on the masthead, so I started to get a lot of traffic on my blog and started to build a fan base over there. And I realized that what I was writing was more than just my free space to journal, it was something that people were reading. I don’t think that changed the way that I wrote, but it made me more aware that there were possibilities online that I didn’t necessarily – even though I was working online – didn’t necessarily know were for me.
That’s a big part of my personality, unfortunately, I spent a lot of my life counting myself out early. Whether the problem was I didn’t get into school plays as a kid, or I felt like I wasn’t popular or pretty or I was fat. Whatever it was, I just kept counting myself out most of my life. And I’m working hard to make sure I don’t really do that anymore. Even as I try to transition to other avenues – in terms of like, writing a movie, or a book, or making a documentary. I keep thinking ‘Is this any good? Is this for me? Am I capable of this?’ I think that all the time. And it’s not cute. But it’s worked out OK so far.
Did you work a lot of odd jobs just to make money?
I considered my vlogging, my writing, my everything a side hustle. When you have a dream that doesn’t pay your bills, you side hustle, you try to keep that plate spinning while you have to actually go pay your bills. So I was a night editor, I was a receptionist, I worked at a fish factory for two days. Fortunately I was always able to get enough freelancing gigs that I didn’t really ever have to take too many really bummer jobs. But I did do the fish factory for a few days – there were a couple of times where I just found myself in pinches.
Yeah, there were some years, there were some weird years.
You’re very much a self-made woman, it’s almost like you’ve achieved the American dream in doing all of this…
Well look. I’m literally a dyslexic person, I’m a bastard child. I had a single mom who had me when she wasn’t married. She cleaned toilets to raise me. By all accounts, I should be pregnant and married to a gym teacher who hits me. It’s just a combination of my mom being really fucking smart, and ever since I was a very little girl, I have been a dreamer to a point I can’t even explain. When I was an infant, I thought I was on TV. I would watch The Cosby Show and think ‘Well they’re a family, so I must be on TV too because I also have a family’. I remember being in the living room one day and my aunt said something funny, and I said to her ‘Oh the audience is going to love that’. She said, ‘What are you talking about?’, and she realized and said, ‘Do you think we’re on tv??’
I was using The Secret before The Secret existed. I was just a dreamer like that.
What about the jealousy you’ve encountered online? With everyone trying to make it and work their own personal brand, how much of that have you had to deal with?
I feel like sometimes people don’t treat me like a person. I have to say that for the most part I understand it. I really have a very clear memory of what it felt like to resent other people’s success and be curious about why they’re successful and I’m not, and to be hungry. And I know that that springs from sadness and desperation and a general hunger. So I have a really hard time judging that, ‘cause I was there.
I think that what the people that maybe do feel jealous need to know is that there’s so much room in this world for all of us. And I believe that. And I think it’s wonderful that everyone is trying to write, and to make music and make a vlog or do whatever. There’s a reason why our society has made this technology possible, because we all want it, and there’s so much room for all of us. Resentment and bitterness can be a great fuel, it really can. Now I feel that stuff has really gone away, and I don’t need to use that as a tool anymore. I feel like I have such clarity on why it is that I felt that way, so it’s understandable.
Lately I’ve been getting some really shitty indirect comments and they kind of hurt my feelings… and I just remember that: One, I signed myself up for this. Two, I probably would have done the same thing at a different point in my life. I was never really a troller, but I’ve definitely said things about people that I regret. Not even that I regret, just that were a reflection of whatever state I was in at the time. I just hope everyone gets to the point where they realize that someone else’s success or happiness is not a threat to their own.
Has being from Boston affected your sense of humor?
I think that Boston is the greatest city in the world. I’m obviously biased, but I’m so happy that I grew up there. People from Boston are tough; you have to win them over, you have to be savvy and resourceful. I think that you also see a lot of shit. All of those things combined gives people a funny bone. Nobody makes me laugh my ass off more than my friends from down the beach in Massachusetts. Nobody makes me laugh more than my friends from the city of Boston because they’re real ass people, they get #thatlife, you know?
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Alright, I’ve got two. My mom said to me – you’ve got to be your own pimp, and you gotta be your own whore. That was in relation to when I was starting HelloGiggles and was writing my original script to try and get hired on the show and freelancing and just really working. I didn’t leave my house for six months, that was a big part of what I did before I got hired, in order to get hired – I just sort of checked out of the world for a while. I remember my mom and I having this conversation, I was telling her how hard I was working and feeling just very much “in my 20’s”. I just remember she said that to me, and it’s so true. At all times, you need to be pimping and whoring yourself. Eventually the pimp takes over the whore, for many years I was the whore and now I’m kind of the pimp. Now I can be a little bit more bossy about what I want and how I want it done. That’s a result of years of being a prostitute of life.
My second piece of advice came from my friend Eric, and it was the best advice I’ve ever been given – you can’t build big things with small people. I really believe that anything you work on in life, you need a partner that is equally dedicated to you. It’s about choosing the quality and compatibility of your mate in any project. It’s something I think about a lot. Everyone I work with at 2 Broke Girls are big people, our entire editorial team at Hello Giggles, they’re big people. I see them work hard every day, they grow, they stretch their muscles.
At the end of the day, how would you like people to remember you?
I believe that I was put on this earth to live a life of service. I believe that I was lead to the opportunities that I was lead to so that I can serve the public and help young women and young people find their creative voices. And help other entrepreneurs grow their businesses. I don’t want to be remembered as the Mother Teresa type, but as someone that helped give people their voice. I want to do for other people what they did for me.
You gotta pay it back.
Yeah, that’s what life’s all about.
Absolutely. When we were speaking on the phone before you came to New York, you were telling me sort of what you’re saying to me now – that you were excited about us, and that you believed in us. That made me feel great. You’re doing that giving back you just talked about. Being able to work with you is a great opportunity for us.
I mean, I’m not so great. And I know that, and I’m working hard on being better. It takes a lot of selfishness to sort of propel yourself into the place you need to get in order to make a difference in the world, sometimes that can require a lot of selfishness. I think that’s the thing I’m most afraid of people not knowing about me, that I’m not a vapid, retarded blogger. I feel like how everything got done up to this point has been sort of a means to an end. This is just the start of being able to help people. I feel like HelloGiggles has been a great opportunity to do that. I think its just the beginning, and that’s why I get so emotional when I think about it.
There’s a lot more you want to do.
I have so much life left to live. I have at least another thirty years ahead of me, and it’s overwhelming.
What’s your best prediction for the future of Molly McAleer?
I have no limit to my career. I try not to refer to myself as one job title. I’m not into being a “writer” or an “internet personality”. I find that people always want to label you to find what your job is, I’m not into labels for that reason. I want to do it all. I won’t settle until I own my own radio network. I won’t settle until I don’t just have a book, but I want to have a series of books. I want to write a handbook for girls basically about how to get through each five years of your life. I want to do everything. My prediction for the future is that the future is limitless. I want to write documentaries, I want to write books, I want to continue working in television. I’m so in love with what I do at 2 Broke Girls. I just really love that show and those girls and their struggle.
What is your favorite thing about being in the writer’s room at 2 Broke Girls?
I love that we’re familial. It really does feel like a family in that we all love each other. But we’re all also completely aware of everyone’s idiosyncrasies.
They’ve really watched me grow a lot. When I came in I was… you know… I had no money. I was angsty, I was a blogger. I was not confident that I deserved to be there; I thought that I’d tricked my way into getting the job. It took me a solid year and a half to figure out that it wasn’t a favor, that I didn’t have the job because someone owed someone else a favor. They’ve watched me grow up, and they’ve watched me grow into that. My life has really changed because of my relationship with those people.
I’m in a very changing place in my life. I’m in return of Saturn. Do you know what that is?
Okay. You’ve heard of the No Doubt album Return of Saturn, right? That’s where I’m at. I am at a pivotal axis in my life. Women reach this at around 29 or 30, this is when it all happens. You basically reinvent yourself as a woman. You stop being a girl and you become a woman.
Do you think that you would ever write an autobiography?
I think that a memoir is something that is very mature. I believe that if I ever was to write an autobiography, It wouldn’t be for at least another 20 years, I have so much life left to live. I give out advice like it’s nobody’s business, when in reality, I know nothing about life. That’s all I know about life, that I really don’t know much. I don’t think I’m ready yet, but I will someday. I just think you gotta….
… you gotta live it first.
You gotta live it first and also, who the fuck under 30, 40, 50 knows anything? I mean, yeah, you might have lived through some stuff, but you don’t even have the perspective yet to write about it. Which is why I think my voice lends well to blogging, its very first draft. I am on my first draft of life, I really am.
Photography by Nicolas Bloise
Creative Direction by Kellie Hogan
Joanna just graduated from NYU with a degree in Food Studies and French. She hopes to one day be a big fancy restaurant critic/food writer/ the next Oprah. Her interests include Elvis Costello, diners and hoarding magazines.