In person, Gabi Gregg is not at all what you might expect. She has a presence that kind of sneaks up on you. There is a calm but equally excited and shy intensity about her that makes her very intriguing. When she’s talking about herself, she’s deeply introspective and frank. It’s no easy feat to be honest with yourself and others about your flaws with the same ease as it is to revel in the things you are most proud of. To see and understand your growth with the same understanding as you see the things that could be holding you back is an absolute wise way to live. Being in her presence you quickly get the feeling that to know Gabi Gregg is to know her. There are no airs to filter through.
“I’m kind of a private person. My website is polished and of my style and I get criticized for that sometimes but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I’m not trying to say that I’m perfect but I think of my website as more of a style diary.” she told me during our interview. “I do a little lifestyle content but my website was never supposed to be a journal. I do think that I’m pretty open about things on social media. Particularly Twitter. I’ve talked about depression and ADD on Twitter but not everyone follows everything I tweet.” Hearing her be so openly candid was, to put it lightly, refreshing. Here was a black woman talking about something that you often can’t pay us enough money to admit to our own family and dare even propose the idea of strangers on the internet. To say she’s a multidimensional woman would be putting it lightly.
Angel Jordan: I know we talked about this a little bit bit before but why did you pick a women’s college?
Gabi Gregg: It was not something I had any interest in. My mom really pushed it. I was like, no. I applied to eleven colleges and it was narrowed down to who gave me the biggest scholarship and I ended up not liking a lot of them when I visited but I ended up loving the campus when I went to Mount Holyoke and it changed my mind.
What did you study?
I was super lost in college. I always had a big interest in fashion and my freshman year I remember feeling like I wanted to be a fashion journalist. I felt like it wasn’t a realistic approach or career path [though]. My sister had majored in something fashion related and she had trouble finding a job and my mom was just not into letting me do that. She didn’t want me to not be able to find a job. I still had that interest but I was at a liberal arts school where they didn’t have any sort of fashion classes or even journalism classes really. I decided to go the international relations path and I thought I might have interest in political journalism and could make a lateral move if I already had a writing background. I was very lost. I probably shouldn’t have been in college. I probably should have taken some time off. I kind of just picked something.
I think that story is common; women who kind of find themselves at a women’s college and those that always knew it’s where they’d end up. I figured it out in 10th grade [that I’d go to a women’s college]. For some reason, I pictured it being different than it was. I grew up a lot in college in so many ways. What was it like for you?
I didn’t have foresight into what I wanted to do. I was just super lost. Even up until blogging became my full time job, I don’t think I ever really knew what I wanted to do. I knew I loved fashion but I had no idea what I was doing. I kinda still don’t. My passion was actually in production and I would eventually love to do something in the realm of production and direction. That’s kind of my second career in the back of my head.
What did you take away from going to a women’s college?
That’s the funny thing, I was not as mature or evolved as other people were at that age. I’ve always been kind of a late bloomer. I remember when I first got there I was like, where are all the boys? I wanted to go to parties and meanwhile other people were super feminist and loving it, and I was like I don’t get this. I always had this dream of going to college and having the experience that you see in the movies. I don’t think I was mature enough to appreciate the sisterhood that comes from a women’s college. I’m so grateful in retrospect that I went there because I had a really great learning environment. It influenced me more than I could even understand until later in my life. My friendships from college are meaningful to this day, but I will say I really struggled while I was there. I was super depressed in college.
Did college trigger your depression?
College triggered it. I had issues that happened in high school so I don’t want to blame it entirely on college by any means, but the amount of pressure and the work load that I had…I was really obsessed with grades. I would procrastinate but then I’d expect an A. It was hard socially. There were no boys on campus and at the time that bothered me and I felt isolated. I had friends for sure but I never felt the social world I thought it would be.
What made you stick it out because you could have easily transferred?
One – perfectionism and two – my mom. My mom was against transferring so I kind of just stuck it out.
Have you always been a perfectionist?
Ever since I came out of the womb, but it’s like perfection in the worst way. It’s the kind that gets in the way of your life because if it’s not perfect you’re not going to do it. I’ve done so many photoshoots that I’ve never posted on my blog because they are not perfect. There is nothing I’ve ever created in my life that I’m 100% satisfied with. I also think that’s most creatives. I’m a Virgo and I have a critical eye and I’m always seeing things no one else sees. I would love to eventually be more spontaneous and free.
You have so much control. I’m trying to work on that too, and let things go. I’m in my 30s now and it’s getting to the point where my mind and body are exhausted with not letting go. As you get older, it helps to let some of it go.
I’ve learned that I have to and I’m kind of forced to which is kind of nice. I think if I was not forced to in my career then I would never do anything. I think my career would be paralyzed by it. Being under contract to do things and not having control over things, I have to put my trust in other people. I logically know I’m in my own way.
I battle depression too. I also just recently got my official diagnosis of ADD this year. I was a bit in denial about it. Growing up with ADD people were just like you’re not focused. It was never a thought that something needed to be addressed mentally. Did you know why you were depressed in college?
I struggle with depression in general and that’s kind of lifelong thing of mine, but especially in those four years. I wasn’t struggling academically. I graduated Cum Laude and I actually have ADD and anxiety. I wasn’t super hyper growing up, it was organizational issues. Unlike men, ADD in women usually does not become a problem until they get older and it was hard for me to adjust to trying to do everything on my own.
I don’t even know how I was able to read a book when I was younger because I used to love to read and now I look back and think how did I do that?! I’m so ADD I get books and I go to the last chapter because I really don’t have the time. I finally got officially diagnosed because it was progressively getting worse.
I know a lot of my anxiety comes from the fact that I’m not as organized as I want to be so if I got my ADD under control that would help. I didn’t realize I was ADD until about two years ago and I was officially diagnosed this year. I didn’t need a doctor to tell me but I got diagnosed.
When I look back I realize that the heightened levels of my ADD were exposed in college because of the pressure. Could you see in college where your ADD was affecting you?
ADD was affecting me in college in every way. I was so confused because I didn’t know what it was. I just knew I had issues with organization since I was little. I went to see the therapist in college and they never brought up ADD. I knew I was depressed and I had such perfectionism issues and when you combine that with ADD it’s the worst, because you’re not able to do things in general and then you’re not able to do them to you expectations. I would often sit in the computer lab for eight hours trying to write a paper that I couldn’t start because I was such a perfectionist. Those types of things have hurt me over the years. So many therapist have said to me, I don’t know how you are as successful as you are. It didn’t affect my grades too bad because I went to a flexible school where the professors would work with me and gave me extensions and things like that. But a psychiatrist told me there was no way I had ADD.
Would you say you are a feminist because of your experience at a women’s college?
The crazy part is that I wasn’t a feminist until after after. Post graduation. I always knew and believed that women and men were equal but I was kind of one of those people that didn’t understand what feminism was. In a way, being at a women’s college I kind of resented it because I didn’t identify with all of the girls who had short hair cuts and were walking around school with no bras on and were super liberal. I was just like why am I here and it’s so funny [because] all of those women are the types of friends that I have and identify with the most. I wasn’t there emotionally in college. It wasn’t until I started getting into body positivity and activism that I saw all of the ways body activism intersected with feminism which intersected with race and all of these things kind of came together and made sense.
There is this interesting conversation happening about black feminism and white feminism and intersectionality and how there is a difference between being a white feminist and being a black feminist. Being both black and white, would you say that gives you a different perspective of each sides of the argument?
I definitely identify more as black. As a woman of color, I automatically identify more with the struggle of people of color. That’s how I identify and that’s how I experience the world. There are sometimes that I can see both sides of things that I think other people may only be able to see one side of. I’ve always been kind of a mediator in general. In high school with the black and white kids, I’d hang out with both and try to smooth things over when there were any issues. I’d always try to explain to the white girls in middle school why something they said was offensive and they would listen to me more. It’s unfortunate that it took that but I’ve think I’ve always had that cross over appeal that for some reason white people are more likely to listen to me when it comes to issues of race. But I definitely identify as black overall. When people ask what I am, I kind of hate that question and I know they’re asking if I’m biracial which I am and I definitely don’t want to say that I’m just black because I know that privilege comes with having a white mother and with my skin color, so I do acknowledge those things. When it comes to my life experience, I identify more as a black woman or as a woman of color than anything else. I just call myself a black girl. I have a white mom [and] I experience life as a black woman but I’ve come to [also] identify more as mixed because I realize how privileged my skin color is and what it has afforded me as a light skinned woman.
Where you always aware of that privilege?
I was always welcomed in the black community. I was never othered. Maybe when I was growing up like how some black kids make fun of lighter skinned kids. In high school I was active in our African American clubs and the black student union. In college I minored in African American studies. I think the black community has always claimed mixed people. Barack Obama is our first black president. He’s not our first mixed president. Halle Berry is the first black women to win a [Best Actress] oscar. It’s always been that way. No one has tried to force me to identity as mixed. It was my own realization that I had to maybe stop identifying only as black because I didn’t want to silence voices of women who had two black parents and maybe experience life differently than I did. The more I learned about white privilege the more that I realized I was benefitting from it because of my mother and because of my skin color and because of my hair texture and all those type of things. I realized it was privileged of me to not think of myself as mixed. I can’t sit there and call myself black if I’m experiencing things that black people don’t experience because of my white mom.
I have finally come to terms with identifying as mixed, not because I reject blackness and want people to know “I’m special,” but rather because I respect black voices so much and acknowledge that my experience as a mixed woman raised by a white woman will never quite be the same as a black woman’s life experience. I do experience the world as a woman of color and know my fair share of discrimination, but because I have a white mother, light skin, a certain hair texture etcetera, I have a certain amount of privilege that I think it’s important to acknowledge.
You recently attended Amber Rose’s slut walk what was that like?
For first time since moving to L.A., I was surrounded by all feminists. It was like these are my people. The people who are for women’s rights and for women expressing their sexuality and don’t slut shame women and don’t make women feel bad about their bodies. There was body diversity and racial diversity. Slut walks in the past have been criticized for being such a white event and I think the fact that Amber Rose hosted this one really brought out a diverse audience.
Did you have a sign?
What did your sign say?
One side said stop victim blaming and I can’t remember what the other side said. But I also made a sign that said, “My Body My Business” and I also loved my sister’s sign that said, “No doesn’t mean convince me.”
When I was heavier I remember when people would comment on my clothes and how I looked good for being “so thick.” I was a size 12, and it reminded me of how people say things like, “You’re so smart for a girl.” It’s very condescending. When I looked through a lot of your older interviews, people seemed to like asking you how you find your confidence but I didn’t even think about that.
Almost every interview is about my size and it’s so frustrating. I get so excited when somebody does a piece on me that’s not about being a plus size woman. Yes, that’s a part of my identity but I just hate that that’s the only part that so many mainstream outlets seem to care about. It’s almost backhanded. Like, “Oh my God you’re so brave!” and it’s like thanks question mark, is that a compliment? I get why people ask. As a fat woman our culture tells us we’re not supposed to be confident and so many women struggle with confidence at my size. I know people are trying to spread a positive message but it does get a little tiring. I do want to talk about other issues. If you want to know why I’m confident, it’s pretty google-able at this point.
Women are always asked these question as if being over say, a size eight, means a woman has low self esteem.
You see it in everything. People ask the same thing about Amy Schumer or Mindy Kaling. Every interview they’re asking them how it feels to be their size in Hollywood. [They’re] like it feels good why are you asking me that? It’s irrelevant but I get it because it is relevant. Unfortunately the way our society is set up, you don’t see a lot of people Mindy Kaling’s size in Hollywood which is ridiculous because she’s not even a large woman. I kind of understand but it gets frustrating that that’s the thing that gets dragged out every time you have an interview especially when you are doing other work. I kind of ask for it since I’m a plus size woman talking about plus size fashion but I do try as much as possible to focus on my style and not just my size. I want my style to transcend size. I don’t want to be fashionable for a plus size girl. I want to be fashionable period.
People don’t ask men these questions. I don’t know of any plus size man that is asked these questions. Size is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things but relevant because we need to talk about how this is keeping women oppressed by their bodies.
I’m not going to pretend that I always have a great day but I think overall the size and shape of my body is something that does not consume my thoughts anymore because I’ve been this is who I am. I don’t relate to women who look in the mirror and say they don’t like their bodies. I’m rarely wearing clothes. I only wear clothes if I have to. I walk around naked at all times. If I leave the house I have to put on clothes but when I’m at home I don’t wear clothing. My boyfriend hates it because whenever someone knocks he has to go answer the door. I’m so used to seeing my naked body that I’m comfortable with myself but I would be lying if I said that there’s nothing about myself that I don’t like. I still have issues especially as I’m aging and getting older where I’m like why do I have this and why do I have that? I’m still living in the world where I’m affected by beauty standards. I don’t ever want to pretend that I’m some perfect woman and that I never have any negative thoughts about myself because that’s not true.
I noticed that you re-tweeted Nicki Minaj’s comments on Miley Cyrus. Why did you connect to that?
[Nicki’s] right. Obviously the appropriation of black culture is really relevant right now. It’s always happened which is an issue, but I think more than ever happening right now. It’s at the forefront of people’s minds; the conversations on Kylie Jenner and Mylie Cyrus and all these women who use black culture and black women and black people as props but don’t really connect to the issues that affect black people but they’re willing to twerk and do whatever else they want to do. It’s unfortunate that people cherry pick things from black culture but they don’t want to understand or celebrate black people or defend black people or stand up for black rights. I agree with Nicki Minaj and it’s unfortunate that Mylie Cyrus instead of actually hearing what she had to say is just talking about the anger in her voice. Well yeah she’s angry and she has a reason to be angry so why don’t you hear what she’s saying and not just insult her. She glossed over the issues and [Nicki] does not have the privilege to be hippy dippy about it and she’s angry for a legitimate reason and you should try to find out what that is.
A lot of people say that Nicki Minaj is not a feminist. Do you agree with that?
No. I don’t know if she self identifies as one but she’s constantly standing up for women’s rights and talking about equality between the sexes. I don’t [think] anyone has to be perfect to be a feminist. I think Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist is a perfect example of that. It’s getting to the point where people don’t want to identity as a feminist because it’s too hard. I went through that too. As soon as you identify as a feminist you put a target on your back and suddenly anything you do is up for debate and people are calling it into question. We’re all human. We all do problematic things because we’re taught and brainwashed a lot from patriarchy so obviously we are all going to have issues, but that does not mean we don’t believe in equality of rights for men and women. The outrage that the internet creates over every little thing that people do is just kind of ridiculous to me.
The internet is a sad place sometimes and you want to give up on humanity!
I go back and forth. It’s hard putting yourself out there every day. Not even from trolls which is its own thing but from peers and followers. The expectations that people have of you that you won’t make mistakes and that you be perfect is kind of overwhelming. There have been times when I’ve thought about quitting.
How do you lean in? What would you say in the last year has been your biggest leap as a business woman that maybe you didn’t think you could do before?
As I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable standing up for myself and asking for what I want. Nicki Minaj is called difficult or called hard to work with if she stands up for herself. Even with the New York Times article that came out, what that journalist asked her was so inappropriate. And I was so happy that she said something back because so often as women we’re taught to go with the flow and be polite and a man can say what he wants. I am getting more and more comfortable demanding what I want, asking for what I want and being comfortable saying no. I used to be overly polite to the point where I felt like I was being taken advantage of but I never wanted to be seen as a bitch or hard to work with but now I’m being called those things. I’m okay with that because I know people are just saying that because I’m just standing up for myself.
How do you deal with the fear of failure?
In the past I would avoid doing things because I was scared of failing. I don’t know what got me over the hump. I would be lying if I said I don’t struggle with that to an extent. Especially if I’m doing something new or different. Now I consider myself an expert in my field enough to where I don’t have that fear as much. But I think self talk is what has helped me. The experience of being older and realizing it’s not the end of the world when something doesn’t go the way you want it to. No one is paying attention to you as much as you’re paying attention to you and remembering that helped me a lot. If something doesn’t go well you learn from it and you do better the next time.
What do you do for self care? You have this business, you’re busy, you’re in the car right now interviewing with me, building a business, you have a lot going on. What do you do to bring yourself back down to just being yourself?
I love podcasts. I love to be alone and listen to podcasts at night. I also like to relate to other people and hear other human stories and also hear other people’s struggles. I think it makes you feel not as alone when you hear that people are going through the same thing as you. I’m a girly girl so I do a lot of beauty treatments. I love going to the spa and relaxing in the sauna and doing some detox stuff. Anything that makes me feel healthier and relaxed. With the anxiety I have I have to find the time to decompress.
Who is Gabi Gregg? Complete this sentence: I am Gabi Gregg and I am
I am Gabi Gregg and I’m over thinking it! [laughs] Honestly the first thing that came to my mind was perfectly imperfect. I’m obviously flawed but I don’t want those flaws to define me. I’m okay with them, and the ones I’m not okay with I’m learning that it’s okay to work at self improvement. I think for a long time I was trying to be perfect to the point that I didn’t even want to hear criticism, because it meant that I wasn’t perfect. Now I can work on those things. I think some of that is just being young. Everyone can improve in some ways. Right now I’m at a point in my life where I’m trying to work on myself as much as possible and change the things about myself that maybe can be improved.
Gabi Gregg photographed by Angel Jordan
Editor’s Note: This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
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