Since her clever, erudite, and frequently funny turn as the co-host of WTBU’s “Girls’ Night In” with Allie Rosenberg, Vera Papisova has encouraged positive discourse in relation to health, self-awareness, and happiness. Over the past few years her uncompromising passion to discuss vital and often times unaddressed subjects in popular media – ranging from body image to sex education – has given readers a much-needed forum for a myriad of essential subjects. Cinema Spartan interviewed Vera, late last year, and asked her a handful of questions about journalism and health. And, if you’re wondering, she still refuses to run any weight loss stories (it’s “never gonna happen,” she says). It was a complete and total honor to interview one of our favorite people, a person whose fearless prose is a constant inspiration (especially when it comes to advice on how to barrel-through a writer’s block).
Rob Patrick: What is important to you in a good piece of writing?
Vera Papisova: What’s important to me in a good piece of writing is if something is being said in a new way. People write about the same subjects over and over again, so trying to write about something no one has every written before is an impossible task. The real trick is using new words to talk about something old.
You provide invaluable, well-written, and accessible resources to people everywhere with your compass for well-being and care. What drives you to produce, reinforce, and share important and interesting information?
What drives me is my little sister, and all the other younger siblings in this world. My sister and I are 6 years apart, and when she was in middle school and high school, I was in college, and she always asked me questions about everything from anxiety to friendships. I always gave her answers and told her the whole truth – even if she didn’t want to hear it at the time [laughs]. When I was younger, I always hated when adults treated me like I was a kid and decided things for me without asking what I thought. I don’t think we should be withholding information or ideas from young people just because something makes adults uncomfortable. It would be cool if we lived in a world where nothing about our bodies or identities made us feel embarrassed and ashamed. We can get there if we try. Stigma and shame comes from prioritizing other people’s comfort over your own. We shouldn’t teach kids that they can’t talk about things just because adults are uncomfortable by them – that’s how they learn that other people’s comfort matters more than their thoughts and feelings. I think kids and young adults are a lot smarter than most adults remember being when they were their age, and we need to treat them with respect. Conversation is key, and starting uncomfortable conversations adults don’t want to have happens to be my specialty.
Who are some of your heroes in your field, and where can readers find their work?
My heroes are Karley Sciortino, founder of Slutever.com; Heather Corinna, founder of Scarleteen.com; Carol Queen, author of THE Sex and Pleasure Book; and Heather Havrilesky, advice columnist for The Cut. Sting. Sting would be another person who’s a hero. The music he’s created over the years, I don’t really listen to it, but the fact that he’s making it, I respect that.
You’re great at Tweeting. You’re like the Rob Delaney of Twitter. What makes a good Tweet?
IDK what “good tweet” means, but based on my experience, all you have to do to get attention on Twitter is complain a lot. Once you complain, it’s like a domino effect. Is it useless? Usually, yes. But you bond, you feel better, and sometimes you even move on. If you’re really good, you come up with an actual solution to what you’re complaining about.
What is something that dudes can remember, that they often don’t, when approaching everyday interactions with people?
Just because you can’t relate doesn’t mean it’s not true.
You have conducted extraordinary and well-researched interviews. What makes a good, thorough, and revealing Q&A to you?
I think a good interview takes research, but mostly I think it takes a lot of empathy. You have to be able to ask questions that make people uncomfortable without losing their trust. If you’re really good, they won’t be uncomfortable at all.
Finally, how does one break out of a life-altering, terrible writers block?