AN INTERVIEW WITH ALI WEISS
We sat down with Ali Weiss (AKA @healthishell) on the floor of her childhood bedroom, cracked open a bottle of wine, and starting talking about cigs. Ali’s podcast Health is Hell is a hilarious tell all with some of the most taboo characters from all over the world. Her voice is truly refreshing and she makes us girls at Essential feel like were not alone in our sometimes psychotic feelings, weekly therapy sessions, and love for pasta bolognese.
Q: Where are you from?
A: I’m born and raised in NYC…Other words I'm a unicorn.
Q: What is your best quality?
A: Sense of humor - Not only in jokes but I don't take myself too seriously.
Q: 5 things you wish you knew when you were 15?
A: Oh my god everything. I knew nothing when I was 15. Growing up in NYC, I thought I was 30 and that I should have been living a 30 year old life. Which I know sounds crazy but that just how it is when you grow up here. I wish I could go back and tell myself that I have a lot of time. I have a lot of time in college and after college… I’m 26 now but I still feel like a 21 year old and I think I will for a while. Take it slow - life is short but its also long.
Q: Whats your vice for relaxation?
A: I like a cigarette. Which I know is really controversial.
Q: Craziest thing you've seen after 12:00
A: I think i have to plead the 5th on this one cause like the stuff I've seen is really nuts. Crazy people find me.
Q: What is Essential to keeping your cool?
A: Two things. A certain amount of routine. I think when I was younger I hated routine and I still hate the idea of doing the same thing everyday. But I am so ADHD that if i don't have a certain amount of things that I do per day that are ritualistic I go off the walls. So for me, its waking up at the same time everyday. I really value having breakfast now and having sometime away from my phone. I go to yoga a lot. I used to hate exercising now I like it cause it makes me feel calm.
Then on the flip side of that, I think admitting life is messy is so powerful. Cause most people are like “I’m fine - everything amazing”. I don't think it should be abnormal for us to feel like life is too much and I feel like we should all feel comfortable admitting that. If it feels like it is out of control for me, the first thing ill do is admit to my friends, “wow I feel really psycho right now”.
Q: Was there a moment in time when you were going through something and you were like “wow yeah I actually need structure”.
A: Yeah, so my 25th birthday was also my 10th year of therapy with the same therapist. So 25 was a really big year for me cause I realized alright there are somethings about myself I can change by being more responsible and making better choices. and then I also realized I'm 25 now and there are certain qualities that just are what they are. And I cant just wait to grow up and outgrow them - its not gonna happen. So I really just thought about the idea of being comfortable and what that meant to me an but like for me being comfortable is being uncomfortable but still knowing I have a safety net to fall on.
Q: Best advice you've gotten from the most random person?
A: I don’t know I kind of have a weird experience for this because I meet freaks and ask them for advice for my work. So I'm getting nuggets of wisdom from strippers and porn stars. But I would say randomly the thing that stuck with me the most was that my moms biological Dad who she didn't have a good relationship with and I saw once a year down in Palm Beach. We’d get all dressed up and have sea food and shit…Yeah like that. But I remember he was not an emotional man but his thing was always like: “You just gotta let it roll off you” and I was like huh thats very simple wisdom from a man i don't know very well. It really stuck I think because I'm an emotional person and I'm really sentimental but sometimes things are not meant to be held on to. Understanding the difference between something that I know is long term verse something I should experience and learn from then move on has been impactful for me.
Q: Whats the worst job you've ever worked and how did it made you better?
A: Last year, before my shit started popping off, I worked for a delivery company that delivered organic food to major tech companies. They looped me in because they posted an ad on Backstage saying they were looking for brand ambassadors. I was like cool I have a lot of experience in being a brand ambassador - I thought it was gonna be like live work you show up, wear a t-shirt, you hand out fliers, talk to people, etc.. I was like that’s fine I’ll do that for good pay. I show up on the first day and they're like yeah so you're gonna put on a t-shirt but it’s gonna be to deliver grilled chicken and broccoli to like fucking Giffy. So I was a delivery girl, delivering huge bags of lunches to corporate offices where sometimes I knew people there. I also knew a lot of these people from Instagram… Talk about Instagram V.S. Reality. I’m an influencer but also here’s your chicken! I’m actually glad I did do that because it was humbling. Really fucking humbling. Most of the work I do now I do from the comfort of my home. Having to carry like 20 lbs of chicken and deliver it to success people was a kick in the face I really needed.
Q: How did you know you wanted to start a podcast?
A: I always wanted a talk show in my 20s where I could get away with saying outrageous shit. Podcasting just happened to be the right thing for me at the right time. But I accidentally became a commentator… I always thought I was just gonna be an actor. I started expressing my opinions on Instagram so people started hiring me to shoot the shit in front of the camera and I kind of became a host… but didn't know my hosting angle was. Doing that was fun because I knew I had a sense of humor but I did not know what my opinion of the world was. What is my angle? What is my beat? I didn’t know that.
Through podcasting for season one, I learned that. If you listen to my episodes for season one there is an arc. It started as one thing and becomes another thing and by the end of it I was like “Oh! My beat is taboo”. I actually do enjoy doing my podcast now and do think it is my calling because no one else seems to want to talk about the things were all talking about behind closed doors. In real life girls are out on the street and are like “I'm delicate” but actually we all talk about fucked up shit and are all dealing with fucked up shit. And then I was like ok - that’s gonna be my approach to cultural commentary. Not being afraid to talk about things that other people shy away from because of societal expectation.
Q:Wats your mantra?
A: “If I don't do this, someone else will”. And not in a competitive way. I feel so passionate about the work I'm doing now that it worries me that if I don't wake up and get this shit done some other loud mouth chick will come in and do it and I will hate myself if that happens. This is my fuckin’ turf. Its really hard for women to carve out a niche for themselves where they stand as independent figures. For me, am I curing cancer? No. Do I know basic math? No. I failed everything academic. But I found something where I truly believe I am the best person for the job. So it freaks me out to think someone else could come in, take my position, and not do that good of a job.
Q: Thoughts on exercise and the wellness industry?
A: Exercise doesn't bring me joy. Eating and drinking brings me joy.
So I go in with that mentality. I think the key to being healthy is figuring out why you want to be healthy in the first place. I've been spoon fed so much wellness bullshit but I’ve thought long and hard about why I'm doing it and those reasons are mental health and pasta bolognese.
Q:You talk a lot about how Instagram disrupts your workflow and how it can pull you out of a creative and sacred space. How do you manage your time in a world controlled around bringing traffic to yourself?
A:The more time i spend on Instagram the dumber I get. The same thing is happening for every single fucking Instagram user cause were all absorbing the same content. There is no individuality on social media even if you think you're independent. So I've come to realize, social media has given me everything I have but at the same time I think of myself as a writer, I see myself as somebody that can pull insane ideas out of thin air, I see myself as a performer, and if I'm spending all my free time absorbing the day to day hobbies of people I don't give a shit about the work I'm gonna be creating as a result of that is gonna be brain dead.
When I gave up Instagram for like a week and half, the first few days I was like scratching myself. I actually understood the severity of my addiction then after the three day mark I was like “ahhh I'm free”. Its really hard to break the cycle but it’s really worth it. You just have to be willing to not care what the rest of the world is doing; and that can be really lonely.
Q: How important do you think it is to be in touch with your mood when you’re working and creating?
A: Honestly, I don't think I would be able to pursue this path if I didn't have a good sense of who I am as a person and the moods I am feeling. I'm meeting all sorts of crazy characters. I’ve been hanging in my living room with a sword swallower, I’ve invited club promoters from Vegas into my studios, porn stars, strippers, people - who I never judge based on their career - but like they're coming from the underbelly of America. Who knows what these people would be like?
I think if I were somebody who didn't understand how I want to hold space in a conversation and what I want my opinion to sound like and my stance on the human condition, I don't think I could do my job. It’s not for the faint of heart. Actively going after people who you need to gain there trust - that’s hard. How do you gain someones trust in 5 minutes when they walk into your room? And the key is authenticity. I think the key to being aware of my mood is knowing what I want to represent and knowing how I want a stranger to feel when they walk away from me after an hour; not what I was wearing or the questions I asked. I want them to walk away feeling accepted and that I saw them for who they were.
AN INTERVIEW WITH ALI WEISS
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