Luvvie Ajayi — the hilariously acerbic blogger at Awsomely Luvvie, the brains behind Rants and Randomness podcast, and the writer of New York Times Best Seller I'm Judging You: The Do Better Manual — will join a powerhouse group of pop culture and spiritual thought leaders in Philadelphia Sunday for Together Live.
Together Live is billed as a traveling storytelling event that capitalizes on the realness of its participants. The list changes from city to city, but on Philadelphia's list of truth tellers are authors Ajayi, Wild author Cheryl Strayed, poet Cleo Wade, comedian Nicole Byer, singer/songwriter MILCK, and as of Thursday morning actress Uma Thurman.
The show is the brain child of WME literary czarina Jennifer Rudolph Walsh. She is the woman behind Oprah Winfrey's tremendously successful The Life You Want Tour.
In 2016, Walsh and Glennon Doyle Melton assembled the first group of brave, women speakers — on the inaugural list were Seane Corn, a yoga and wellness leader and activist, and Dr. Jacqui Lewis, a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement for the first Together Live Tour that toured six cities and drew 10,000 people. This year Walsh partnered with actress Reese Witherspoon's media company Hello Sunshine and it will tour in 10 cities.
Walsh says this year's gritty political climate makes the 2018 tour, a particularly needed salve. "It's not about bringing your outrage," Walsh told me over the phone from her New York office. "I think we are all outraged out. I know I am. It's about bringing our broken hearts." Walsh chooses women who "are who they are in every room."
Enter 33-year-old Ajayi.
Ajayi was at at her home in Chicago, running errands that included a trip to therapy because life out here is real. We bonded in a sisterhood. There was laughter. And I got her. (Even though I still don't get how she could diss Tevin Campbell on Twitter when it was suggested that he do a tribute to the late, grate Aretha Franklin. Seriously, girl? )
I was expecting Ajayi to be as raucous as she is when she writes. But she was toned down. Coy even. She is working on a new book, she can't say what it is. But after Ajayi warmed up, she shot from the hip as only Awesomely Luvvie can.
What are some of women’s most pressing issues today?
I think how are bodies are being legislated is definitely a major issue. We are living in a country that is not recognizing our ability to have agency and they want to legislate our bodies and control us. That's a big issue and concern.
What’s the most pressing issue facing black women?
There isn't just one. For black women everything is amplified. We sit at the intersection of two marginalized groups. We are dealing with racism and sexism. We are dealing with class issues. We are dealing with constantly having to prove our worth. We are dealing dealing with feminism that doesn't necessarily address our interests always.
How can an event like “Together Live” help?
That this tour essentially does is give space for women's stories to be amplified. Stories are important. They validate us. They make the feel like we matter.
But aren’t we in effect, speaking to the choir?
In some cases we are. But these stories still matter. They matter because they are authentic. It's important to speak up, despite the consequences.
You’ve had your fair share of consequences…
When the backlash comes or the noise is loud, I take away that I have to be even better than I am. It doesn't tell me to change who I am, or that I should do things a in a different way. It's the exact opposite, it makes me double down on being relly good at what I do. … It's in these moments when you figure out what your values are. What's important to you. And then you go about it and do things better than you ever did.
Your blog is often off the chain, will you keep this same voice on stage? Will you alter it at all for the audience?
I don't need to blend in. Everyone's stories needs to be shared as authentically as possible. My voice doesn't and won't change based on the room I'm in. People are always going to get my honesty whether it's on paper or in the spoken word … We have more in common than we have that's different. These women on stage can come together to speak about our concerns and speak about things that matter to us.
Can you talk a little about what your chat will be on Sunday.
Well not yet, really … But the point of the room is to challenge people, to take people into our own minds for whatever time we are on stage. In my piece I'm going to encourage people to commit themselves to being more honest. It sounds like a basic thing. But honestly, in this era of fake news and people thinking satire is true, we need to get back to the basics. And part of that is being more honest … I won't be handling people with kid gloves, especially now when so many people are not treating adults like adults and expecting them to be better. Being better humans is a challenge we need to rise to. It's not a message that needs to be delivered softer.
"Together Live" An All Female Live Storytelling Event
7 p.m. Sunday, Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center 300 S. Broad St., $45, togetherlive.com