I’ve always been a pretty private person.
Until recently, my Facebook and Instagram accounts were private and I went to great lengths to make sure my personal information wasn’t accessible online.
I’m also pretty shy. I come alive around friends, but can be pretty quiet in groups or meetings—I prefer to listen intently, think for a while, and then speak.
I have a tendency to work in roles where I’m in the background making things happen, but rarely in the public eye.
I’m the last person you’d think would go viral.
It all happened on October 19, 2016. I was streaming the third presidential debate on my computer while practicing design (something I’d been working on for a few months).
When Donald Trump, somewhat under his breath, called Hillary a “nasty woman,” I immediately designed the shirt and put it on my personal, private Instagram.
My friend Stephanie Brown, a tattooer and artist in Chicago with a lot of followers reposted it, and it spiraled from there.
I woke up to articles in The Cut, Teen Vogue, Elle, Cosmopolitan, and about 100 others… and I had over 10,000 orders. Of course, I was elated, but in a total panic. Um, how was I going to MAKE 10,000 shirts? I immediately jumped into action with the help of some friends and got-to-work.
Every crazy thing you could possibly imagine happened (seriously, so much of it is unbelievable and totally bizarre that you’d think I was lying!)—But, there I was: private, shy me, featured in over 100 publications, my personal information out for everyone to see.
I was doxed, my phone ringing every 2-3 minutes, my friends and family worried I was going to have a nervous breakdown.
Instead of crumbling, I rolled with it.
I immediately hired a CPA and lawyer to make sure the business was moving in the right direction and that my finances were transparent (50% of the proceeds from the Nasty Woman shirt go to Planned Parenthood).
I cried a lot. I got a therapist. I made my Instagram public.
I embraced the inquiries, the calls, and the thoughtful criticism. I teamed up with other artists, businesses, and nonprofits to create more opportunities. I forced myself to become comfortable with the attention—and after a while, started to enjoy the forced extroversion!
There’s no guidebook on what to do if you go viral and institutions like banks, PayPal, etc., aren’t prepared for your overnight success either—they all froze my accounts and caused major headaches.
For example: how can I mail out shirts when customer payments are frozen and I can’t access money to ship?
Going viral was organic and quick, but managing virality has been an incredible amount of work and sustained effort. Through it all, I’ve amassed some insane stories that I plan to share one day!
My friendships have been strengthened (my best friend is now the co-owner of the business), and I’ve been able to raise over $130,000 for nonprofits that help women and girls.