"I'm In The Prime of My Identity And Redefining Myself." - Melissa M. Tripp Opens Up About Her Career, Personal Life & More!
A few years ago, I came across Melissa M. Tripp on social media. She has a way with her words which are striking, deep, pure yet relatable. I remember reaching out to Melissa for an interview and she didn’t hesitate with a positive response. A couple of years down the line, the interview has finally happened and i’m beyond excited for my readers to become acquainted with Melissa M. Trip; a best-selling author, writer and a voice for women.
V.G.:At what age did you realize or experience that words have power?
M.M.T: Early on I began to interpret my first discoveries of words as a birthing, gateways to new worlds, vehicles of expression. "Words" and "friends" have always been imperfectly synonymous, in my eyes—my relationship with them, the same complex balance of nurture and repair maintaining a friendship generally requires. To experience the power of your own words, though, is something entirely different. I think I've just been so hyper-focused on the internal part of developing my voice as a writer that I was completely unprepared for success of any kind. The more people resonate with me articulating my truth, the more I realize just how connected my healing is to the personal journeys of others. Words have given me not only a way to expand awareness for myself, but my understanding and appreciation for people is expanding as well and I feel empowered in that. It's been a strange year but I'm so grateful for the kindling and the connections that happen when these human parallels in our lives are activated.
V.G.: Who are some poets that have inspired your career?
M.M.T.: I remember accidentally stumbling upon the disturbing details of Sylvia Plath's suicide at an early age. I don't think I had the intellectual capacity then to fully appreciate her genius, but I can recall being fixated on expanding my understanding of why this person's legacy—as one of the most prolific writers in history—couldn't be separated from and was constantly being reduced to the tragic manner in which her life ended. It was that introduction to the human elements of pain and suffering and tracing my own vulnerabilities as a human who is hurting that has been fundamental for me as a writer. In addition to Plath, Yoko Ono is someone who deeply inspires me. Her effortless ability to merge words with this fluent and intimate introspection has helped me to shape and form my own interior message through the instrument of words. Andrea Gibson—another conductor of poetic inspiration for me—is someone I connect with on an intensity level. Andrea is navigating the depths and humbly awakening giants. I also think it's important to acknowledge Rosie O'Donnell as someone we don't resonate enough with having a tremendous poetic footing. I think what she's doing in this space is beautifully bold, raw, and honest.
V.G.: How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
M.M.T.: While it didn't necessarily change my process of writing (if anything, it has preserved it), publishing my first book allowed me to appreciate having full control over every creative aspect of my writing process—and, it's something I don't think I'd ever be willing to compromise by pursuing traditional publishing.
V.G.: Do you write from personal experiences? And how do you approach writing about someone else’s experience?
M.M.T.: Humbly put, my best writing is centered in my own vulnerabilities and healing. It's not realistic for me to think I can ever bypass that exposed and organic habitation as a writer without dehumanizing the mirror-image messages of the experiences of others. Messages that can only be received and rewritten through high levels of empathy.
V.G.: How do you think you’ve evolved as a writer since the release of your first book?
M.M.T.: My willingness and proclivity to take risks has certainly evolved, from a social activism standpoint. I'm not afraid to use my voice to confront, expose, and combat injustices and marginalizations in today's society. And if I am, I feel a sense of purpose in the transparency of it all.
V.G.: What role does feminism play in your writing?
M.M.T.: I'm honored to be alive at the same time as women who make me trust my soul-print and inspire me to be more compassionate and gentle with my personal narrative as a woman daring to carve space for identity. The revolution is here and I'm up front, with the women.” (Click link to check out original tweet: https://twitter.com/melissamtripp/status/1060703422582788096?s=19)
As a black gay woman remapping the radical ideas of visibility, acceptance, and protection, I've made this my fight, naturally drawing heavily on feminist themes in my writing. While I'm very much still defining feminism for myself—the word itself stirs up more misconceptions than perhaps any other on the activism frontier—there's a certain level of personal and social will required to stay subscribed.
V.G.: How has writing helped you escape from the world?
M.M.T.: Words have always been my portals to simpler, emotionally safer times. I'm referring to grief and loss—writing has helped me navigate both in ways that feel productive because it's easy to suppress those things. It's easy to imagine a reality those debilitating hurts don't exist in. Escapism is easy but that's not what's real and I need it to be real, even if it hurts.
V.G.: As a creative, writer's block is common, how do you come out of that standstill?
M.M.T.: I've realized that most of what is considered "writer's block" is usually just some internalized form of anxiety about our writing that is resurfacing. By examining the roots and stems of those stubborn blocks, I'm able to put things into perspective and reframe my writing approach on the days I don't feel as inspired.
Let’s get a bit into your personal life:
V.G.: You are a proud member of the LBGT community? What was your experience coming out? How supportive were your friends and family? And what advice would you give those who are afraid of coming out?
M.M.T.: My experience coming out was a surprisingly positive one, and I think it's because it really didn't surprise anyone. I feel lucky to have a mother who created a safe and accepting space for me to communicate and express that part of who I am in her presence. Not everyone's experience coming out is a positive one, so I'm thankful because there are so many people who come out and recall very different, painful, and isolating experiences. Subsequently, having that unconditional loving energy from mom gave me a sense of confidence that permeated in embracing my sexuality in the presence of other family members and friends. If I could give one piece of advice to those contemplating coming out, it would be reflect on why this visibility matters to you, first.
V.G.: We are currently in a time were people are no longer afraid of opening up about the realities of depression. Have you ever been in that dark place? And how have you been able to see the light at the end of the tunnel?
M.M.T: Nelson Mandela once said, "It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us." As someone who constantly struggles with the mental monsters hiding under her bed, I think it's important to note that optimism—when you're present in those dark places—doesn't always feel honest. One of the ways I'm able to maintain a positive outlook is by taking charge of my self-talk habits on a human level. It's those instances of self-awareness and demanding transparency from myself that uplift me.
V.G.: You recently launched ‘Women Who Look Like Me’, What is the concept behind the movement?
M.M.T.: 'Women Who Look Like Me' is a women's empowerment movement against exclusion. It's a tribute to my own representation as a woman whose appearance doesn't necessarily classify as "typically-female," and a platform for women of all compositions to connect and share their impact stories.
V.G.: What did it take for you to fully become comfortable with who you are? How was the journey of self-discovery?
M.M.T.: While self love, for me, feels more fluctuant as opposed to something that is an exact science, I just got to a point where I grew tired of contorting certain parts of myself to make it easier for others to receive me. The more you minimize who you are, the further away from yourself you get and that can be damaging to the journey of self-discovery. I'm in the prime of my identity and redefining myself. Representing myself authentically isn't something I'm willing to gamble with for a sense of invulnerable image.
V.G.: What can we expect from you in 2019?
M.M.T.: There are some new upcoming projects and collaborations I'm excited about and can't necessarily share, but personally speaking, I just want to continue to orient myself towards irritating the culture of facade well past the new year by being true to who I am and only saying "yes" to things I believe in and that feel authentic to me.
V.G.: If you could tell your younger writer self anything, what would it be?
M.M.T.: Never give importance to anything more than finding and honing your true voice. When you compare and contrast your work to what other writers are doing, it's easy to get lost in perpetuum in this saturated space where your identity as a writer comes to die, so to speak.