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Soledad O’Brien On Online Bullying, And How To Silence Trolls

Culture
Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

“Bless your heart”

If you don't know her name, you definitely know Soledad O'Brien's face. After all, she's been a television fixture for 20 years, from CNN to HBO and beyond.

Soledad is also a mixed-race woman, the child of two immigrants—her father Irish and Australian, her mother Afro-Cuban—and a mom of two sons and two teenage daughters. Knowing the voracity of trolls and the tone of this presidential election, her Twitter mentions might be a scary place for some. But Soledad reads them, daily.

She replies, engages, and shuts people down when they've gone too far. I had the privilege of chatting with this tough mother about online bullying, body-shaming, and saying "so what?" to your critics. Let me tell you, she knows exactly how to silence a troll. Read on for her tips.

You’re super engaged online, especially Twitter. Do you really read all the comments?
I read a lot of them. I think, like everybody, you have moments where you have time and moments where you don’t. I actually find it really helpful if I’m working on a story. It influences the conversation, and sometimes people will give you good information. And then, of course, sometimes you have vicious crap sent your way. 

What are those mostly focused on?
It’s often violent, often horrible, sometimes racist, sometimes it’s just disgusting. 

How do you deal with all that?
I engage people in conversation, but try to recognize very quickly who I’m dealing with. You know, hop in and check out who they are. If it’s somebody you know that you’re not going to have a real discussion with, you know where it’s going to go.

Do you have a go-to shutdown tweet?
I tend to do an “I’m going to pray for you,” or “bless your heart.” It’s funny because it does two things: One, it allows me to respond, so I don’t have to sit there and take it. Two, it changes the tenor of the conversation online. People jump in, but not to be equally nasty back. Everyone gives their Southern grandmother’s phrase, and it just becomes ridiculous.

It really gives you a lot of control to reset the conversation. Of course, you can block or mute someone. Sometimes if they’re really awful, I’ll do that right away. Really, though, I’ve found that what makes me feel less awful is being kind to them and saying “you’re a deranged person” in the form of “Aw, I’m gonna pray for you.” 

I love that.
It’s been highly effective too. They don’t know what to do with that, and everyone piles on in a very positive way. One of the problems I find as well is that the minute someone’s being nasty to you, other people jump in and are nasty on behalf of you, which is also not my style. I don’t attack people, I don’t like it. I wouldn’t do it to other people; I don’t want them doing it on behalf of me. I think just changing the tone—if you’re not going to block or mute them—is a really helpful thing.

And you never internalize those comments? Body-shaming can be especially hard to ignore.
It’s kind of funny. I have two daughters that are 14 and 15, and I turn 50 in a few months. I think as you get older, the idea that people on the outside have any clue who you are becomes more and more of a ridiculous concept. When I was 20, if someone said something to me, even to my face, I would be much more likely to believe it. Once you’ve been around a minute and had some kids, once you’ve had a small child go, “Mommy, I hate you,” [laughs] you’re like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, get in line, as if I care.” Over time, it’s stopped affecting me. 

What I do find is that if I’m reading Twitter, especially first thing in the morning, reading something horrible really starts my day off in a bad way. That’s much more likely to happen than believing someone. What I’m constantly telling my daughters is, "You know the real you, you know you." So you have to be careful to block people, but you also have to have a good sense of self and develop that. Know who you are, what you’re good at, and what you’re not good at.

I think we, as women—and we talked about this at the Mom 2.0 Summit the other day—really have difficulty accepting a compliment. If someone says something nice about your haircut or what you’re wearing, we usually deny it. “Oh, no, it’s terrible,” or “oh, this old outfit,” or “this haircut is awful.” I got to the point of yelling at friends like, “Just say, thank you. It is okay. Just say, thank you, Soledad.” When you do that, you tell them that their judgment is awful. My judgment is not terrible! I like your jacket, a simple "thank you" will do. So in addition to being comfortable with ourselves, we have to be comfortable taking a compliment. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten much more comfortable with that, and certainly having kids has helped me a lot.

Absolutely. Some of the hardest things are not apologizing and being able to take a compliment.
It’s a habit—most people don’t say it because they mean it. They’re not really telling you that you should hate their jacket. They’re wearing their jacket today; they love their jacket! It’s only how we’ve been socialized to be less than, take up less space, be less big by minimizing anything positive. I think, “Screw that, I’m not doing that." I’m gonna wear it, I’m going to tell people I love it even if they hate it.

Believe me, when I say this again, what’s been helpful to me is to have teenage daughters. They’re like, “Oh my god, mom, are you gonna wear that?” I just say, "Yup, this is what I’m wearing, this is how my hair’s going to be, this is what I like, each of you deal with it."

I tell them, "You have to figure out what you like." It’s hard, it really is. Actually, I think social media has helped them in a way. They’re less conforming than when I was as a teenager. They’re exposed to a lot more. Their sense of fashion is broader, their sense of how to wear their hair is broader. As much as there are negative comments, there’s a lot of support. When they’re Snapchatting their "first-day" outfit to 100 of their closest friends, they have a group of people saying, “Oh my god, you’re great, you’re terrific!” So as much as there are challenges, there are some huge upsides, too.

Have there been any of those magic moments lately where you just love the Internet?
Any time I tweet a picture of my kids, it’s the nicest. My daughter and I have a lot of hair, a lot of big, giant hair. I recently posted a picture of her with her big, fabulous, blondish hair. And people jumped in like, “Look at that, that’s great, she should use this or that if she wants to have healthy natural hair.” I had tons of people giving advice about what conditioner she could use, how she could love her hair, how pretty her hair is, and how healthy it looks. That’s amazing. There’s a lot of good, except for the occasional troll who says, “You’re a whore, go back to Africa.” [Laughs]

Oh, I saw that picture! She does look beautiful.
Isn’t it great? When we’re trying to comb through that hair, she’ll say, “Mom, I hate my hair.” And I’ll say, “But look at all these great things people say! You need to love your hair too, you’ve got great hair."

The truth is, everything that exists online, exists in real life. You have to shut people down, you have to figure out what you’re happy with. You can’t go through life rolling and reeling with every comment that’s made. You can’t live that way—at least, I can’t live that way.

Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Well, actually it's crocodile, but she looks out of this world so...

Winnie Harlow walked the Cannes red carpet on Wednesday on her way to a screening of Oh Mercy!, wearing a showstopping gown.

The sheer black dress featured green embroidery on the front and back, which Ralph and Russo confirmed was in the shape of a crocodile. She belted the dress with a black crocodile skin-like belt and finished the look off with some strappy heels. She didn't leave it at just that. For beauty, Harlow packed on full lids of sparkly purple eyeshadow. She kept her hair sleek and simple.

Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Though the brand says otherwise, as Game of Thrones fans, we'd like to think the embroidery is reminiscent of a dragon's skin. Not to mention, Harlow looks out-of-this-world beautiful in it.

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Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

That denim kimono!!

Marion Cotillard shut down the Cannes red carpet on Wednesday at a screening for Matthias Et Maxime. Instead of an extravagant gown that's expected of the event, Cotillard wore a matching black crop top and shorts. Despite wearing an outfit I typically don to a hot yoga class, she looks incredible. She completed the look with an oversized denim kimono, a statement necklace, and heeled booties.

Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

At first, I was drawn in by the crop top and hotpants duo, but, after looking closer at the kimono, it's clear that it's the real scene-stealer. The floor-length Balmain piece was decorated with artful rips and dragon motifs. I would like to live in it.

Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Let's all bow down to the Khaleesi of Cannes.

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Photo by Frazer Harrison / Getty Images.

"It doesn't make you weak to ask for help"

Singer Billie Eilish is continuing to open up about mental health, this time in a new PSA video in partnership with the Ad Council and Seize the Awkward.

In the video, Eilish insists that "it doesn't make you weak to ask for help." She doubles down on the importance of asking for help, and stresses the importance of friends and family being there when their close ones reach out and checking in on them as well. "You should be able to ask anyone for help, everyone has to help someone if they need it." According to Eilish, there have been times when someone reached out to her at the exact moment she needed it, and it helped.

It was particularly refreshing to see Eilish acknowledge that there are things she still doesn't know and has to learn about her mental health. At the very beginning of the video, the interviewer asks her to reflect on her mental health journey, and all Eilish can do is let out chortle. "I think when people hear, 'Remember to take care of your mental health,' they think that everyone else is, and that is not at all accurate," she admitted. "You know, for me I'm trying to learn still to make sure that I stay okay."

Check out the PSA below.

Billie Eilish On Mental Health & Friendship | Ad Council www.youtube.com

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Photograph via @kimkardashian.

"#NotOnMyMoodBoard"

Kim Kardashian has definitely been accused of borrowing a design now and then. But when Instagram influencer and Kardashian look-alike Kamilla Osman claimed the entrepreneur copied her birthday look for a Met Gala after-party, Kardashian was not going to let it fly—and shared plenty of photo evidence to shut down the claim.

Fashion industry watchdog Diet Prada first noticed Osman's claims on Instagram and shared side-by-side images of Kardashian's Cher-inspired outfit designed by Mugler and Osman's dress. "Never get confused with who 'inspires' who. They won't give you credit but they will copy," Osman wrote on her IG story. "I designed this dress for my birthday last year. Nobody had a dress like this was an original design."

Kardashian responded by posting the true inspiration behind her look: images of Cher, in similarly sparkly, plunging-neckline dresses and wigs, and of model Yasmeen Ghauri walking a Mugler show in the '90s. In fact, the only similarity between Osman's and Kardashian's looks is the bodycon mini-dress style, which the two are not the first to wear. Among the images, Kardashian included a blank slide with the hashtag "NotOnMyMoodBoard," making it clear that this was in response to Osman's claims.

Screenshot via @KimKardashian Instagram Stories

Screenshot via @KimKardashian Instagram Stories

Though I am with Kim on this one, Kardashian does have a history of co-opting other people's work. From being sued over her Kimoji app, to claims she copied makeup palettes and perfume bottle designs, to being accused of copying Naomi Campbell's entire style, it's far from the first (and probably, far from the last) time Kardashian's name will be mentioned like this.

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After delivered the perfect pep talk

When Lena Waithe took over as a guest host on Jimmy Kimmel Live, her first time ever as a late-night host, actress and friend Halle Berry knew exactly how to pump her up. After Kimmel's security guard Guillermo Rodriguez hit the "Berry Button" (a large button on the wall that says just that), Berry came running out in a backless tee and boyfriend jeans to give Waithe a pep talk... and plant one on her.

Berry rolled in as if she'd just jogged from hanging out with her friends to come to Waithe's immediate aid, joking she wasn't dressed for the occasion; but, let's be real, she could wear a paper bag, and we wouldn't complain. Waithe requested the "Halle Berry juice," similar to her 2002 Oscars speech, and Berry immediately had the lights turned down low and jumped into inspirational speech mode.

"I know that you are a force of nature. You are a beautiful African-American queen going after everything that is hers," Berry said before going on to list Waithe's many titles and accomplishments. She jokingly concluded, "And you already winning, girl, 'cause you are dressed way better than Jimmy ever will," before asking if Waithe needed anything else. Clearly, Waithe thought that was all Berry was there to do, because she said no, but Berry insisted she needed one more thing before grabbing Waithe's face and surprising her with a kiss. "Wow," Waithe reacted after Berry pulled away, and honestly same!

Watch the video, below.

Lena Waithe's Guest Host Monologue on Jimmy Kimmel Live youtu.be

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