Just a few months ago, Lauren Duca wrote a great piece for Brooklyn Magazine on The Rocky Horror Picture Show, diving deep into just how obsessive superfans of the campy 70s classic really are. A few months later, Duca has taken on a different kind of superfan, as she’s become one of the most important political voices in the country in the aftermath of her scathing Teen Vogue piece on Donald Trump, and the dangers of gaslighting. Not long after, she took on Fox News blowhard Tucker Carlson, and refused to give in to his childish bullying in their debate . Duca has since made a number of appearances on CNN, and showed up on Chelsea Handler’s Netflix show, Chelsea—growing her online following exponentially in the meantime, and even just launched a brand new column. With so much hanging in the balance politically, there’s a need for as many smart voices as possible—and Duca’s is one that has earned its place in our discourse.
You’ve absolutely blown up in the past couple months after your great Teen Vogue piece on Donald Trump. What has that experience been like?
The past few months have been bonkers. I keep waiting for things to go back to normal, and it’s starting to feel like they might not. I still can’t totally process that I met living legend Dan Rather, or was booking a flight to L.A. for Chelsea Handler’s show while in a car over to CNN. It’s also hard to believe that people are still sending me death and rape threats—who has the time, you know? Anyway, through all the insanity, one thing has become indisputably clear: I have a significant platform now. It’s not always going to be easy, but I can promise that I will keep fighting.
Tell us a little bit about what your days are like, and what’s at stake.
“What’s at stake” for writers and journalists right now should be the future of the country. An authoritarian threat to democracy is ruling over the American public by working to destabilize the truth, so that’s kind of a fucking emergency. It’s important to me that I do my part to help people be empowered with information, and to provide resources for fighting back. My days recently have been a lot of meetings and phone calls, mostly focused on the best ways to get that work done. In addition to working as a Contributing Editor at Teen Vogue, I’m about to begin my first book (tentatively titled The Great American Dumpster Fire). Meanwhile, in between pieces, I try and stay present on Twitter, where I want to help cut through the noise of the daily news. Also, to make bad jokes (@laurenduca).
As a writer who covers a wide variety of things, what’s been your greatest/favorite achievement, and what has been the biggest challenge?
I used to love writing low-stakes pop culture features and profiles, but now that we’re living inside the apocalypse, none of that feels like it matters in the same way. I transitioned to freelance at the end of 2015 and my clips naturally got more political. After the election, I didn’t know how to write anything else. I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out the best way to make sense of that stark sense of mission. I want my “Gaslighting” piece to be the first step in a concerted effort to be part of the resistance. The biggest challenge now is continuing that work fearlessly, and refusing to give into despair.
On the TV side of things, we saw you go on Chelsea Handler’s show, and face off with Tucker Carlson. What’s next for you?
At the moment, there are a lot of “talks” about “developing projects,” and soon there will be “meetings in L.A.” I know what, like, one of those words mean, so we’ll see! I’m definitely open to the possibilities—thanks, Tucker!—although I’m always going to be a writer first. Mainstream news shows have been doing an absolutely shameful job of holding Trump accountable. In terms of all sorts of political coverage, a lot of alternative spaces are going to become increasingly important means of speaking truth to power. If there’s a way for me to do that on TV, I’m down.
What do you hope changes or improves (or continues!) in your career and field in the future?
A lot needs to change. There are not nearly enough resources in most newsrooms, and too much coverage is sloppy to the point of being irresponsible. I hope that there is a more rigorous insistence on the basic principles of journalism. The waning mistrust in media is not totally unfounded. Holistically speaking, the institution of journalism has failed the public, and it’s on every single one of us to earn back that good faith before it is too late.
What message would you send to others who are looking to get more involved politically, writers and readers alike?
Use your angry energy for action. Commit to doing something every day, whether it’s demonstrating, donating, or contacting representatives. Midterm elections are a bigger deal than ever before. Think about which candidates you want to support, then figure out how to help their campaigns. For writers, there are even more opportunities. It’s on each and every one of us to ensure that government power is not abused, especially at a time like this. In short, stay active, and don’t even consider the possibility of calming down. Fascism wants you to chill.
Who else would you nominate for this list?
Summer Brennan! She’s been doing incredible work using her foreign relations expertise to help people make sense of this impossibly distressing political moment. I’m incredibly proud to know her. (Hey, Summer!)
Learn more about this year’s 100 Influencers in Brooklyn Culture.