On the heels of Tiny Fey's latest successes -- #1 book Bossypants, another successful Saturday Night Live hosting gig, the airing of 30 Rock's 100th episode and a ubiquitous uber-pregnant belly -- one question must be asked: will her awesomeness never end?!
I certainly hope not. I don't care if everyone else is saying it, too. I love Tina Fey, and I think that other Millennial women should -- and do -- love her just as much as I do.
Fey has become an incomparable role model for today's young women, intentional or not. How has she won us over? What is she teaching us? Why can't we Millennials get enough of her?
Tina Fey, we bow down to you.
#1: She became mega-successful without having to tastelessly exploit her personal life (and while still having one).
We live in an era where, on any given day, anyone with cable or an internet connection can probably tell you what tons of famous women -- from Kim Kardashian to Kate Gosselin to all those Teen Moms -- are doing. I'm embarrassed to say that I would probably be able to recognize their lovers and children by sight. I follow their exploits not because I respect and admire them, but because I succumb to some deeply voyeuristic (and totally lame) curiosity. They're all famous for being famous -- and while I respect their business instincts and abilities to keep those publicity trains rolling, I definitely don't look to them for any personal or professional inspiration.
Fey is, obviously, an entirely different breed of celebrity. Sure, Bossypants is filled with personal anecdotes. But I read the whole thing, and I still couldn't tell you much about her husband or spot her daughter in the playground. She's never truly exploited her personal life for professional gain -- and I'm willing to bet that her personal life is all the saner for it. She's famous for being good at what she does, and even with the public's newfound interest in her personal life, she always keeps it classy.
As an ambitious Millennial woman, I want to know that there are paths to success, fortune and maybe even fame that don't include a reality show or a revealing sobfest on Oprah's couch. A little privacy might actually be possible -= Fey doesn't even have a Twitter account! It's inspiring to think that, instead of having to upload personal bikini pics and obsess over our "personal brands" 24/7, we can just do whatever it is that we do, do it well, and trust that good things will come of it.
#2: She serves as an example of how to infiltrate boys' clubs -- without completely succumbing to their testosterone-fueled environments.
In most industries, in order to reach the top, you're going to have to deal with men at some point. But how to navigate those relationships, and the gender expectations that come along with them? The line between "too-cool chick who's always down with the boys" and "shoulder-padded man-hater" is a tricky one. Luckily, we can look to Fey as an example of how to tread it carefully.
As chronicled in Bossypants, Fey was not wary of accepting the guidance and mentorship of powerful, knowledgeable men along her path -- but she never simply acquiesced and played by their rules, either. She worked alongside the guys in the SNL writing room, but she also supported female-friendly skits and cast members while admitting that the men's habit of urinating in jars (!) confused her. She appreciated the comedy tutelage of Lorne Michaels and admired the acting skills of Alec Baldwin, but she also spoke her mind and stood her ground when it counted.
With humility, intelligence and a clear understanding of her sometimes-conflicting responsibilities as a woman and a comedian, Fey seems to have bypassed much of the gendered politics that still play a role in climbing any professional ladder. As we all should, she spent years letting her accomplishments and talent speak for themselves. And then eventually, she became the boss.
#3: She likes other women.
Even as such a powerful public figure and inevitable face of post-feminist idolatry, Fey has gotten slack in recent years for (among other things) eating brownie husbands and admonishing celebrity mistresses on SNL, as well as for producing 30 Rock's controversial "TGS Hates Women" episode. Yet reading Bossypants, it is clear that Fey has an incredible amount of respect for smart, talented women who come into her midst. Sometimes -- like in the case of Amy Poehler -- she actually seems to admire these other women more than she admires herself.
Even her female characters in Mean Girls, who are meant at turns to be dumb and evil, are written with more complexity and personality than the "pretty, likable, career-driven women" who lead most Hollywood films. If you think that Fey doesn't like women, then you might just not have a sense of humor.
As Fey notes in her book, we modern women should no longer think that we are competing for the "female spot" in most companies or industries. We're now competing against women and men, every step up the ladder -- so we might as well support each other during the climb. Fey's treatment of other women throughout her career, from her Second City improv-mates to Kristen Wiig to, you know, Oprah, is a clear example of what that support might look like.
#4: She really can do (and have) it all.
If I have to attend one more career panel where professional women tell me that I can't "have it all" - or that, yes, I can have it all, but never at the same time! - I'm going to scream.
In Bossypants, Fey swears that she has no idea how to juggle her family, her career and herself. She actual finds the very suggestion offensive. But she wrote a book -- a great, hysterically funny book -- while writing, producing and starring in a TV show, moonlighting on SNL and being an involved mother and wife. Her ability to run on all cylinders is more than admirable. It's a little unbelievable.
And it's about time a woman showed us that the unbelievable can be done.
The charm of Fey is that, despite having gleaned some insights in her life, she doesn't claim to have all the answers. In fact, she barely claims to have any. But the proof is in her achievements, and in the realism of her tales behind them.
Do I want to read a how-to book by some female celebrity who can juggle it all without ever breaking a sweat or throwing a diaper across a room? Not really. As I try to make my own way in the world, I don't want to be preached at or condescended to. If you seem calm and glamorous all the time (hello, Gwyneth Paltrow!), then when I'm stressed, I feel like I must be doing it wrong. And that's just disheartening.
But Fey is a relatable role model to whom we can aspire. In Bossypants, she debates whether to have a second child. Yet now we know that she's become pregnant again. How will she balance it all? Who knows! Watching her rack up success after success, without ever losing her down-to-earth attitude, you just assume that she will.
She may be too modest to admit it, but Fey is the modern female dream -- respected for her unique gifts, glamorous when she needs or wants to be, able to break boundaries without seeming bitter or exhausted by her efforts, and seemingly not held back by anything.
If only we could all be so lucky. And as Fey is showing us, maybe we can be...
For more of the Millennial women's perspective on modern life and love, check out www.WTFIsUpWithMyLoveLife.com!
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