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An Interview with Alaina Demopoulos

Whenever I read an article by Alaina Demopolous, it doesn't even really feel like I'm reading anything. Her spunky, relaxed tone makes it feel much more conversational, like you're just chatting with your cool best friend, getting the rundown on everything from sex ed on TikTok to how "bondage dressing" became boring.

Her articles for The Daily Beast consistently expose me to new concepts, people, and cultural phenomena without ever being patronizing or dry. Her funny, offbeat voice showed me that it's okay-- even admirable ---to be awkward. She approaches things with a whimsy that doesn't take away from the depth of her subject matter. She's caused me to reevaluate what style means, and has taught me how seemingly frivolous topics can have fascinating and important factors underlying them.

Shortly after discovering her writing, I had to look her up on Instagram. Unsurprisingly, she has a killer personal style, with her colorful hair and laid back fits, not to mention her witty caption game is strong.

Who are your biggest influences and what lessons have they taught you? 

My Real Mom, Anita, and my Fake Mom, Joni Mitchell. 

Anita showed me that getting dressed every morning can, and should be, genuinely fun. I’ve been lucky enough to carve a career out of that. She put me in the coolest clothes as a kid, like this one Lord & Taylor wool kilt that I still wear, and if I have any taste at all it’s because I copy her. Until I meet Billy Porter, I can say that my mother has the best style of anyone that I know. 

Joni Mitchell instilled in me a sense that I, too, might look good with baby bangs. Unfortunately that is not the case and has been the source of much of my life’s angst. 

What work are you most proud of? 

I once wrote a lively and admittedly silly story where I tested whether or not giving blow jobs tightens your jawline. It was such a fun, dumb little piece. It ended up doing really well, but the higher-ups at the blog I wrote for took it down. I was pretty bummed it got pulled, but THEN!....A few months later, I was switching apartments and hiring movers. Someone from the company I hired asked for my billing information and when I told her my name, she said, "Oh my god, blow jobs!"

What’s the most rewarding part of your job? 

I’ve discovered that a good chunk of my job is cold calling someone I need to interview, not having them pick up, leaving them a voicemail, and waiting hours for them to get back to me. Every time this happens I spiral. I assume they won't respond, which means my story is ruined, which makes me a failure. I begin to question every life decision I've ever made that's led me down this career path and wonder if it's too late for law school. But then, every single time, people start to respond and I have myself a story. That process used to terrify me, but over the past year or so I’ve settled into that unpredictable shuffle. I've even started to enjoy the moment when the work finally comes together. 

What’s something most people would never guess about you? 

I've only ever written for digital outlets, but I actively avoid reading things on a screen. I promise it's not because I'm a snob - my eyes just hate blue light. They get really red and itchy if I don't logoff. When I want to read longform pieces, I go buy the magazine. If that's not possible, I straight up print out the story like someone from 2006 using MapQuest directions.

What’s been the most transformative experience of your life? 

When I was 12, my parents took my older brother on a week-long college tour road trip. They left me at my grandmother’s in Connecticut, three hours away from where I grew up. I didn’t know anyone who lived there, and my grandmother had Alzheimer’s so we couldn’t exactly talk. I spent my first day in my mom’s childhood bedroom staring at the ceiling fan. It was the most bored I’ve ever been in my entire life. 

On day two, I poked around my mom’s bookshelf and found a waterworn copy of a Tennessee Williams play from the ‘60s called Orpheus Descending. The paperback’s cover had an illustration of Marlon Brando pinning a half-naked Anna Magnani up against the wall. I had no business reading it as a preteen who wore headgear, but I was hooked. I finished it that afternoon, and reread it every day for the rest of the week. I’ve never forgotten how that play made me feel less alone. Someday I hope to make something that does the same for someone else. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? 

I went to an all-girls’ boarding school in Connecticut. It's the kind of place that churns out first ladies and the type of people who don't have to mentally coach themselves before they pronounce "Nietzsche" correctly, they just say it right all of the time. I will never belong to either category. A few days before I left for freshman year, my dad took me on a long car ride in our Toyota Camry to dole out some fatherly advice. I don’t remember our entire conversation but one thing he said stuck with me: “Remember, you deserve to be there just as much as anyone else.” I still struggle with feeling rarified of special spaces, whether it's an intimidating newsroom or just a party filled with a lot of hot people. So I regularly repeat that back to myself, and I suggest everyone else does, too.

Also: "I before E, except after C."

What’s a story from your childhood that really describes your personality? 

When I went home for Thanksgiving I asked my mom to help with this question. She said something sweet about the fact that before I could read or write, I’d keep journals filled with illegible scribbles. Every night I’d “read” her my own bedtime story, making the whole thing up as I went. But more honestly, it would be when I was seven and choked on a mozzarella stick at TGI Fridays and my brother saved me by punching me in the gut. One hundred percent, that would still happen today. 

What do you hope you’re remembered for? 

I’m only 24, so I’ve done, like, three things with my life. Hopefully my more memorable years are ahead of me. For now, I hope people remember me as that smart and nice girl who never came to a party empty-handed and was a good listener. And also for my blow jobs, I guess.


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