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Exclusive: Kathy Griffin dishes on Trump and the trolls that plagued her year.

She has another tour in the works. America, you've been warned.

Exclusive: Kathy Griffin dishes on Trump and the trolls that plagued her year.
Original photo of Kathy Griffin by Tyler Shields. Graphics added by Tatiana Cardenas/Upworthy.

In less than 20 seconds, Kathy Griffin has already hijacked our phone interview.

The comedian accuses me of cat-fishing her, lightheartedly mocks my Twitter bio, and slams President Donald Trump for being a "fucking lunatic."

"Now, are you in Chicago?" she says, abruptly changing gears again.

I explain that while, yes, I live in Chicago, Upworthy — which is part of GOOD Media — is technically based in Los Angeles.

There's a brief pause.

"Randy, this sounds like a gay scam," she quips to someone in the room with her. (At this point, I can't keep a straight face.) "My boyfriend, Randy, used to work for the L.A. Times. He's on to your bullshit, Robbie."

Griffin — who's spending the morning promoting her new "Laugh Your Head Off" comedy tour (pun very much intended) — sounds unfazed by the 10-month-old crisis that nearly destroyed her career, landed her at the center of a Secret Service investigation, and flagged her name on the Interpol list (a system devised to track criminals internationally).

After all of it, she's still the same quick, foul-mouthed, angry but big-hearted Griffin — except more eager than ever to hit the standup stage once again.











Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images.


Some didn't think Griffin could possibly work in the U.S. after her Trump photo debacle, the comedian tells me.

And maybe they would have been right — if we were living in a different era with another president in the Oval Office.

But in 2018, millions of Americans, repulsed by Trump's behavior in Washington, appear hungry for a comeback from the comedian. In 2018, Griffin — filling seats in some of America's most iconic venues — appears to be hotter than ever.

"They didn't think I could sell Carnegie [Hall] — then it sold in a day," she notes of her new tour, just as surprised as anyone. "I didn't know if anybody would buy a ticket."

Can you blame her for wondering? Even some of the most ardent Griffin fans were turned off by her gruesome stunt last spring.

On May 30, 2017, TMZ shared the graphic, now infamous image taken by photographer Tyler Shields of an expressionless Griffin holding a mask of the president dripping in fake blood, the wisps of his orange hair matted and red. Even in a deeply divided America, the depiction quickly unified the right and left with a singular take: The image was vile.

That's when the "wall of shit" ran over her, Griffin says. "That's really what it was," she emphasizes. "A wall of shit fell on me May 30. And then the wall got bigger and heavier and filled with more shit."

Chelsea Clinton tweeted it's "never funny to joke about killing a president." Anderson Cooper — a dear friend of Griffin's who'd play the giggly straight man reacting to her absurdity during their popular New Year's Eve specials on CNN — said he was "appalled." Their friendship — and Griffin's contract with the cable news network — ended in the days that followed.

First Lady Melania Trump publicly questioned Griffin's "mental health." The president (and his adult sons) took shots at the comedian, claiming his youngest child, Barron, was "having a hard time" with the image.

"I've been told for a year, 'it's over, go away, you're a bad American, you're a member of ISIS' — all this crazy shit," Griffin says, still irked by the uproar.

She apologized the same day the photo went public — but it was too late.

A slew of venues hurriedly canceled her upcoming performances, costing her over $1 million in income, she told New York magazine. Bobby Edwards, the CEO of Squatty Potty, said he was "shocked and disappointed" to see the image before swiftly dropping Griffin from an endorsement deal with his company.

The photo fallout, however, bled into much more serious matters: The Department of Justice spent months parsing through Griffin's personal life to see if she was a real threat to the president.

"I was detained at every single airport, which is frightening," Griffin told Bill Maher in early March. "There were times when they took my devices. They can do that. You might think we all have our rights, but when you're in that moment, you're really at the mercy of one or two people in that room."

The comedian — once a card-carrying member of the D-list — was blacklisted. And she's still feeling the heat. "I've had every kind of death threat you can imagine, to this day."

Her fan mail — or hate mail — backs her up.

Just hours after our chat, the comedian shared a letter from a livid Trump supporter on her Instagram page: "You have your cranium wedged so far up your rectum that you can no longer receive oxygen and have become brain dead," it read.

“Sincerely”

A post shared by Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin) on

Being a woman "absolutely" played a big role in the relentless criticism that's hounded her for nearly a year, she says.

I'm the one who brought up her gender for playing a part, and she's quick to thank me. "I also think it's because of my age. They know I don't have a network backing me up or a studio or a movie franchise. So in a way, I was an easy target." But "the woman thing is first and foremost."

Other male entertainers, she notes, have said or done similarly shocking things since Trump took office. But "[Trump's] too much of a pussy to go after Snoop Dogg, or Johnny Depp, or Morrissey."

The rapper's "Make America Crip Again" album cover depicted Trump's corpse wearing a toe tag. Morrissey claimed he would kill Trump "for the safety of humanity," and actor Johnny Depp also publicly pondered the idea of assassination. A recent (and very NSFW) music video by Marilyn Manson reveals a decapitated man in a suit who looks an awful lot like the president.

None of those artists have received a fraction of the blowback Griffin's endured, she says.

"I've known this guy off and on for 20 years [and] ultimately, he's a bully," Griffin says of the president — a bully who especially delights in targeting women.

Many who've closely followed the president's career say he has a vindictive personality. But Trump — who remains engulfed in over a dozen allegations of sexual misconduct — seems to be especially vicious to the women who've fallen into his crosshairs.

Often, he resorts to gendered attacks to belittle them.

"She doesn't have the looks," he said of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign. "She doesn't have the stamina."

"If you take a look at her, she's a slob," he once jabbed at Rosie O'Donnell before mocking her "fat, ugly face."

"You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes," he taunted then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly. "Blood coming out of her wherever."

Griffin — with her hair now trimmed especially short and dyed fiery red (she buzzed it off in solidarity with her sister, who died of cancer last September) — won't be intimidated.

She's thrived off combative comedy for decades, and dismisses any notion that "the idiot [she'd] run into" at various TV events commands any sort of newfound respect since the 2016 election. "I really know this fool," she teases, promising me her new tour is filled with fresh Trump anecdotes.

Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images.

Is she divisive? Of course. But love her or hate her, Griffin's ferocious spirit is an admirable one.

Her crude humor and celebrity takedowns have gotten her banned from various talk shows and red carpets throughout the years. She told Jesus to "suck it," at the 2007 Emmys after winning an award for her reality series, "My Life on the D-List."

"This award is my God now!" she bellowed into the mic on stage, sending shockwaves through American living rooms.

The 57-year-old doesn't play nice. Throughout our call, I laugh at her belligerent yet charming assertions — never quite sure if she was laughing at or with me. (I think it was the latter?) But she believes women need to stand up for themselves and be true to who they are, and that now — more than ever — is a particularly bad time to simmer down just to keep the peace.

"It's shirts and skins, my friend, you've got to pick a team," she tells me emphatically. "You're either on the side of this administration or you're working against it, but you can't be on the sidelines this time. Not with this nut job."

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Woman shares breakup letter to foot before amputation.

It's amazing how even the most harrowing of decisions can be transformed with a good sense of humor.

After suffering an ankle injury during a horseback riding accident at age 13, Jo Beckwith had exhausted all other options to escape from the lingering pain from the fracture, leaving her with no better choice than to amputate.

She could have buckled under the weight of such life-altering news (no one would blame her). Instead, Jo threw a farewell party the day before her surgery. Some of her friends showed up to write a goodbye letter, fun and lighthearted messages scribbled directly onto the ankle.

@footlessjo

The messages that came into #amputation with me! #funny #therapeutic #disability #amputee #fypシ


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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."