Janet Mock Talks Hollywood, Style, and Self-Care

How do you discern healthy boundaries between the experiences you do and don’t share with the public and within your work? 

It’s always based on my own personal comfort level. One thing I don’t talk about as much as I used to is my romantic relationships. I won’t do that again. I won’t hide my love life, but I’m just not going to expound upon it. That’s one boundary I have, and it’s helpful to know that some things are for me and that not every part of me is open to public consumption. I will never be the type of person that goes on social media and does that courageous work of being super vulnerable on IG Live. That’s just not ever going to be how I process. I process differently and go through a long process of feeling what I need to feel, and then I end up writing. I have some writing that I throw myself into, and that writing may never see the light of day, but it may end up in a monologue for one of my characters. It may end up as a theme for a new novel or a new series. As Nora Ephron says, “Everything is copy,” in a sense, but not everything may be shared in an obvious way. I’m just not like that. 

How do you deal with the pressure of showing up for other people and strangers as a public figure? And how do you balance that pressure with showing up for yourself? 

Oh, wow, so when you asked that question, the first thing that came to mind, as it’s the most urgent, is what happened this past week [in August] in Los Angeles. Three trans women of color were attacked on Hollywood Boulevard. And you know, L.A. is now my new home. Just the same way I was talking about how I process emotions, that’s how I process headlines and news. I’m always thinking let me process this for myself. “Let me get the information. Let me take in the information, and determine how I can show up.” With this headline, it’s essential that I show up in some way. And so to show up for other people, first, I have to show up for myself and recognize what feelings are going on before I can create content to urge other people to care, to share, or to show up for these women. 

But in terms of my personal life, I only surround myself with people who don’t expect anything of me, except for me to be exactly where I am at that moment. So if, at that moment, that means that I am all of the things and doing way too much, they are there for that. And then also for moments where I have absolutely nothing to give, they’re there to help recharge me, knowing that it’s reciprocal and that I would do the same for them. 

I think we have to expect all that we give to other people in our relationships to be given back to us in that same relationship, or else those relationships don’t work. And specifically, when I went public and started crafting what family and community looked like for me, and knowing that just because I’m Black and trans and a woman doesn’t mean that every Black person, trans person, or woman is one of my people or worth being in my intimate space. And that intimate space needs to be protected, because if I don’t have a sacred space to go to and relationships that fill me up and give to me, then I cannot then give anything to my communities at large outside of my intimate space.

Self-care has become so diluted. Why is it more important than ever to redefine our relationship to it? And are there any new self-care things that you’ve adopted through the quarantine? 

This has been a transformative time and an illuminating time for people who are not of color or queer or trans, or all of those things. We’ve seen these videos, we’ve seen the footage before, we’ve seen uprisings. But for non-marginalized people, the uprisings feel different now because folks are not occupied with their everyday lives. So all the organizing that has happened over decades of work has been able to come into fruition, and people’s attention is there. So for me, at this time, one thing I’ve been clear about is that we have to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves and that we’re not sticking our necks out for movements that don’t stick their necks out for us. 

I also have found that communal care has been something newer for me during this time.  When I lead with vulnerability in my relationships, I find I take care of myself more, and then, I nurture that relationship because I create new bonds that enable us to both show up for each other. 

Another thing I learned in quarantine is that not everything I write or do has to be something. It doesn’t have to be sold, it doesn’t have to be a TV show, it doesn’t have to be pitched, it doesn’t have to be a book. It could just be something I write for myself and put away and maybe I’ll be inspired to come up with a character later on. But the pressure to be productive during this downtime, to me, is one thing that has helped. 

From your career to your quarantine hobbies, it’s clear you’ve had so many creative outlets, so where does that creative energy go next? 

This next chapter of my life is about standing on my own as a writer and director with my projects that are not me assisting other people’s visions. It’s about finding out what it means for me to essentially focus on my voice and my vision, for the kind of worlds I want to see for my people, and for the women that I care about.