When you’re interviewing an international guest or someone very famous, there are always logistics to be organised.
But Roxane Gay’s requirements were different. I’d estimate there were more than a dozen exchanges back and forth between my producer and her people and the details of them both broke my heart and opened my eyes.
Roxane Gay is a college professor and the author of several books including her breakthrough best-seller from a few years ago called Bad Feminist where she writes a series of essays about the sometimes awkward collision between her proud identity as a feminist and someone who also loves Beyonce and porn and gangsta rap with lyrics that say terrible things about women.
Like all of us, she is imperfect in her beliefs and her book was such an important moment in feminism – a call for feminists to be more inclusive and less focused on debating who can and can’t call themselves one.
Listen to Roxane Gay talk to Mia Freedman about her new book Hunger:
Her new book though, is far more personal.
Hunger is a memoir about Roxane Gay’s body. And I would never normally breach the confidence of what goes on behind the scenes while organising an interview but in this case, it’s a fundamental part of her story and what her book is about.
You see, Roxane Gay is……I’m searching for the right word to use here. I don’t want to say fat so I’m going to use the official medical term: super morbidly obese.
It’s not just that she’s overweight though – Roxane is 6 foot 3. Or about 2m tall.
Her size is imposing and also a logistical nightmare for her. The requirements back and forth with her publishers who had brought her out to Australia to promote her books were extremely detailed.
How many steps were there from the curb to the door of the building? Were there any stairs? How many? How big was the lift and was there a goods lift? How many steps from the lift to the podcast studio? There was also a lot of talk about chairs - making sure we had one sturdy enough to both hold her weight and make sure she was comfortable.
Originally, this interview was going to be filmed in front of the office - we sometimes do this with No Filter guests who are loved and admired by the Mamamia team.
But Roxane said no. We couldn’t film her under any circumstances and she wouldn’t even have photos taken with anyone for private use.
That’s why there is no photo of Roxane and I that accompanies this podcast - the first time this has ever happened. She explains why in our interview and we talk about the difficulties involved in navigating the world at her size.
Her book, Hunger, is not a success story. As she writes, it’s not one of those happy tales that has her on the cover, thin, standing in one giant leg of her old fat pants.
It’s also not just a story about obesity. It’s an extraordinary look at what triggered her to very deliberately gain all the weight she has. It will break your heart. As I said, it broke mine.
Listen to the full interview with Roxane here:
The key to making any interview good is that your subject is comfortable and relaxed. I was anxious that Roxane would feel welcomed and accommodated without being fussed over - her imposing physical presence and her reputation for not tolerating fools meant that this was a two-fidget-spinner interview - one for her and one for me - and we both made great use of them during our conversation.
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay is published by Hachette Australia on 13 June. Available via Booktopia here.