TTBF Q&A: 2019 Keynote author Akilah Hughes

You already know Akilah Hughes, a writer, comedian, and YouTuber residing in Brooklyn, NY, will be presenting her collection of humorous essays: Obviously: Stories from my Timeline as a keynote speaker at the 2019 Festival on October 12. You probably know she’s been a digital correspondent for MTV, Fusion, Comedy Central, Crooked Media, and more. We recently saw her on the HBO series special “Pod Save America,” and, obviously, we’re some of her devoted 150,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel, “It’s Akilah, Obviously!”

But! There’s so much more, and while we’re waiting desperately for October 12, we asked some fun questions to get to know Akilah Hughes better.

1. What is your go-to karaoke jam? 

I literally have a list on my phone that’s pretty extensive, but The Humpty Dance, Mr. Jones (The Counting Crows version), and You’re So Vain are always hits.

2. Fave meme of 2019? 

Anything from Spongebob OR “wrong answers only”

3. What’s your one best tip for a teen aspiring to get their voice out online? 

Don’t take the comments seriously. You wouldn’t trust the advice of angry yelling people on the street, so if people are mean or hateful (which they tend to be when there’s no consequence and endless anonymity), don’t let that reflect on your self worth. Tell the truth, be yourself, and have fun.

4. We noticed that you dedicated your book to your friend Oprah. What’s the best advice she’s ever given you? 

So, I’ve actually never met Oprah, but I think she’s everyone’s friend. And the biggest thing I learned from her show was to have compassion for people different from you and your lived experiences. 

5. What were the easiest and hardest essays to write and why? Did the writing process ever surprise you? 

The hardest essays to write were definitely about my relationship with my father. It’s incredibly real and vulnerable, and it’s scary to let people in that much. It’s always hard when you’re telling a hidden truth to the world. The easiest was the one about acne. It’s so visceral, but it’s something I’ve lived with every day for two decades, so all of my feelings about it were very on the surface. I think writing things that were heavy tended to feel like invasive, open-heart surgery. And when I’d sit down to write a chapter that I knew would make me sad, sometimes I didn’t realize that in effect I was just doing the work of therapy out loud. So yeah, alot of feelings, confusing ones, pop up when the work hits so close to home.

6. If you could choose three books to include on our official “Read Everything” book list for 2019, what would they be?

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo, More than Enough by Elaine Welteroth (I just absolutely adore her) and 1919 by Eve Ewing.