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In Bed With

Lee Phillips

In Bed With is a semi-annual interview series with interesting women still figuring life out.

Photography Milan Wheaton
Poem + artwork by Lee Phillips

Who’s that girl?

Name Lee Phillips
Vocation Writer, Journalist, and Poet! Spot her in Office Magazine, ZitSticka, Hero Magazine, and many more.
Age 23
Location New York, NY

What brought you to NYC?

Aliveness, but more specifically writing. I loved the DC art scene, and going to an arts high-school was amazing, but DC is super small. I wanted to do cool things and meet cool people, which I guess is a pretty common reason people move here.

I have to ask… what has been your experience of living in the city during a global pandemic?

Well, it kind of takes the city out of the city. Watching how I relate to people mutate so drastically has been really unhinging. I love little interactions on the street, meeting girls at a bar, and all that spontaneity that makes New York so unique. Those kinds of interactions were worse than gone; they became scary. They were mutated into something potentially dangerous. I never had a close-knit friend group you see on social media, and I’m lucky to be super close with my roomies, but there are people that I miss. More than anything I miss not being afraid of other people. It’s perverted.

The pandemic has been isolating for so many, I think we can feel the collective grief of loss.

I have not even scratched the surface of what I am capable of. I may not write anything worth reading for another twenty years. And that’s ok. The only real thing I know is that I’m a writer.
Lee Phillips

Tell us about your poetry. When did you start writing and how did you decide to take the step to share your work?

I don’t consider myself a poet. I am a writer. I’m strongest in essays, screen writing and fiction. Poetry is inescapable for me because I can express myself quickly and be playful. But I don’t have this epic commitment to poetry or insane grasp over poetics that I think makes someone a poet. I wrote a short story when I was eight/nine about these monsters and it won a scholastic prize. I went to school for writing since the age of 15 and never stopped. I’ve always known what I wanted to do. It’s a blessing.

In terms of sharing work, I’m privileged to have gone to both high school and college for fiction writing. I’ve been lucky to have so many great classmates, professors and friends who have read and workshopped with me. Still, it wasn’t until I had like 25 articles published for Office Magazine back in 2018 that it dawned on me, “I’m a writer.” If I didn’t have school and adults telling me I could do it, it would have taken me a long time to be able to claim my craft and get used to sharing it.

What are your thoughts on being a writer in the days of Instagram? How do you balance creativity and process with the very real pressure to churn out content and also IMAGE?

OH MAN! I recently wrote some affirmations for writers. Social media is twisting everything up. Emily Dickinson didn’t publish any poems in her lifetime. Toni Morrison didn’t write her first book until she was 35. We have our whole life to make art, but social media tells us that art is content, and therefore must be produced as such. The mental exercise of being a writer in the Instagram age is to remind yourself that art is more than content. Art can change the world; art can be your LIFE’S work.

People (men) in the literary world have not taken me seriously because of my Instagram. People have messaged me saying that I’m not talented, people only follow me for my tits. LOL. Women have always been made to choose between sexy and smart. That’s changing. I pay rent by writing branded content and brands are more likely to work with me if I have good engagement, etc. The work there is about compartmentalizing my craft as a means to make money, while keeping my personal work separate, sacred, and safe from all the bullshit.

Also, my marketability is directly connected to my privilege as an able-bodied woman with proximity to racist beauty standards. Above all, I have a responsibility as a storyteller with visibility to move with integrity. There are people who have been purposely made invisible by social media, and keeping my privilege in mind as I move is far more important to me than feeling sad about some idiot’s internalized misogyny. As my career progresses, I want to continue to find ways to share my platform online, and work offline to change the society that makes Black, Brown, indigenous, sex workers, trans people and fat people, less visible to begin with.

I really love how your “Make it OK” poem surfaces the strangeness of being human and having bodies but also being so much more than that. What advice would you give to someone who feels at odds with their body right now?

That poem touches on how absurd being alive on earth is, and how painful it can be too. I have pretty bad scoliosis. The crooked feeling, the chronic pain, makes me feel like I’m at war with my body. As a gender fluid person with she/her pronouns, my overtly feminine body has given me dysmorphia that led to a pretty serious eating disorder. I wanted my breasts/hips to go away so that I could feel more me. I know what it feels like to be at war with your body and it’s awful.

My advice to myself has been: it doesn’t matter. My feelings about my body fluctuate from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs. Throughout that delusion my body is still here. My body remains. Trying to feel “good” about my body has never helped, because the opposite lurks around the corner. I try to get beyond the binary of good and bad thoughts and remember that “I am.” No matter how you feel about yourself, you are here. You are alive. Feel that aliveness. Your mind, thinking, isn’t going to cure problems that are caused by thought. For me at least, only being can triumph over thought. I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t matter what I think about my body because what I think will always change. So, I focus on how I feel.

What’s your approach to New Year resolutions? Are you the type to avoid putting down arbitrary goals or are you craving having something tangible to build toward in 2021?

I don’t think about things in terms of resolutions. Like so many others, I think NY resolutions are futile. I always have goals. Since I can remember, I have been the type to dream big. There’s so much on the horizon. Just earlier today my roommate, Erin, and I were sharing ideas we had for huge research projects that we probably won’t start for another ten years, and that would probably take years to complete. I know there are books inside of me. I have not even scratched the surface of what I am capable of. I may not write anything worth reading for another twenty years. And that’s ok. The only real thing I know is that I’m a writer.
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