Humor writer Luvvie Ajayi has a serious side eye.
Over at AwesomelyLuvvie.com, Ajayi is known for her quick wit, fearless statements, and no-holds-barred op-eds. The Chicagoan and 13-year blog vet has been talking all things pop culture, politics, and everything else since MySpace was a thing, never shying away from the tough topics. Basically, from the very beginning, she’s judged somebody.
“I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual” is the blogger-turned-author’s first book, though, and just one week since its release, it hits that difficult sweet spot — the place that tests common sense with unrestricted humor.
As the book’s ratings climb the charts, her fans — both new and old — have painted the online world red with judgment in support. Even songstress Janelle Monae and famed TV producer Shonda Rhimes — who Ajayi calls her “Fairy Bae Mother” — has tweeted in support of the book. Orange is the New Black star Uzo Aduba has a copy, too. And it all started with a tweet.
“I have the exact moment and time that I came up with the book because I was tweeting,” Ajayi laughs.
After a writer plagiarized her work in 2014 claiming “he didn’t know he couldn’t do that,” Luvvie went on a Twitter rant.
She asked, “Did some of us get a limited-edition handbook that others didn’t get? You know the one that gives instructions on how not to suck?”
Did some of us get a limited edition handbook that others didn’t get? You know the one that gives instructions on how not to suck?
— Awesomely Luvvie (@Luvvie) August 4, 2014
Landing Her Book Deal
Then and there, she decided she’d create that manual and a year later, Ajayi had her book deal.
“I’m Judging You” is definitely comedic writing at its finest, but you’ve never really read humor like this. Ajayi, who was born in Nigeria, talks about what it was like to come to the U.S. as a nervous 9-year-old and the ignorant comments people make about Africa in “Zamunda Is Not a Country. Neither Is Africa.” She attacks victim blaming and supporting predators in “Rape Culture Is Real and It Sucks.” She hits on using religion to oppress groups of people and as a separation tactic in “#FixItJesus #BindItBuddha #AmendItAllah.” She discusses microaggressions as a form of racism and those who ignore their racial privilege in “The Privilege Principle.”
Nothing is off topic, nothing is left unsaid, and that is exactly how Ajayi wanted her book debut to be.
“Talking about harder topics is kind of what I’m known for,” Ajayi says. “One day I might be talking about complete shenanigans and the next day, talk about police brutality. And I think one of the great things about humor is that you can use it to take down people’s defense systems, and while they’re not paying attention and kind of relaxed, you can talk about what matters.”
The book has four main parts — life, culture, social media, and fame — but the culture section is by far the weightiest section. Ajayi says that decision was intentional.
“It’s basically the bulk of the book and my philosophy, in general, is that when you have platforms of elevation, you need to use them to do something of substance,” she says. “This is my way of doing that.
[pullquote]My philosophy, in general, is that when you have platforms of elevation, you need to use them to do something of substance.[/pullquote]
But Ajayi didn’t always believe that her elevation would come from her writing and held on to a full-time job for years, fighting her gift “tooth and nail” until she realized her voice was meant to be a platform.
“I finally stopped fighting, and that’s when really cool things started to happen,” she says. “Doors started opening and things started dropping in my lap. I realized I was supposed to be paying attention to that all along.”
Doors — like interviewing media mogul Oprah at the screening of OWNTV’s Greenleaf — definitely started to open.
“This is a moment that you’re going to remember for the rest of your life, so take it in a little bit,” she told herself during the interview. “It was amazing.”
Even with all of her recent successes, Ajayi says her book is her biggest accomplishment yet.
“I feel like I climbed a mountain, like how it someone feels when they run the iron man competition,” she says.
As people read Ajayi’s “ultimate climb,” she wants them to leave with more than just tears of laughter.
“I want people to walk away from this book understanding that no matter who they are or where they are, they can do something to make this world better than it is,” she says. “It doesn’t always have to be a grand gesture, but I think it matters that they actively try to find small ways in our lives to leave this place better than we found it.”