“My mom threw me out of the house at seventeen for getting pregnant, then had me arrested when I tried to get my clothes…” pic.twitter.com/fK2hSEir3g
— Brandon Stanton (@humansofny) November 18, 2019
Hope has been hard to come by this year.
Between the pandemic, the natural disasters, the racial injustice, the devastating deaths, and the sh*t show that is our political system and upcoming election, it’s a miracle that we’re all still here—waking up every day and finding a way to keep moving forward.
And that doesn’t even take into account all the personal “stuff” we’re each struggling with.
Last Monday, at the start of what would become a pretty emotional and overwhelming week for me personally, I saw an image on Instagram that made me stop. Humans of New York had posted an update to a story they originally ran in November 2019—a story that had captivated so many people across the world that Brandon Stanton, who created the popular Instagram account, knew he had to do a follow-up.
Lucky for us, this follow up could not have come at a better time.
Stanton ultimately befriended the woman in the original image—Stephanie “Tanqueray”—and has spent the past week sharing the story of her life. A life full of hardship and trauma, relationship issues and out-of-the-box career choices, sadness and confidence, struggle and survival.
The 32-part series has both allowed me to escape from my own drama for a bit, while also helping me put it into perspective.
Stephanie’s life and her words, although they sound like the stuff Hollywood movies are made of, feel raw and unconventionally honest. That vulnerability has kept me glued to my phone, mildly stalking the account, impatiently waiting for the next installment.
What I’ve found in every single post is a sliver of hope; whether she’s discussing her contentious relationship with her mother, the men she has loved and lost, or the nights spent stripping in New York City, you never get the feeling that she has done anything but live her life to the absolute fullest, even when things were unimaginably hard.
I didn’t know how much I needed that message.
I know that I will be sad when her story series comes to an end. But I also know that I am more convinced than ever that our stories matter. Whether we share them with our friends and family, a stranger on the street with a camera, or millions of humans across the globe who are looking for connection, our stories deserve to be heard.
Because you never know—your story might be the one thing that gives someone hope.
Check out the first few installments of Stephanie’s story below and then head to Humans of New York’s Instagram page to keep following along:
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Many of you will remember this young lady. Tanqueray caused quite a stir a few months ago when she dropped some truth bombs on us, while wearing a hand-beaded faux mink coat that she made herself. What you don’t know is what happened afterward. Tanqueray—whose real name is Stephanie—sat for a series of twenty interviews with me, during which time I transcribed her entire life story. And whoa boy, what a story. Stephanie is a born performer, so we were initially going to make a podcast out of it. But unfortunate circumstances have required a change in plans. Stephanie’s health has taken a bad turn, and she’s in a really tough spot. So I’m going to tell her story right here, right now. It’s the most ambitious storytelling I’ve ever attempted on the blog. It will unfold over the course of 32 posts. But if there’s anyone who can hold an audience for an entire week—it’s Tanqueray. As her story is shared, we will be raising money to ensure that Stephanie can live the rest of her life in comfort and dignity. Stephanie has a lot of urgent needs, so her care will be expensive. But her story is priceless. If the series adds any value to your life over the next seven days, please consider making a contribution to our fundraiser through the link in bio. ‘Tattletales From Tanqueray’ will begin tomorrow.
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(1/32) “Tanqueray, Tanqueray, Tanqueray. When this photo was taken, ten thousand men in New York City knew that name. My signature meant something to them. They’d line up around the block whenever I was dancing in Times Square, just so I could sign the cover of their nudie magazine. I’d always write: ‘You were the best I ever had.’ Or some stupid shit like that. Something to make them smile for a second. Something to make them feel like they’d gotten to know me. Then they’d pay their twenty bucks, and go sit in the dark, and wait for the show to start. They’d roll that magazine up tight and think about their wives, or their work, or some of their other problems. And they’d wait for the lights to come up. Wait for Tanqueray to step out on stage and take it all away for eighteen minutes. Eighteen minutes. That’s how long you’ve got to hold ‘em. For eighteen minutes you’ve got to make them forget that they’re getting older. And that they aren’t where they want to be in life. And that it’s probably too late to do much about it. It’s only eighteen minutes. Not long at all. But there’s a way to make it seem like forever. I always danced to the blues. Cause it’s funky and you don’t have to move fast. You can really zero in on a guy. So that it seems like you’re dancing just for him. You look him right in the eyes. Smile at him. Wink. Put a finger in your mouth and lick it a little bit. Make sure you wear plenty of lip gloss so your lips are very, very shiny. If you’re doing it right, you can make him think: ‘Wow, she’s dancing just for me.’ You can make him think he’s doing something to your insides. You can make him fall in love. Then when the music stops, you step off the stage, and beat it back to the dressing room.”