Kristen Johnston Is the Queen of Freaks
BY Diane Anderson-Minshall
March 09 2012 8:28 PM ET
Yeah. But certainly we’re seeing a bullying epidemic right now and these young LGBT teen suicides. It’s obviously still such a huge deal.
Absolutely. It’s still a prevalent, horrible issue. Absolutely. It kills me. Honestly, I could really, I could seriously cry right now and I’m not kidding about it. I just can’t stand that kids are giving up.
Yeah. It’s disheartening.
I just can’t stand it, because if only they could just make it three years and then they’d be like the king of Chelsea, you know what I mean? Or the queen of wherever. Kids don’t understand that the losers in high school become the winners later on, because you don’t want to peak in high school anyway. That’s the point. You want to peak when you’re in your 30s, 20s, whatever. And that’s what I see gay people doing. Once they embrace who they are and they’re accepted — and I feel kind of similar in a weird way. Maybe that’s unfair to say and I’ll get lots of hate mail for saying it, but I just ... just understand being tormented for something that I just can’t help.
When you were a kid, you were wearing orthopedic shoes, you were classified learning-disabled, and you’re six feet tall at 11.
Yeah, no, it wasn’t pretty.
And you were bullied because of that.
Yeah, that’s what I’m trying to say, that I relate to that kind of age and growing up and getting out of wherever I was and sort of blossoming and understanding, oh, my God, being different is great. As stupid as that is, and as sort of Oprah as it sounds, but it’s true.
It is. Being different is embraced, well, at least just come to New York, you’ll be fine.
[Laughs] Well, one of the more compelling scenes of the book is when you’re, I think, 9 years old and there’s a group of like four or five boys who corner you.
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
And one of the boys punches you right in the crotch.
How did that moment impact you?
Well I didn’t really realize it until I wrote the book. I had forgotten about it. I pushed it away and as I started thinking about that time in my life and writing about… and about watching my little brother being just eviscerated. There’s so much I don’t talk about because I’m trying to protect other people’s stories. But the bottom line is that, and I used to say this in the book and I took it out so as not to offend people who have been raped, but it was kind of a rape in a weird way. It certainly was a moment where my innocence gone. I realized then the cruelty of people.
You have a very lovely line, when you’re talking about one of your bullies, where you say that your self-esteem was utterly decimated by both of us.
Talk a little bit about that.
I have for years — and I think this is the addict’s way — the way I spoke to myself was mean. Like if I forgot my keys, I’d be like, Oh, you dumb cunt. You know what I mean? Like the way I spoke to myself was so much meaner than anything anyone could say to me. Oh, look at your fat ass, or whatever. And I started to realize that when I started to get sober, that my whole life I had spoken to myself like that. So that’s kind of what I’m talking about; people can say the meanest things but no one’s meaner than yourself.
It sounds like you felt a lot of shame and isolation both as a kid and as addict as an adult. Your attitude now is more like I don’t care who knows. Is that hard in Hollywood?
Yes. Well, it’s not hard, it’s just shocking to people. When I went on Letterman and spoke about I just sort of said I’m an addict and ... this one person has tweeted, “Watch the most honest celebrity in history make Letterman’s audience extremely uncomfortable.” And you know, the whole point was of course they weren’t uncomfortable. I was there, I’m an actress, I can feel an audience when they’re being uncomfortable. They were listening, you know, I wasn’t being funny for five seconds.
I was talking about something kind of serious and David was really interested. So you get backlash that way, but I don’t care now. I think honesty is admired and respected. I mean, I think when you try to hide who you are, that’s when it’s terrifying. Because then if people find out — you know, I lived in fear of people finding out or press finding out that I was an addict. And then of course, you just go on Letterman and say it, and it’s fine. It’s like, Oh, OK, so like 20 years of hiding and this is all I had to do. I think there was also a huge sense of shame of becoming yet another actress on pills. I mean, it’s embarrassing.
Even in Hollywood.
Yeah, it really is, but you know, as far as I can tell from certain meetings I go to, actors aren’t the only ones. Let’s just put it that way. There’s a lot of others. There’s a lot of people suffering out there and trying to fight this. We’re the ones that are in the public eye. And the fact that I wasn’t sort of “caught” is a miracle. I was highly functioning. Those are the worst kinds, as I say.
That’s what they say in AA.
But yes, it is weird, it’s very, very weird to be all of a sudden really honest.
You were a bit of a liar.
Because addicts always are.
Yeah, absolutely. Wow, harsh. I’m kidding. I’m kidding. Totally, I agree. I agree.