Amanda Gorman on Building Up Joy and Embodying Who You Are

I had the pleasure of recently interviewing one of the most dynamic figures of our time, Amanda Gorman, who is one of our five Power of Women honorees this year. I had two sit-downs with the 23-year-old poet-activist, and so much wound up on the cutting room floor that I felt was worth sharing.

First, some fun facts: Will she be the first woman president of the United States? “I hope not!” Is she developing any non-poetry projects? “I’ve been working on a few novels. I love thinking about things for the screen.” Songs on her playlist: Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls),” Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “My Shot” and Kendrick Lamar and Sza’s “All the Stars.” A favorite TV show of all time: “The Munsters.” Who would she like to play her on-screen? Marsai Martin.

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I asked what question she would ask if she were to interview Amanda Gorman. “I would ask her how she is taking care of herself, how she’s safeguarding her spirit and time,” says the poet, who has received nonstop requests for public appearances, speaking engagements, magazine covers and book signings ever since she read her phenomenal poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration.

For one, Gorman says she loves taking short hikes or long walks around her neighborhood, either alone or with friends. “There’s something about getting your blood flowing, being out in the sunlight. I’ll often do it with music playing in my headphones — that recenters me. I’ve gotten into taking Polaroid photos, though I’m not good at it, but it really forces me to stop and take note of the beauty of the world around me.”

How does she quiet her busy brain every night before bed? She sets her phone alarm to 8 p.m., at which time she stops sending emails and taking calls. “I then start singing my favorite song, ‘Mr. Blue Jay,’ dancing around the living room, then take a long bath or shower and go to bed. It’s just a really great way of building up my joy and keeping that with me into the night.”

What does it mean to be Amanda Gorman?

“All of a sudden my name has new meaning embedded into it,” she says. “I’m seeing so many young students saying, ‘I recited in class today, and I was like Amanda Gorman.’ Or I see Instagram posts of people in bright headbands saying, ‘I’m feeling like Amanda Gorman today.’ And if I were to try and say what it meant, it would mean trying to embody who you are in its entirety and shining while you do it.”

Gorman admits to being a perfectionist (she re-wrote that inaugural poem 22 times) and her own worst critic: “So what I’m learning is to be more gentle and more tender with myself and say, ‘You’re doing pretty well, kid.’”

Who could argue with that?

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