"I am not a victim. Please do not call me strong."
If you visit Rachael Finley's Instagram, you might think she has what could be considered a perfect life by 2022's standards and in some ways, you wouldn't be wrong. The statuesque blonde owns Steakworld, which is home to her successful clothing line Hot Lava and 11 other brands -- and is an OG internet celebrity as she got her start with her much-loved bad advice Tumblr. Now, she adds "writer" to her resume as she continues her tradition of being unflinchingly open and honest in her debut memoir, "Nobody Ever Told Me Anything."
Whether you've met Steak online, as she's affectionately called because of the Omaha steaks her family would gift her, or have had the fortune of meeting her in real life, you're immediately struck with this desire to lean in closer and soak up everything she has to say. With her doll-like features and eclectic style, everything about the Florida native exudes cool. While her social circle may have a few famous faces sprinkled here and there, it's the very fact that she shakes off fame's clingy grasp that adds to the It girl status that she would never claim herself.
At 36 years old, she's had more jobs than fingers as she toured a bit of the United States, managing and living with an all-male band. She was an MTV correspondent alongside Lizzo, has had her own show on Vice and was a fit model to pay the bills back in the day. In a day and age where people just "don't want to work hard anymore" and fame and success become concerningly separated from talent, there is no one who has come by it more honestly or worked harder than Steak.
In so many ways, the entrepreneur and mother of two has laid out a blueprint for so many young women, just by opening her inbox and being herself. Her 100,000 followers on Instagram routinely flood her DMs with relationship questions or will share personal tragedies, asking Rachael to make space for them.
That's why it's hard to believe she has never been allowed to take up space. It hurts to know that your role model didn't really grow up with any of her own.
Rachael Finley was left at home for an entire year at 11 years old. A self-made woman in almost every sense of the word, Rachael was forced to become an adult at an early age as he mother's bipolar disorder and her father's absence colored her childhood with instability. Learning how to forge her mother's signature to pay the bills when she couldn't or picking up the pieces after manic hallucinations, Rachael has been fighting to survive from the very beginning. It's as if Finley's shocking resilience comes from the tumultuous environment that raised her. The chaotic Florida swamp married with a childhood spent cleaning up others' messes has instilled in Steak an indomitable will to persevere.
Maybe it's her swamp-grown gumption, but Rachael is unafraid to wade in the muck. After all, she started her Tumblr while going through chemotherapy as an outlet. Despite the fact that Rachael has made her career opening up and exposing parts of herself to others, whether through a screen or through her designs, "Nobody Ever Told Me Anything," uncovers truths she's never shared. Steaks' first book dives deep into the gray, hidden areas of her life, offering the rule book she did not have for her own two daughters, revealing her own harrowing, yet relatable experiences as cautionary tales.
Having survived cancer, eating disorders and controlling relationships, Finley breaks the cycle by doing what we wish our parents had done for us -- be honest. For hundreds and thousands of people, Steak is the "cool mom" or older sister they never had, that she never did. "The results of self-navigating out of necessity, out of a response to a lack of true, pure, impactful guidance, can be devastating. If we don't tell our children anything, we leave it up to the world to tell them, mostly in the hard way, sometimes the easy way."
Hypebae sits down with Rachael to discuss her debut memoir, "Nobody Ever Told Me Anything." Continue scrolling for more.
You discuss your marriage to Blake Anderson and your shared and separate views on fame. As someone who has been on the internet for years, how do you navigate staying true to yourself, while doing your job and maintaining an online presence?
I think there are parts of me I love to share, even the messy things, but there are pieces that need to remain sacred to me because it’s just not personally safe for me to post all of it. I’ve tested what my audience can handle and what makes me feel good to have strangers know and that fluctuates time to time. I like to save pieces of me for the people who I eat with -- I like to give them my all. It's nothing against my followers, I just like the intimacy of a small group. It's not that I'm two different people in these spaces -- I just have a hard rule of not tasking people or places who have proven "unsafe" to hold you safely, if that makes sense.
In NETMA, you dive deep into your relationships with men as well as your female friendships throughout your journey. Can you talk about the importance of chosen family? Given your childhood experiences, do you think it's easier or more tempting to make a home out of others, especially when it comes to romantic relationships?
Making a home out of others is definitely something I have to fight hard against because it's in my nature. I think we also need to dismantle the fears of codependency. I think people throw that word around and demonize it without really understanding it. I like being with the people that I've chosen. I just also have to maintain the hypothetical home I've built for myself alone, not just the one I built with them in order to make it healthy. I'm learning that as I grown and age.
Oftentimes, people are made to feel guilty for having difficult relationships with their families, especially with their mothers. While you personally have more than enough reasons to have complicated feelings towards your family, how did you move through feelings of guilt and shame when you embarked on telling your story?
I remember the day I realized my mom was having a bad hair day. She was super irritated at the world and in a fit of rage about the way the traffic was moving and all the while she was mussing with her hair in the rearview mirror. I was in middle school when I was trying out a few new looks like white eyeliner and it wasn’t laying the way I saw it did in teen magazine and I became irritate much in the same way. It was in that moment I realized she wasn't a god or a perfect being. She was a person just like me and she could be affected by something small and stupid like her bad hair or smudged eyeliner. Seeing your family as flawed, scared humans helps you grapple with the things that have happened due to those fears or flaws.
Were you scared to become a mother because of your relationship with yours, as well as your family's history of mental illness?
Absolutely, and I don’t think I’m over that piece yet. On some days when my anxiety gets the best of me and teeters on paranoia. I get nervous and check in with my therapist and friends. I think there will always be that looming thought that I could slip into a situation my mom had, so I fight it by stabilizing myself in ways she couldn’t -- by having a support system in place and therapy, abs through sobriety, just so the chips aren’t stacked against me like they were for her.
Throughout your life, you've had to make yourself smaller in some way, shape or form. How have you learned to take up space throughout the years? Is Hot Lava an extension of your healing process?
Hot Lava is for my follower base -- they've spent a decade telling me what they like. I love to make clothes for them. It's an homage to this community, an art piece and a business. The pieces that reflect me are taking those aggressive themes and imagery and making them hot pink or lavender -- intentionally and loudly "feminine." I just didn't really have clothes like this when I wanted them. They're meant to take up space and are made to be worn in places where many "others" are told to make themselves smaller.