Quinta Brunson has a packed day ahead of her, which kind of sucks considering that she’s nursing a hangover after having a little too much fun at a Memorial Day party. There’s barely enough time to recover since the writer and actress is busy prepping for the release of her first book, a collection of essays titled
She Memes Well, about, well, her love affair with memes.
Brunson first entered the Meme Hall of Fame with
the viral success of her Instagram video series, “The Girl Who Has Never Been On A Nice Date.” The titular girl on a date is in awe of her date, who freely splurges on fairly budget items, like a large popcorn at the movie theatre. “A large?” she asks incredulously. “You got money! He got money!” Since then, Brunson’s been no stranger to the highs of internet fame. She parlayed her comedy chops into a 9-to-5 job as video talent at Buzzfeed, where she amassed legions of loyal fans with her sharp-witted sketches until 2018, when she moved onto the big leagues: Hollywood gigs, like HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show, and now her own ABC sitcom, Abbott Elementary.
It’s easy to see that Brunson’s life has shifted dramatically since she began writing
She Memes Well. “I would say the biggest challenge of all is keeping up with how much I was changing as a person throughout the time of writing this book,” she tells NYLON over Zoom. “I wanted to be very honest and very vulnerable in the book, so that meant trying to keep up with my ever-changing ideas and self and personality and life. Even when I first started the book, I was leaving my job at Buzzfeed. So then I became a freelancer, essentially. And then I was starting writing about being single, but then I got into a relationship, and then I got engaged.”
Life may constantly change, but for Brunson, the gold standard of a meme stays the same. The best memes are simply unexplainable in their magic. “It's almost like, if you try to describe the meaning to someone else, it sounds very dumb, very stupid, it makes no sense,” she says. “But when you see it and it's used in the proper context, it does what it's supposed to do. And to me, those are the best memes.”
It’s an “If you know, you know” type of beat when it comes to Brunson’s comedy, too. Real heads know she can
Milly Rock on any block, and soon enough, everyone else will, too. She Memes Well is out now. 1. What’s your astrological sign (and do you believe in it)?
I am a Sagittarius, but I'm directly on the cusp of Capricorn. I'm not a person who checks their horoscope day to day. If anything, I've just read about astrology. I've read a lot about my signs and, of course, the signs of whoever I'm dating. I know about it to that extent, just because I think there's a ton of truth to it. It's like, I don't even know if it's something to believe in. Astrology is kind of facts to me, but I just don't let it dictate my life.
2. Do you believe in ghosts, (and have you ever seen one)?
Never seen one. Do I believe in ghosts? I don't
not believe in ghosts. I think it's so feasible that spirits roam around. That makes a ton of sense to me. I don't know if I believe in the Hollywood depiction or Disney depiction of ghosts, or ghosts as we see them, as we believe them to be. I think it's just like spirits, pretty much. 3. What’s your go-to drink order? (And if it's boozy, what’s your go-to hangover cure?)
I've become a fan of tequila soda during the pandemic. My go-to drink used to be a vodka martini, which I still do love. I'll still have that every now and then, but tequila soda is just refreshing and it doesn't mess me up unless I really have a ton of them.
My hangover cure is greasy foods. This morning, I had to wake up and get myself some fried eggs. That's the key right there. After a rough night, fried eggs usually gets you back together.
4. Who would be the three headliners of the music festival of your dreams?
I would have loved to have seen Queen live, so Queen. For fun, Doja Cat. I think she's an excellent performer. I love Lady Gaga performances and I've never seen her live.
5. What's the weirdest snack that you make?
Not sure how weird it is, but do you know those Thomas English muffins? I'll eat one of those, morning, noon, or night with honey and butter on it. I'm not sure it's technically weird, but it's just the fact that I'll eat it at any time. I'll eat it at nine o'clock at night and that's very weird to people, but I like it.
6. What's a bad habit of yours that you've been meaning to fix?
I bite the insides of my cheeks. It doesn't hurt, but it's not a good habit. When I was younger, I used to bite my nails and then I stopped, and I didn't realize until years later that I had just moved the anxious activity somewhere else. And I do it so unknowingly. Before I know it, I've chewed the inside of my cheek so much. It's so terrible. That's something I'm trying to be conscious of. But then again, I'm like, whatever. There are worse things I could be doing.
7. What was the last internet rabbit hole you went down?
It was videos from the early 2000s. One of my friends bought a house, and instead of partying, we've just been going to his house and watching TV. We started just getting into a rabbit hole of music videos, like Ludacris, Destiny's Child, Missy Elliot, like the early 2000s era of music. It was so fun and it was a rabbit hole, really, because we just let YouTube take us wherever it wanted to go.
8. Describe your worst date in three words.
Boring, immature, and cheap. There’s a difference between cheap and being on a budget. There's fun to be had that isn't expensive, but cheap is a state of mind.
9. What was the last DM you received?
I received a DM from
a comedian named Jenny Yang. She asked me if I could do her show, but I can't because it's just a busy month. But people should watch her show. It's going to be a virtual Animal Crossing standup show. 10. If you could be in any music video, what would it be?
A Ludacris music video. His videos were so fun. They were so full of life and cartoonish and just really groundbreaking, silly stuff. He didn't get enough credit for his creativity during that era. It's hard going back into early music, it's not even just misogyny. It's a lot of f*cked sh*t that comes with watching older music videos. But I do think his creativity was on another level. I was like, “Man, it would have been cool to have been in that era of that kind of fun!” I do feel sometimes that things now aren't as fun, like music videos.
11. What was your first concert, and what are your memories of it?
My first concert was an Usher concert. My sister took me with her. I hung out with her a lot, even though we’re 13 years apart. It was his
8701 tour. It was a big deal. I was a big fan of Usher. I remember it was in Philly at a stadium that doesn't exist anymore. I think I was only 11. She must really love me, because who takes their 11 year old sister to an Usher concert? That's crazy to me when I think about it. Happy she did. 12. What was your favorite movie as a kid? 13. What was your teenage AIM screen name? What lyrics would make up your AIM away message today?
My AIM screen name was Qbertabe. It was based off of a video game character named Qbert. I don't know where the A-B-E came from. I think my dad just added that, because he made my screen name initially.
And I think that my away message would be something I always think about making my Twitter bio, which is a line from Flo Milli: "If you think I'm stealing swag, then bitch, come and sue me." I just love it. I don't know why, but I think about that. But it's a little bit too aggressive to be in my Twitter bio. I don't feel that way all the time. But I love that line.
14. What's your favorite meme/internet joke and why?
My favorite meme right now is this meme of Oprah. I don't know why, and I don't even know if it's really her, but she's at some backyard barbecue with a bunch of random men. And it's her holding up a can of beer to the guy next to her. I don't know the context of that meme. I don't know where it came from. I don't want to know. But I know I can use it whatever I need to, to explain, I'm just chilling right now. I'm having a good time. See you at the event. See you there. It's just like, I think the best memes are unexplainable.
15. What's your go-to breakup song?
I haven't broken up in a long time. I haven't had to think about that in a long time. If I was going to break up with someone, which I don't have any intentions on doing, I think Frank Ocean makes very good breakup music, and it's because it's not mean break up music. I think he talks a lot about the human experience. It didn't work out and here's how I feel about it.
When I was going through breakups last, it was Frank Ocean that I think made me feel good. I found “Self Control” to be very spiritual. It's beautiful. It's not harsh. He's so good with the human emotion of still loving someone, but not being with them, or it not being able to work out. It doesn't mean you don't care or love the person anymore.
16. What is your favorite red carpet look worn by someone else?
I still think about that green dress Zendaya wore to the Emmy Awards. She's good at red carpets and good at red carpet looks. She just has that length to pull stuff off, you know? I would love to one day meet someone who specializes on petite, curvy girls. If someone can make that their focus soon, that'd be great. But in the meantime, I'll just look at Zendaya.
17. What's one thing someone should buy that's under $10?
I was about to be like, "My book," but that's not under $10. You know what? There's this little thing that I got where it's a little clothing gun that helps you cuff things. So, say you have some pants that need to be cuffed or altered, like maybe the pants are too long. There's this basically little stapler that'll help you do a mini alteration for yourself, instead of having to take this thing and get it altered. It's called a tagging gun for clothing. It's what you usually use to put a tag on something, but it's been used for alterations. And I just feel like everyone should have it, because it actually is so helpful.
18. What piece of clothing from high school do you wish you kept?
All those old Limited Too shirts. I wish that I had them somewhere because they were so representative of a specific time, with their little phrases and stuff. I wish I had kept those just to look at them. But I think that my mom gave them all away, probably.
19. What reality show would you most like to appear on? The Circle. I think I would be really good. I do wish that I could go, and this is going to sound cocky, but I don't want to go on is someone that people may recognize from TV. I wish I could play that game as just a person that no one knew. I wish I didn't have to catfish. I would love to be myself, but I wouldn't want anybody else in The Circle to be like, "Oh, she's good at social media." I'd be like, "No, I'm actually really good at this. I can do this."
Naked and Afraid, but that’s like a pipe dream. You know? It's like, I don't really want to be on it, I really don't want to go through that. I just sometimes think I would do a good job on that show. Sometimes I'm like, man, those are the weird areas where I look for representation. I just really want to see a black woman on Naked and Afraid and I haven't seen it that often. There’s been one, but I want to see more. I just feel like they would kill it.