Author and CNN journalist Marissa Miller sees a glass half-full

Her book Pretty Weird highlights all of her experiences

An eating disorder, a miscarriage, and mental health issues: Marissa Miller has persevered through all these, and more. Now she has collected all her negative experiences and used them to create something positive.

In her book  Pretty Weird, Marissa highlights all of her painful memories to let her readers know that they are never alone.

Marissa studied journalism at Concordia from 2010 to 2013. Since then, she has grown a large platform and hopes to use it to act as a beacon of hope for others who are going through tough times.

“I’ve always been very much an open book in the literal sense, and I use that to my advantage to make others feel less alone in their struggles,” Marissa said.

Knowing that she is helping people allows her to get past the difficulty of publicizing her experiences. “It becomes less ‘things that have humiliated me in the past,’ and more so ‘things that I can use to be a beacon for other people,” she explained.

One such experience was her struggle with impostor syndrome. But transforming her negative feelings into sentences helped her overcome them, while also comforting her readers. “It really robs the pain of its power,” she said. “It’s almost like using my mental health issues as a way to masquerade the fact that you can be broken and imperfect and also of service to others.”

She started her career as a freelance journalist, working for big outlets such as CNN Style, The New York Times, and NBC News. Now, she works full-time at CNN as a contributing editor writing mostly product recommendations and lifestyle advice. She is also a certified personal trainer and outlines all her work on her blog.

Sheldon Miller, Marissa’s father, admits that her determination and affinity for writing not only gave her confidence, but allowed her to always excel in her work. “I don’t know if she is always the most aggressive-type person…but when it comes to her career, she’s on top of everything.” 

Many people have reached out to Marissa since her book’s publication to tell her that she took the thoughts right out of their heads. “These are universal feelings that I’m putting on the page,” Marissa confirmed. She is very direct in discussing her rejections, fears, anxieties, and relationships in her book. “They might seem very crude and maybe a little bit too raw at times, but this is the human experience that we are all going through,” she asserted.

One of the biggest lessons that Marissa has learned from everything she’s gone through is that there is always something better out there. “That rings true for everything, not just your relationships,” Marissa explained.

“A lot of our depression and our anxiety will tell us that we are only deserving of what’s presented to us and what’s in front of us. But really one of the best things you can do for yourself is aspiring for more and aspiring for better because you deserve it,” she said.

On top of helping others, Marissa was also thinking of her younger self when writing her book, attempting to give herself the “older sister figure, best friend figure” that she never had as a child and teenager. Though her younger sister, Michelle, is one of the only people who knew about Marissa’s experiences.

“I’d say 90 per cent of it I knew about, either as it was happening or she would open up to me a few years later,” Michelle said. Marissa consulted her sister throughout the writing process to ask for her opinion on editorial choices. Michelle was the only person who knew about several moments mentioned in the book as the two sisters have always been extremely close. “We were so tight and open about everything,” Michelle added. “We’ll be on the phone [for] hours a day. Sometimes we’re not even talking on the phone. It’s just on, but we know that [the other person] is there,” Michelle continued.

Marissa’s parents were always very loving and attentive towards her, she mentions in Pretty Weird, but they were not as informed on her experiences as Michelle. “A lot of the stuff in the book, I didn’t really realize,” Sheldon said. “We knew as she got a bit older, there were some struggles and this and that…but until I read the book, I don’t think I realized it [to that extent],” he continued, adding that it was difficult to read about Marissa’s troubling moments. 

More than anything else, he wants Marissa to write the truth, which is what she did. This included some unfortunate stories about Sheldon’s sister, who was close with Marissa and passed away due to health issues related to long-term drug use. But Sheldon wanted Marissa to keep those stories in her book. “I knew she was writing an honest account of her experiences and thoughts,” he explained. “If Marissa was able to grab onto something in a good way or a bad way…for someone to maybe enjoy the book or learn from the book, that’s part of journalism,” he said.

While Marissa always has her family at home, she often chooses to work alone. She enjoys working on her own more than working with a team. “It makes me doubly proud to reflect on my accomplishments because I didn’t have to rely on anyone for them,” she affirmed. Marissa always took charge of group projects when she was in school, so being the only one in charge of her career “is a continuation of that.”

Much of her work as a journalist focuses on lifestyle advice and mental health. She says that she enjoys doing service journalism the most. “One of the only things that give me a sense of purpose is giving advice to other people,” Marissa explained.

In her career she has covered a wide variety of topics, such as finance and real estate when she was starting. As time went on, she gravitated toward lifestyle topics and product recommendations. “People need to know that the products they use in everyday life have more of an impact on their well-being than they think,” she asserted. Marissa is currently doing service journalism for CNN and loving every moment of it.

Pretty Weird, which is still available on Amazon, has been a huge success for Marissa. She hopes to write another book in the future. She is looking towards that, but doesn’t think that now is the right time. “I feel like I have so much I want to say. I need some breathing room,” she asserted. For now, she is very happy where she is. “I do hope to rise the ranks at CNN and stay there forever.”

Student Life

Optimism through comedy despite hardships

Ellen DeGeneres on self-love and acceptance at Montreal tour stop

TV talk show mogul and stand-up comedian Ellen DeGeneres shared her story with a crowd of thousands at the Bell Centre on March 1 as one of the pit stops on her talking tour: “A Conversation with Ellen DeGeneres.”

DeGeneres was greeted with a round of applause as she waved a custom “Ellen” Montreal Canadiens jersey to the crowd. After receiving a brief French lesson, DeGeneres began cracking jokes with the audience. “I’ve been here before,” said DeGeneres. “It’s a beautiful, beautiful city. It is very cold. Do you know you don’t have to be here? It’s not this cold everywhere. Have your parents lied to you?”

In the early 1980s, DeGeneres’s career in stand-up comedy took off. Her claim to fame came in 1986 as the first and only woman to ever be asked to sit next to Johnny Carson following her bit on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson. A decade later, despite a successful stand-up career and being the star of the Ellen sitcom show, DeGeneres felt like something was missing.

In 1997, DeGeneres made the choice to come out as gay in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, and again on her sitcom. “I hate lying and I never lie about anything,” said DeGeneres. “That’s one big lie and if anyone found out I was gay, I would lose everything.”

DeGeneres attributed her reasoning to a dream she once had about herself as a bird trapped in a cage. “The bird being me said ‘I don’t belong in here,’” said DeGeneres. “I woke up and said ‘I’m coming out.’” The bird realized it was small enough to fly between the bars and escape through an open window.

While DeGeneres was praised as a hero the day her coming out episode aired, the tables quickly turned and she was met with hate, including bomb threats and death threats. Ellen was soon cancelled and the comedian claimed her phone did not ring for three years following. “Well, it was unplugged,” said DeGeneres, jokingly.

Fast forward to over two decades later, DeGeneres is one of the most famous talk show hosts and philanthropists. She has won dozens of awards, hosted numerous award shows, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and has given over $97 million in prizes and donations to fans on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Yet, it is not only through her humour that DeGeneres manages to stay on top. Her longevity could be accredited to her uplifting view of the world around her. DeGeneres encourages everyone to be themselves and to love themselves despite their biggest insecurities. Her tale of struggle and recovery brought tears to the eyes of some in the room. It was not the sadness of the story that stood out, but instead the positivity that DeGeneres has always carried with her that had people of all ages gather to see her talk.

DeGeneres did not need to convey her message explicitly, the idea was clear: love will conquer all. Towards the end of the night, moderator Dave Kelly noted that many people hear their names only when they’ve done something wrong, so he asked the crowd to say DeGeneres’s name with love and respect.

“Ellen!” the crowd chanted. “I’ll do it too,” DeGeneres said in response. “Jean-Claude, Mélissa, Stuart… it’s taking too long. I’ll just say Montreal.” Addressed with love and respect, Montreal felt DeGeneres’s warmth as they left the venue to brace the cold that awaited them outside.

Feature photo by Jacob Carey

Exit mobile version