Janel Dyan

Women Crushing It Wednesday

#WCIW: Aidy Bryant

Fierce Self-Acceptance.  Accidental Activist. Unapologetic Grit.

Comedienne, actress, and SNL scene-stealer Aidy Bryant was born in Phoenix, Arizona on May 7, 1987 to Tom and Georganna Bryant. Bryant considers herself incredibly lucky to be raised in a supportive, feminist household. Her mother owned a popular clothing boutique called Frances, and her grandmother was a well-known painter. Both were avid feminists and taught Bryant to value and respect herself and other women from toddlerhood.

These feminine overtones in Aidy’s life would continue throughout her grade school years as she attended an all-girls Catholic school. The school held conservative, and, in Aidy’s view, often backward ideals and values (as anchor of her school's morning news, the dean accused her of being “flippant”, telling her “that flipness isn’t going to fly on TV” — little did they know), but despite that she excelled and was happy and popular. In a recent interview she remembered the experience fondly, saying, “I loved going there and it really solidified for me, like, Yeah, we’re all for one on this girl team.”

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It wasn’t until her early teenage years that she began to feel “different” because of her size, and while she was never really bullied for her weight, she began to feel the need to diet and deprive herself.

In an interview with The Cut, Bryant recalled that there came a moment in her life where enough was enough: “I was spending so much energy on something that really, no matter what I did, wasn’t changing. And I truly got to a breaking point. I was like, How much longer can I do this? Can I do this for the rest of my life?” So, as a teen, she made the mature decision to stop and to actively accept herself for who she was...no matter what size that may be. She remembers the moment that she stopped focusing on trying to be skinny as “a switch flipping.”

“I finally was like, ‘What if I put all of that energy into just trying to like myself and focus on the things I actually want to do as opposed to this thing that’s like a made-up concept?’ And I’m not kidding, my entire life changed after I did that. Within two years, I was hired by Second City; two years later I was hired by SNL. I stopped letting it be an all-day, everyday thing that defined everything that I did, [snapping her fingers]. And it worked.

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After high school, Bryant moved to Chicago to attend Columbia College. She had always been passionate about theatre and improv, and she knew that Chicago was the place to be to open doors to a career in comedy. She very quickly moved on to finding work at the Annoyance Theatre of Chicago and became a star in the notorious SNL stepping stone, The Second City improv group.

In 2012, she auditioned for the 38th season of Saturday Night Live. She got it. Aidy found nothing but support and friendship on the program and, despite the fast pace and long hours, has shown no signs of moving on anytime soon. Sharing an office with fellow castmate and best friend, Kate McKinnon, Bryant has written and co-written some of the best sketches to come out of SNL in years. Drawing on her feminist background, the stigma surrounding her weight, and McKinnon’s sexuality, McKinnon and Bryant write sketches together that are not just hysterical, but empowering and inspiring to others.

Aidy never intended to become a “body-positive activist”, but has admitted that it seems that just by being on SNL she has unintentionally become one. She understands that for many, seeing her on TV is a powerful thing. “It sounds so corny now, but representation does fucking matter. And I remember how as a child I was obsessed with Rosie O’Donnell even though that wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do, but I was like, ‘Oh my god, someone who’s a little bit like me on TV’.”

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Bryant has also found that, while she has not struggled with acceptance or had any issues with costumes on the SNL set, when it’s come to group shots of her with other SNL ladies for magazines, the difference in her weight has been a little too obvious. On shooting with fellow cast members Bryant has said, “It was just humiliating. The other girls had racks of clothes to choose from and were wearing these thousand-dollar dresses, and I had two sacks or like one matronly mother-of-the-bride dress. Those were the first times where I was like, ‘Something is different here and this isn’t fair’. This is a fucked-up situation, and it’s purely because of my body. Not because I’m less funny — it’s my body. It’s the only reason that I’m treated differently right now. And it lit a fucking fire in me.”

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While there are some designers who have embraced Bryant and her size, the comedienne continues to struggle to find “in-between, everyday clothes” and for years has been making her own. On Instagram she has become known for her strong, sassy, feminine style and she knows that there is a market out there full of women and girls just like her.

Recently, she has been working with SNL costume designer, Remy Pearce, to start expanding designs made for Bryant at size 18, to a range of sizes 12 through 24. Bryant never asked to be an activist, but now that it’s come upon her, she is determined to bring the amazing clothes that she has access to to the masses.

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For her fierce self-acceptance, her accidental activism, and her unapologetic grit, Aidy Bryant is this week’s #WCIW.

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