Chelsea Handler tells us what she wants young women to know after the election
As the host and producer of her own talk show Chelsea, which premiered on Netflix in May, Chelsea Handler uses her platform to promote a variety of important causes to her viewers, many of whom are young women who look to her as a role model.
As one of these young women, I had the privilege of interviewing Handler on the set of Chelsea at Sony Pictures Studios.
Although her show frequently keeps me laughing out loud when it streams at 3 a.m. (apologies to my neighbors), Handler has tackled numerous deeply important, serious topics during Chelsea‘s freshman season.
Leading up to the November 8th election, Handler featured political experts on nearly every episode and partnered with Rock the Vote in an effort to get millennials excited about heading to the polls. She also champions important women's causes, such as Planned Parenthood, and has proven that she's the coolest aunt and mentor ever by bringing her 11-year-old niece, Charley, to the set as a co-host.
When I met with Handler a little more than a week after the election, I was eager to speak with her about how women can support and empower one another — both politically and in our personal lives.
Handler hit the ground running in her May 11th premiere and made it clear that the 2016 election would play a major role on her new show. She has been an extremely vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton since the Democratic primary, and Handler explained why Clinton’s candidacy was so important to her.
"For me, it's important not to support a woman simply for the sake of supporting a woman — but if there is a woman in the race who is overqualified for the job and she has devoted 30 years of her life to public service, then as a woman, that's what I'm required to do. It was because she's qualified and she's a woman," Handler says, adding that, "I wasn't voting against Donald Trump — I was voting for Hillary."
Handler is also open about her personal life on Chelsea, and she gets hilariously candid about why she’s totally content “saying no” to marriage and children. As someone who actively doesn’t want to get married or have a child, I’m frequently confronted with responses like “Seriously?” and “I’m sure you’ll change your mind” — so I’m particularly appreciative of these segments. They provide validation to my lifestyle choices, and I know I’m not alone.
When I asked Handler what prompted her to make the “You Can So No” PSAs part of her show, she explained that, although it wasn’t a planned or preconceived notion, she believes in being forthright and honest with her audience, and embracing the single life is just part of who she is.
"I love the idea of being independent. I grew up and I just saw my mom rely so much on my dad, and I thought, 'I don't ever want to rely on a man.' Ever. So I think I took it to the nth degree now, where I'm so independent. As far as fiduciary responsibilities go, no one's in charge of me and I like that," Handler says.
"I like to know that I'm not tethered to anyone and that I can do whatever I want, how I want, when I want. That I can go home and get in bed at 4 in the afternoon if I feel like it or spend the entire day Sunday in bed watching The Crown."
And, as Handler proves, a woman doesn’t need to be a mother in order to be an important role model to the girls and young women in her life. In addition to being an amazing mentor to her niece, the daughters of her best friend, Mary McCormack, are frequently on set.
Many of us saw Trump’s victory as a major blow to women, and it felt personal. Several hours after Clinton’s concession speech, Handler and Senator Barbara Boxer filmed the Chelsea post-election episode, and both women teared up as they expressed the personal impact the election results had on each of them. During the emotional episode, Handler expressed that it felt “so sexist,” but she wanted to spread the message to other women not to give up.
In addition to not giving up, Handler spoke to me about the importance of supporting women in our personal lives — even if they’re not necessarily our favorite people.
"Even if I come across women that I don't necessarily like or have that much in common with, I think it's more important to set the example of support rather than getting in your car and bitching about somebody, or turning to another girl and making fun of someone," she says. "Like, that's not cool anymore, you know? High school ends for a reason."
"It's so much cooler to embrace people and to empower other girls. Nobody wants to feel insecure, so it's good to try and steer anyone away from that feeling."
Handler points out that this is especially important right now — because women need to come together and support one another during this painful post-election period.
When I asked for some closing advice about how women can empower each other and be allies right now, Handler provided this powerful and important message:
"We need to find any small way to get involved. I can't emphasize enough the power of strength in numbers, and supporting each other even when we don't have that much in common. So I think we can use that as an opportunity to be a bigger person and to go high instead of low," she told me. "We want to honor the Obamas and we want to honor Hillary Clinton — so if you can't get past yourself, think of the people that you really want to honor."
After a painful week that left me and countless other women reeling, Handler’s words provided me with some much-needed hope, motivation, and encouragement. Despite the fact that she, too, is struggling to come to grips with what happened on November 8th, Handler has continued to use her voice to empower women — not just by showing up to work each day and fighting the good fight on camera, but by spending time with young women like me who look to her as a role model.