Words: Laurel Melsom
At 11 years old I thought that my obsession with Kian Egan from Westlife wasn’t normal; that my need to know everything about this person and how much I loved the band’s cheesy ballads was just a part of my obsessive personality. You see back then, the internet wasn’t even a thing then, so I never knew there were other people out there who loved the band as much as I did. I thought I was odd as each week I would use my pocket-money to buy magazines (mizz, sugar, heat; what a throwback they are) from my local newsagent that had his face adorned all over them.
As I made my way through secondary school, this part of me was kept quiet in fear that I would be bullied by my peers for liking something so intensely. Only my parents and best friend knew that I would spend my evenings cutting out Kian’s picture from magazines and covering half of the bedroom I shared with my step sister with them. I felt that no one understood me & why I had this need to know everything about this band. It wasn’t until I got to my late teens when my obsessive crush (as my mum would call it then) switched to Zac Efron and the introduction of Twitter that my eyes were opened to other fans that were just like me.
I was instantly sucked in, joining Fan Forums dedicated solely to Zac where I would spend hours sitting in my room at uni reading fanfiction (which back in 2008/9 wasn’t a big thing and they were mostly awful). I finally felt like I had found my people and was so happy about it; however, it still felt like a dirty secret. I never revealed to anyone that I would be spending my time reading threads on Zac & Vanessa’s relationship, instead of working on my uni essay that was probably due the next morning.
Fast forward to early 2013, I had just gone through what I thought at the time was the worst breakup of my life. One Direction’s Gotta Be You was the song of the said relationship; for some reason that I can’t place my finger on it now. Think I blocked it out of my mind, to be honest. At the time music was the only thing that captured how I was feeling, I would spend hours reading the lyrics to Taylor Swift’s Red album. The songs ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ & ‘The Last Time’ became my breakup anthems. I won’t lie and say that some of the lyrics from WANEGBT did make it onto my Twitter page as a veiled dig to the ex-boyfriend & because of that I was starting to see more of fandom community on Twitter for not only Taylor Swift but the other boy band that has taken over the last ten years of my life One Direction. Due to my age (23 at the time), I felt I was completely out of their demographic and I shouldn’t be raving about 19/20-year-olds on my Twitter feed. So once again I was back to hiding from my friends how much I liked this boy band that was taking over the world. I would attend festivals and tailor my music choice to what my friends were listening to because I didn’t want to be uncool.
As the years went by, small aspects of my love for 1D would come through into my life. At my desk at work, I had a sticker of Harry Styles as well as a 1D mug for my coffee in the mornings. It wasn’t until they announced their break up, sorry I mean hiatus, that I realised how much of an impact they had on my life so far. If you asked me to pinpoint the turning point when I just thought I’m fed up hiding this part of, essentially, my personality; I wouldn’t be able to tell you exactly. However, I would be able to tell you that within the last four years (how convenient that this is since Harry’s self-titled album) I’ve not cared what others think of how much I am a fangirl of Harry Styles, The 1975, and One Direction. I could say that it’s down to seeing Harry embracing who he is, that’s helped me embrace who I am. I will say though that the last year has really brought this forward and ended up with me creating That Fangirl Life.
Being stuck inside during a pandemic is something I never thought I’d live through; however, as I type this we’re still in our third full lockdown here in The UK. With no gigs for me to go to (RIP Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan and so many more rescheduled gigs I had planned for 2020/21.) I was itching to find something to fill that hole being part of a fandom and going to live music gave me.
After stumbling upon Hannah Ewen’s book, Fangirls; I instantly knew that there was a plethora of girls, guys, people that all felt the same way I did towards certain artists. Hannah’s words just showed that the stigma that around fangirls still exists today in the same way it did when The Beatles were around. From reading about fans of Ariana Grande to Amy Winehouse, I realised there were so many others in the world that felt the same way I did during my teenage years. I knew I wanted to use my platform to show that fangirls are more than just that hysteria we are perceived to have; to show that all those times I’ve spent tweeting or on instagram sharing content has now transferred to skills that I use on a wider basis. Networking skills, copywriting content, researching various topics; that’s just myself and I know many of you reading this probably have developed other skills, such as using procreate for all that amazing fan art we see, understanding marketing on a higher level thanks to your favourite artists marketing campaigns, creating amazing fanfiction and so many more skills that you don’t even realise you’ve pulled from being a fangirl.
I felt this pull to be the voice that I felt I needed when I was a teenager; I knew the best way to start this would be through a podcast. I’d made connections online with various people from my years on 1D Stan Twitter & Instagram, who I knew would love to just chat about their love for the band. Even if that’s all that ever came from it in the beginning, at least we got to spend a few hours chatting about our favourite 5 boys and their amazing careers.
December 4th, after battling through all the how to even start a podcast articles online, That Fangirl Life dropped their first episode with Char Rollin. A whole hour chatting all about One Direction and how being a fan of the band made an impact on some of her educational choices during her last year of University; it’s what every Directoner dreams of really. The feedback I received online was amazing and gave me belief that this was something that was really needed for fans out there (especially her in the UK). Of course I then started to think of ways to make this bigger, more accessible & give even more fans the voice they needed. After many brainstorms, I knew a website would be the best way to take this venture; however I knew I couldn’t do this on my own if I wanted the vision I had in my head to come to life. When I say 1 DM on Instagram to Issy was all it took, I really mean it. Issy was on board with the idea straight away and even already had her own ideas to bring to the table for the website. We spent hours bouncing ideas back and forth; sending Harry Styles GIFs as well as planning for when we could actually meet in real life (this has only been once so far but hopefully that changes very soon)
From there the team has grown, Kelsey really taking my pinterest board and making it come to life through her design of this website. Lindsey, assisting with content ideas that you all see and as well as Tara coming on with only 2 weeks before we launched to help pull all the content you’re reading and make it look pretty.
Because I decided to embrace my fangirl openly and share that online; it opened up so many doors for others to know that they’re not alone within whatever fandom you are in. There’s someone out there just like you, who wants to spend their hours researching who their faves musical influences are, stay up till 4am reading fanfiction and make connections with others online because of this.
Ultimately I want you reading this to find some comfort and reassurance from us here at That Fangirl Life, that us fangirls are the future and you are not alone. I mean as One Direction say “If you ever feel alone, don’t.” because the team here at That Fangirl Life are here for you in every step of your fangirl journey.
Whatever you do in life, just don’t ever stop loving something so passionately just because someone tells you it’s not cool. If it makes you happy that’s all that matters.
You can listen to Laurel’s podcast episode with Issy talking about That Fangirl Life here.
Or take a listen to my fangirl journey through all the artists that have been my fangirl faves.
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