We’re reaching out to some popular creators to get their best tips and tricks for success and better understand the ups and downs of life as a trailblazer on the internet.
This week, we caught up with Shannon McNamara, aka FluentlyForward, via email. Shannon is a TikToker and podcaster known online for her popular content on blind items—anonymous rumors about unnamed celebrities. These rumors are nameless because otherwise, the people posting them could be sued for defamation. The items often contain riddles so that the reader can decode who the celebrity is.
McNamara has said she finds many blind items on Crazy Days and Nights, a blog rumored to be run by a well-connected entertainment lawyer. Some of the items that were posted on this blog later were revealed to be true, leading many to believe most of the items posted there to be accurate.
The interview below has been condensed and edited.
What’s the first thing you do to start your day online?
I start every day by opening the Apple podcast app and reading recent reviews for my FluentlyForward podcast. I know that psychologists and self-help books would all be screaming at me to not do that but I can’t help it! I love my blue-light-emitting morning routine.
What do you wish you knew when you were first starting out as a creator?
That getting big as a creator takes time. Sometimes all it takes is luck, but for myself and so many other creators, this is a field we’ve been working in for years without any success—until one day, suddenly there was success. There were many days when I would check Google Analytics or refresh my website for comments just to see nothing, and get super discouraged. But this is all par for the course! Trust that good content breeds engagement, and that if you don’t have engagement right now, that’s normal.
When did you realize you’d broken through and become a successful creator?
I think the success of my podcast was a wake-up moment for me in terms of success. My imposter syndrome is so astronomically high that when my podcast started doing well and performing high on the charts, I was convinced that some kind benefactor had paid for Russian bots to listen to my podcast. For weeks I was convinced these numbers weren’t real and someone paid for them. Then I confessed that thought in one of my episodes and the podcast reviews started to all end with “and Shannon, I’M NOT A BOT”. It was really sweet and helped me massively to tackle my self-doubt on the content.
If you hadn’t become a creator, what would you be doing right now?
Well, I still work a full-time job in marketing! It’s just that last year, I was taking periodic breaks to cry in the handicapped stall of the bathroom because I felt like I had nothing going on in my life that I cared about or was successful in. Now I work a full-time job, but thanks to creating, the bathroom cries don’t happen anymore haha.
What’s one thing you do to manage your relationship with your fans?
We recently started a subreddit (r/fluentlyforward) to talk about all podcast episodes and take feedback/suggestions! The main thing I love about creating is how it’s brought together a community of like-minded people, who are interested in celebrity gossip, pop culture theories, and looking beyond the magazine cover. Now we have a place online to all talk together, which I love. I like creeping in and seeing what listeners are talking about to each other so I have a good pulse on what content people are interested in.
What do you think of the idea of cancel culture?
Oh, there’s a spicy question. I find cancel culture really interesting—I kind of view it through a lens of supply and demand. I think that if we don’t like something a celebrity or influencer is doing, we should cancel the “demand” and just ignore their content until they fade away without an audience. But nowadays, I think cancel culture does the opposite—we promote a person heavily by talking about how toxic/problematic they are, and sadly, all that usually does is make someone bigger. So that’s interesting. I also think cancel culture jumps the gun a bit—it’s so easy to read things online with negative intent where there might not be any. But that being said, it’s been such a hard two years for us! We’re all disconnected from each other, online way too much, worried about health and safety, struggling to pay the bills…I just feel for us as a collective group right now. I think we interpret things with negative intent as a gut instinct because we all need a little healing after these past two years. Let’s hope we get it soon!
How much of your true self do you show online?
All of it, and way too much of it. I’ve tweeted about hemorrhoids more than a few times, and pictures of me after my nose job are not only what come up when you Google my name, but they’re something I turned into an e-book (tips on how to deswell after a nose job, haha). I love being open—it just feels right to me. That being said, apologies to my family and co-workers for the unhinged rants I put out online (and the hemorrhoid tweets).
What’s one of the best interactions you’ve ever had with someone who follows you?
Someone wrote that their whole family listens to the FluentlyForward podcast, and that their mom followed me on Instagram and bought them the deodorant that I said I was using. (Old Spice, by the way, I’m convinced that only men’s deodorant works at stopping sweating). That interaction just tickled me so much. We’re all wearing Fiji Blast deodorant out there but we’ve never met in person. I think it’s really sweet.
What is your most treasured tool?
Final Cut Pro has a special place in my heart.
What holds you accountable?
Having a podcast episode go out every Monday morning at 8am EST! I oddly enough love waking up at the crack of dawn on Monday mornings to put final editing touches together in the dark and then have an episode go live. I really like the concept of putting out something fun on a day that most of us dread!
Thank you, Shannon, for talking with us!
We’ll be featuring a new Q&A with a creator every week, so shoot an email to [email protected] for a chance to be included.