Stacey Abrams seems to have mastered the art of unapologetic self-acceptance. In a new interview with Abrams for Bustle's Rule Breaker issue, the politician, lawyer, and author highlights how she not only meets voters where they’re at — she expects the same in return. Abrams believes that to get voters on board with her values, she needs to bring her campaign to them, since she's the one asking for their support. And she did just that in her 2018 gubernatorial run in Georgia.
According to Bustle, Abrams' former campaign manager, Lauren Groh-Wargo, noted that their campaign was the first to lead the state’s Pride march and hold a briefing for Black media. With these actions, Abrams brought her beliefs and stances to people in the spaces that they hold sacred, in order to seek their support.
In return, she's asked — in her actions and through her words — for people to meet her where she's at. When she entered Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial race, her advisors made numerous suggestions to make her more appealing to voters, including faking a boyfriend and losing weight. She told Bustle that she could have devoted the time she had spent on other things to marathon training. But she had other priorities, and besides, she didn’t want to compromise herself to align with a value she didn’t share — that her appearance was more important than who she was as a person.
Instead of being everything for everyone, Abrams was selective in which expectations she chose to meet. “If these are the 10 markers, which two am I willing to compromise so I can give people some space to accept me?” she told Bustle. She styled herself in a way that was comfortable and matched her personality while also meeting public expectations of how a leader should look.
Through her refusal to fabricate a political persona and her transparency about her finances, it's evident that Abrams embraces all of herself, even the parts that many might view as flaws. Besides refusing to concede the Georgia gubernatorial race for 10 days, alleging voter suppression, she also refused to let people debt-shame her. According to her tax returns, she had accrued more than $100,000 in student loan and credit card debt, and she owed more than $50,000 to the IRS. But rather than hiding her debts, she owned them. She discussed using the money that could have gone toward back taxes to instead meet her family’s financial needs, and outlined how she would pay her debt to the IRS. In May, she met her goal.
Her experience reflects the reality many Americans face, including the difficult financial decisions they need to make, no matter how hard they work — rather than the "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" myth that hard work will prevail over financial hardship, which politicians often spoon-feed voters.
It’s comforting to know that Abrams didn’t always have this fearless self-acceptance (one that allows her to hold space for not only her activism, but also write eight romance novels). She worked on it and seems to be at a point where everyone's lofty expectations don't interfere with her identity. “My sense of self is grounded in the fact that I work to make sure I know what I'm talking about,” she told Bustle, proving that embracing yourself is a process, not an end goal.