Drew Afualo Drags Misogyny And Talks About Her New Podcast - Exclusive Interview

Although Drew Afualo didn't plan to become "TikTok famous," that's what happened when she started posting her comedic and confrontational responses to bigoted content she found on the app. In her responses, Afualo has no problem laying into the misogynists she's criticizing, making fun of their views and often poking fun at their height, hairline, or other characteristics. While some may not agree with her approach, she has 7 million TikTok followers, proving that others love it.

Afualo has become a hero of sorts to many of her fans, who find her way of doling out justice on the app inspiring. In an exclusive interview with The List, Afualo said her mentions "are a cesspool" because her fans tag her in any offensive content that they see, with the hope she'll respond with one of her takedown videos. During her conversation with us, Afualo shared how she got to where she is today, how her fans keep her going, and how much she's been loving her new podcast, "The Comment Section."

How Drew started making TikTok videos

On TikTok, you're mostly known for responding to misogynists. How did that content take shape? Was that how you started, or did it just happen?

It honestly just happened. It wasn't a goal that I had set initially, but I'm very grateful to be where I'm at now. I was telling funny stories about my own experiences with men, and then ... My very first video to go viral was a video where I was talking about very specific red flags in men. When that video took off, I got a whole barrage of hate from the men that felt very attacked by my video. That led into me responding to hate a lot.

Back in the day, that was when I was really small; I was pumping out the videos. I was posting ten a day because I was responding to all the hate comments and laughing at them and doing exactly what it is I do now, much more frequently in one day. Women, especially, [along with] many others gravitated towards me because they really enjoyed how I respond to hate, especially hate that's inherently bigoted. They really liked how I was responding to it and how I was "mean back." They really liked that kind of content.

When that ball started rolling, at the same time, I was posting videos about my boyfriend and how he treats me and how healthy and loving our relationship is. Those two things moving at the same time showed, especially women, that you can be as outspoken as I am about bigotry, about misogyny, in general, and still find a loving relationship with someone. A lot of times, misogynists like to make you believe that you're never going to find love if you do that. Unless you settle, you're never going to find it, which is not the case. I'm living proof. That's how it started, and that led to people tagging me and starting to send me videos. Now, here we are. The rest is rock and roll history.

How getting fired pushed her to where she is now

When you first were responding, was that very natural for you to have that attitude and be up front? Or did you have to make your... Were there any nerves about being that outspoken?

No, because then, I had no idea that it was going to turn into this, especially at the time. I'm an incredibly confrontational person, and I always have been. Especially with disrespect, I do not do that. Whether it's in-person or virtual, I don't take kindly to that. I started responding because I thought it was funny, and [it] turned out a lot of other people did too. It worked out. I didn't have to get used to it, really ... The only thing I had to curb was my obsession with wanting to respond to everything, because I was like, "Okay." It got to a point where I would sit there and wait for them to respond to me so I could say something back because that's my illness. It was definitely something that I naturally would've done anyway, and it worked out.

In the episode of your podcast with Brittany Broski, you guys talked about how you were both fired from your jobs. Looking back now, do you think that helped push you in any way to where you are now?

Absolutely, [but] not in the way that I thought it ever would. I talked about that with her. I talked about that with Spencewuah, too. We all joked, like, "Yeah, if you want to get TikTok famous, get fired." That's a joke, though, don't do that. That's a joke. Do as I say, not as I do. It definitely obviously to my presence on TikTok in general, but more than anything, it pushed me in the right direction. I thought for so long and for so many years that I was going to be in sports (journalism). 

I thought that was going to be my path, my journey. I thought that was my purpose, but like I've said before, this is my true purpose. This is truly what I was meant to do and be, career-wise. I could not be happier that this is where I ended up, as opposed to where I was prior to TikTok. I am so grateful that it happened to me. It didn't feel good in the moment, but I'm very grateful that it worked out the way it did.

Her response to people who call her a bully

When you respond to people, as you said, some people call it "outspoken" or you "being mean back." What's your reaction to — I'm sure there are lots of people who tell you, "Oh, don't stoop to their level."

My reaction is, "Why do you feel the need to ask me that?" That's my initial reaction, always, because "Why is it that you expect women to be respectful in the face of disrespect?" is what I always think because that's a patriarchal value. That's a puritanical belief that women should always be quiet and gracious and patient and ... What's the word? I keep thinking "shy," but that's not the word. They should always be okay with whatever men say to them. Regardless if it hurts your feelings, if it's disrespectful, if it's bigoted, you should always take the high road. I want to know why that's expected of me. Why is that?

I'm a reactionary person. I'm reacting to something that someone put out on an app for children, too, by the way. They put this video out on this app which, when you post on a public app like TikTok, you are inviting discourse. Whether or not it's positive or negative is not up to you. The fact that you put this out there publicly and don't like being ridiculed for it publicly, why is that? What exactly did you expect to happen? 

It's always like, "Oh, well, it was a joke." Okay. Well, all I did was make jokes, so what's the problem? What's the issue? It seems like you only have a problem when you are at the expense of the jokes, as opposed to the other way around. When men try to paint me as a "bully," the reality of the situation is that you, yourself, you're okay with being the bully, but you don't like being bullied, right?

Drew believes she uses her 'powers for good'

I've always said, too, I use my powers for good only. I've only ever gone after men who say the most vile things on that app, most of whom are older than me. The fact that so many of them are like, "Well, what if he's just a kid?" Okay, he's over the age of 18. He's old enough to go fight in a war, but he's not old enough to get a razz online? That makes no sense. "You put it out there then stand by it," is what I always say. If you put it out there and you put your whole chest into that thing, then stand by it, double down then, if that's the case. They always try to switch the narrative on me.

Especially, too, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that if I was white, if I was a man, if I was small, a skinny white woman, would you have this visceral of a reaction to me, or would you respect me more? Ask yourself that question. These are all questions you should be ... When men say that to me or even women — they've done that to me, too, but mostly men — when you ask me that question, why don't you ask yourself that question first? Why are you coming after me? 

It's all relative in the sense that the reality of the situation is you never thought anyone was going to say anything to you, let alone a woman and let alone a woman of color. You never thought that you were ever going to get absolutely razzed by me. You never thought that was going to happen. Your freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences.

How she decides what videos to respond to

At this point, you mentioned your followers will tag you anytime they see an awful video or anything. How do you go about sorting through, because I'm sure at this point you just have so many mentions every day. How do you not spend your entire life just responding to them?

Yeah, my mentions are a cesspool. It is truly a garbage dump in there. I go through it. At this point, I basically prioritize men that I feel like need it more. I'm like, "This one's low-hanging fruit. He doesn't really need my attention. This one isn't, so I'm going to pick this one." It really depends. Now, I'm a lot more selective on who I pick mostly because a lot of them, I said this the other day in a TikTok video, the jokes are the same. They're cyclical, they truly recycle the same thing over and over again. It's a different face saying it. At this point, I don't stitch ones that I feel like I've talked about a million times already. If I do, it's because I thought of a funny joke. I'm like, "Okay, I'm going to say, I already tackled this dude or this joke, but I'm going to say this because I have a funny joke in my head."

Sometimes, I pick them because I have something really funny to say, and then other times I prioritize them because they're that awful that they need to be moved to the front of the line. It really depends, but I'm definitely a lot more selective now, that's for sure.

Is it discouraging seeing how many people are saying stuff like that on a regular basis?

Absolutely. When people, like we talked about, when they try to criticize me and how I choose to handle bigotry, they have no idea. I've been exposed to the darkest corners of TikTok. It's truly vile. Some stuff I will never talk about because it's too triggering. There will be other people affected by it that didn't do anything, so I willingly choose to not stitch those ones, but it gets very disheartening seeing how much of it is out there and also how freely and boldly they just say it with no fear of consequence or repercussion whatsoever. It's honestly terrifying and really sad, to be real. 

My platform is a place where people can feel empowered and feel strong and feel confident. There are some things I'll never put on my platform because it's too dark and awful. It does get disheartening all the time, but I always come back to the people who love me and write me the most incredible messages about how much my content has helped them and it helps me keep moving forward.

What keeps her moving forward

What would you say is the biggest motivation for you at this point to keep going?

All the people that truly love me and my content. I literally went to lunch the other day with my boyfriend and my mom and sister and someone came up to me and she was telling me that she really loved my videos. I was like, "Oh, thank you." She literally told me to my face, she told me, "I broke up with my boyfriend because of you." I was like, "Oh, damn. Well, congrats, I hope." She got emotional, but she was telling me that he was really abusive and toxic towards her. Watching my content gave her the courage and the strength to leave him. I was like, "Do you want to make me cry in the Yard House? That's not fair." It moved me.

People send me messages like that every single day. I get thousands of messages like that every single day and they inspire me. They pick me up when I feel like I don't want to do it anymore, because it does happen where I'm like, "This is exhausting." I feel like I'm constantly shoveling water out of a boat with a million holes in it, but people like that move me and inspire me and make me emotional, to be honest. It's really wonderful seeing how my content has made such an impact on people. I hope that it keeps growing like that because it's truly like an honor and a privilege that I have now because of this platform.

How Drew's adapted to hosting her podcast

You're also making a podcast. What has it been like switching to that longer form? TikTok is very short videos. What is it like coming into 45 minutes or whatever of a podcast?

Honestly, it's been a very natural progression, which I'm happy about. I absolutely adore filming my show. I love filming my show. The crew that I have is incredible. The guests I've had so far and are to come have all been so amazing. It's been very fun and very easy. It was a little bit of a learning curve in the beginning, because the funny part about filming that show is that you're making a bunch of jokes, but no one's allowed to laugh because it's recording. It feels like the jokes aren't hitting when you're saying them, but they are.

I had to adjust to that a little bit and my guests noticed that, too. They're like, "Oh, man, is this thing on?" when you make jokes. That was probably the only little learning curve, but I could talk for 45 minutes [about] a sandwich, to be honest. I truly could make conversation for four people. No one's talking, but me. I'm grateful that someone gave me a bigger stage to be able to spread my nonsense, honestly. I love making jokes. I love talking forever. The fact that they're super supportive of me doing that on a show is just incredible. So it's been amazing. I just signed into a season two, which is so exciting. So I'm just very grateful for the opportunity and so excited to film every time. Yeah, it's been really great.

How she chooses podcast guests and topics

Were there any topics when you started filming this that you were really excited to dive into more?

Yeah. You brought up my episode with Brittany; talking about the male-female gaze was something I was super excited to talk about, [and] with Sarah Schauer I talked about body neutrality. I've talked about ... astrology with Tefi, which was so fun. I pick the topics for all my guests and I'm very specific about how I pick them and also how I pick guests because I want them to feel like they can spread their wings and talk as much as they want to, because they all love to talk as much as I do. That's a great synergy that we have, but I love to pick topics that they are very well-versed in and so passionate about because then it flows so much easier.

I had an episode drop yesterday with Emily Uribe, [and] we talked about women in Hollywood.  Emily is so smart and well-versed, especially when it comes to women in film. It was such a great conversation and so funny. Every single person I've had on, it's been amazing. It's been so fun to talk about everything. All the topics in the world, we're open to all of them, honestly.

New episodes of "The Comment Section" podcast are available weekly on the "Past Your Bedtime" YouTube channel, as well as anywhere you get your podcasts.