Zara Barrie is the cool older sister you wish you had — the one that lets you borrow her designer dresses and ripped up fishnets, buys you champagne (she loves you too much to let you drink beer), and colors your lips with bright pink lipstick. She’ll take you to the coolest parties and will stick by your side as she guides you through glitter, pain, danger, laughter, and what it means to be a f*cked up girl in this f*cked up world (both of which are beautiful despite the darkness).
As we have done many, many times before, Zara and I grab a table at Fig & Olive in the meatpacking district. Instead of our classic barstool spots, we are seated in the back in an intimate booth, ‘cause shit is about to get real. Instead of gossiping and diligently dissecting the options on Rent The Runway, the pros and cons of liquid lipsticks, and our undying love for Cat Marnell, I’m interviewing my best friend, creative partner, and co-worker about her upcoming debut book, “Girl Stop Passing Out In Your Makeup.” It’s being published by Post Hill Press and coming out this May 19th. “Girl Stop Passing Out In Your Makeup” is a book for the girls like Zara who are too much of a beautiful contradiction to be contained.
We deliberate between a bottle of champers, Sauv Blanc, or tequila sodas. This is done with the same seriousness as splitting the atom.
“Do you have Tequila Espolon?” I sweetly ask the waiter. The answer is always no — and we always forget — so we settle on two glasses of champers, to celebrate this huge moment.
Zara is wearing a suede royal blue hat — bought in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico — paired with a baby doll blue floral dress, heeled Dr. Martens, and a faux fur blue coat that resembles a sexy cloud. She sports mini daisies in her hair and long streaks of eyeliner on her lids, and a tan Prada bag (chewed by her beloved mini Aussie, Luka) sits next to her in our booth. As always, she looks iconic.
Only breaking to sip her Moët or delicately fork (the British way, of course) our shared zucchini crostini (she curates the appetizer, I, the entree), Zara dreamily but succinctly reveals the inspiration behind her book. “Girl, Stop Passing Out In Your Makeup” was born on a plane (someone call the chic police!). “I was so bored on a flight when I remembered I had a copy of ‘Girl, Wash Your Face’ by Rachel Hollis in my carry on luggage in the overhead compartment. I hadn’t read it, because I thought it was about skincare — which I do love, don’t get me wrong. So I disrupted the whole row, grabbed it out of my bag, and read the whole book, and really liked it. I was delighted to find out it wasn’t at all about makeup or skincare. When Rachel Hollis says ‘Girl, Wash Your Face’ she’s really saying, ‘Girl, take control of your life.’”
“I could see why ‘Girl, Wash Your Face’ resonated with millions upon millions of women, and then I thought to myself, ‘I wish there was a book like this for girls that I know, people like me and my friends.’ Because, while the book is so great, I feel like our audiences are really different. I wanted a book like this for single, millennial, girls who have made mistakes, who have done drugs and slept around. Girls that I know. Girls like me and my friends. I feel like we are so left out of the self-help space.” Zara tells GO.
The concept of helping “crazy” girls take control of their lives is nothing new to Barrie, from starting her early writing career blogging about her high school angst on Live Journal; to being Elite Daily’s senior sex and dating writer, penning dozens of viral essays; to Executive Editor of GO; to esteemed Senior Writer at GO. But what sets Zara apart from other self-help gurus is her audience.
Known as the “lesbian big sister” of the internet, Zara is the epitome of the girl she wants to speak to. Since she has been speaking to her “kittens” (the name she’s affectionately given to her loyal readership) for years, garnering over 138 thousand followers and 25 million reads, Zara was more than prepared to inject her writing chops into the book world.
“Oh, my god, writing on the internet has totally prepared me for writing this book. I get so many messages from girls every day telling me how they feel, what their issues are — telling me what they’re going through. If I didn’t have that, I wouldn’t be inspired to write this book. I wouldn’t be qualified to write this book. I don’t have a degree in psychology. I don’t have any sort of licensing. I’m not trying to be a therapist, but I am an expert at being a big sister to these girls on the internet,” Zara says, passion emanating from her mascaraed Bambi eyes. “I’m not your therapist, but we’re in the waiting room together holding hands, and we’re gonna look at this shit together and we’re gonna cry together.”
Zara totally forced me to go to therapy not too long ago. I owe my Prozac-tinted glasses to Zara’s big sisterly support and advice when I was in the throes of my own party girl breakdown, so I can personally attest to her witty, gritty, and real wisdom.
She continues. “Let’s look at that f*cked up gorgeous scar together. I want my reader to feel like I’m with them during tough times. When I’m in a scary space or I’m doing something that makes me nervous, I like to imagine there’s this big sister who isn’t an authority figure but almost like a guardian angel who gets it, who is rooting for me. I want to be that person to my readers. I want you to close your eyes when something scary is happening, imagine I’m here with you, and my eyeliner is running too. I’m exhausted too. But it’s going to be okay. We’re going to go home together, we’re going to have a slumber party, and we’re going to talk about what’s hurting you.” Finishing her pretty pink bubbles, she curls her Lana Del Rey-lips into a smile. She’s wearing the lipstick “Board Meeting” by Huda Beauty.
It’s time for a second drink. “Do you have Espolon?” Zara sweetly asks the waiter. The answer is still no. We settle for two Patróns and sodas with “lots and lots, like LOTS, of lemons!”
“What I got out of ‘Girl, Wash Your Face’ was girl, take control of your life. Where the message in ‘Girl, Stop Passing Out In Your Makeup’ is more, ‘Let’s take that makeup off, and let’s look at the truth. Let’s look at the scars that we cover up all the time,’” she muses, “My book has nothing to do with makeup; I sleep in my makeup all the time. It is a metaphor for being unafraid to look at the bare reality of our lives, being unafraid to look at our scars and examine them, and also let the wounds sit and breathe for a second without having to conceal them.”
Because I know Zara as well as we both know every word of the “Jagged Little Pill” soundtrack, I know that she curates images on her Pinterest account for every one of her creative endeavors. If you look over her Samsung phone adorned with a rainbow unicorn sticker, you’d see her almond-shaped baby blue acrylic nails furiously swiping through albums like “AN ODE TO PARTY GIRLS,” “MERMAID BITCHES,” “SAD GIRLS,” “THE DIRTY BEAUTIES,” “NUCLEAR F*CKING WINTER,” and “PURPLE BLUES.” Scrolling through these images is like traipsing through a Tumblr blog that came to life on museum walls. I get ASMR just thinking about it. “It’s really important to know who you’re talking to, and even if you choose a really specific image or a really specific person, it’s still going to reach people who don’t look like that. There’s just a certain intimacy you get in your writing when you imagine who you are speaking to specifically.”
It’s this creative practice that led to Zara’s book cover. “I found an image of this girl who was taking a mirror selfie, and she had this sort of pretty, prim, red dress on, but then she had paired it with these grungy Dr. Marten boots. It wasn’t the kind of mirror selfie you would post on Instagram; it’s more of a picture you take to document your life. Have you ever done that? So I imagine this girl is in the bathroom, taking a moment. She’s thinking, ‘I don’t know if I should go home, or maybe if I should take an Adderall or a caffeine pill. I don’t know if I should fight my body’s natural rhythms and just stay out or do what I really want to do and go home.’ I feel like my job in the book is to get that girl as she’s making that decision. I want to walk in the bathroom and say, ‘Go home. If you’re tired, you’re tired for a reason. Listen to your body. Listen to your gut.’”
“I’m gonna remind you of this the next time you force me to stay out,” I tease Zara.
So the photo inspired her, but little did Zara know she would subconsciously create that same exact moment to lead to her unexpected book cover.
“I was off to meet my friends at the gay bar, and I went into the bathroom,” she says. “I was a little bit buzzed, so I mimicked the pose and took a selfie. And my selfie became the actual book cover.”
My shirt strap accidentally ricochets off and my breast almost bounces into our shared plate of salmon.
Z: “This is exactly what the book is about.”
D: “Girl, stop taking your tits out at Fig & Olive.”
“What I hope translates from my internet writing into my book is the realness. So many of my readers have followed me through so many hardships. And we do have this personal relationship; a lot of them watched me get engaged on Facebook Live, they’ve seen me go through heartbreak. They do truly know me. If you’re willing to get intimate on the internet, it’s such a beautiful start. And when writing a book, you can go deeper, because you have more pages and you can stay on the same subject; you don’t have to think about clicks. I found the process of writing a book to be so enjoyable. I loved it. So many people told me writing a book is torture. ‘You’re going to hate it. You’re going to love having written it but hate the actual writing.’ That wasn’t my experience. And it’s just the way my personality works. If it wasn’t fun — granted there were hard moments in the writing process and I had to confront a lot of scary shit — but if I didn’t love doing it, I just wouldn’t do it.”
Zara impressively wrote her entire first draft of the book in five weeks due to her sprint-paced writing. She told me about how years of online writing meant years of practice.
“I’ve written multiple essays a week (sometimes a day) for over five years, so I’m used to banging it out and not having the luxury to overthink things. There’s no room for self-doubt when you’re writing on the internet, professionally. Even if you’re having a bad day, even if you’re not experiencing the creative magic of fairies, you just have to produce it. It gives you this great work ethic.” Zara says. “I made [the book] my world. I did not really see friends much. I would get up at five o’clock in the morning, write with a clear head for about three hours, maybe go for a walk, maybe go over to The Wing and write there, write for another four to five hours, take a little breather, then I would just read the chapter again and make edits. I’m extreme. I stayed immersed in the world. There was not a lot of balance.”
Lana Del Rey is the foundation of Zara and I’s intense sisterhood and serves as Z’s muse. “Girl, Stop Passing Out In Your Makeup” is dedicated to “girls that live on Long Island and listen to Lana Del Rey, because Dayna, you and I went to a Lana Del Rey concert on Jones Beach, and while I was there, I was like, ‘This is my audience.’ It’s like these girls who live in the suburbs and have these huge inner worlds even though they live in small towns. And seeing all these girls there, just connecting with Lana and her poetry and her darkness and her deepness and her glamour — Lana is glamorous and girly, but she’s also deep and dark and brilliant — it was so affirming. I want to reach the girl who, like Lana (and her fans), is a wild juxtaposition. You can love fashion, you can love things that are pink and fluffy, but you can also love poetry and psychology.”
I asked Zara what inspires her about writing when there are so many ways to reach these young audiences now that media comes in so many forms.
“I love writing. And I have fun writing, even if when crying I’m crying when I’m writing! I’m a sicko; when I’m crying and connected to my emotions, I’m also really enjoying myself. It’s one of my favorite feelings.” She pauses and adds, “Whether it’s a funny moment or a sad moment when I’m really present and improvising as I write, it does feel spiritual. The words just flow out of me. I think when writers are in their zone and not over-analytical and enjoying themselves while writing, it really shines through to the reader, and the reader can feel it. It takes on an energy.”
Zara is a gifted writer. One second she’ll have you laughing over rich girls agonizing over which Birkin bag to buy, the next she’ll shatter your heart in one sentence about losing one’s innocence. Zara is the nuanced girl she writes for — light, irreverent, snarky, bitchy, and funny, but also aching, perceptive, deep, flawed, wise, poised, and honest — all at once. Perhaps the only thing that can match Zara’s unparalleled wit and big sister advice is her candid humor and undeniable talent for the written word. Zara is one of the most prolific and entertaining honest voices on the internet, and her talent is only multiplied in book form.
“Girl, Stop Passing Out In Your Makeup” is for the bad girls, honey.
Zara is offering something special for GO Readers! If you pre-order a copy of “Girl, Stop Passing Out In Your Makeup” before May 10th, she’ll send you free “Girl, Stop Passing Out In Your Makeup” stickers and a hand-written note! Just take a screenshot of your pre-order and send it to her via Instagram or Facebook.