Oh, How We Love Thee

Roxane Gay stares at the camera.

We know V-day happened this past Sunday, but we do what we want. In honor of this Valentine’s Day, we are writing love notes to those we admire, respect and just think are general badasses.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Dearest Eleanor:

What an absolute bore your husband was, when we all know it was you who crafted so much of the policies made during his time in the White House. 

I have the deepest amount of respect for you. You went from being absolutely crushed by your husband’s affair in 1918 to becoming a renowned speaker and advocate for working Americans. You reinvented yourself, and you never looked back. 

When you put Sara in her place finally, I clapped out loud. How you tolerated her meddling, disrespect and dismissal all those years is a testament to your strength and perseverance. As a woman who is often seen as aloof or abrasive, I admire how you never let the criticism get to you. 

I’m sure you’ve heard the rumors about yourself and your dear friend, Lorena Hickok. No one but you two will know the truth, and quite frankly, no one should give a damn. I hope you found peace and love later on in life after Franklin passed away, and I hope you fully lived for yourself. 

You were a feminist, liberal and social change agent before the world knew how to categorize you. Thank you for setting such a strong example for all the women who came after you.

Sincerely,

One of your admirers

Leo Burnett

Leo Burnett, 

I have the passion for what I do because of you. You created some of your lifetime’s most iconic advertising campaigns and characters that have survived generations. You have built one of the global giants in advertising and did so with your integrity intact and always focused on giving back first. 

Let’s start with the apples…It’s midwestern hospitality at its best. They’re an immediate way to give back to those that contribute to and visit the agency, and whether intentional or not, it has become one of the staples of the brand that is [still] Leo Burnett. 

Speaking of the brand, how ‘bout those big pencils? Big ideas come from big pencils, and there is no shortage of big ideas coming out of the agency. But all of these are just aspects of the brand that you built. I think you would still be happy that your name is on the door. 

That name on the door is why I even know who you are. I must thank one of my fantastic advertising professors in college, Frank Blossom, for introducing me to it, but your Name Off the Door exit speech was a game changer in my career. 

My commitment to you, sir, is that I will never lose that restless feeling that nothing I ever do is quite good enough. And I will never forget the sheer fun and lift I get out of the work, because the creative climate is just as important as the money and is ultimately what makes me tick. 

Thank you for setting the example of what an agency should be. 

Affectionately, 

Your Forever Fan

Roxane Gay

Dear Roxane,

Several years ago, you spoke in a banquet room at Grand Valley State University, and when you did, you changed a little writer’s life forever. You’ve never met me, and you probably never will, but you’ve inspired me more than words may be able to say.

That same writer poured over your collection of short stories, Ayiti, the year it came out, back in 2011. They read “You Never Knew How the Waters Ran So Cruel So Deep” time and time again, aloud to friends and quietly to themselves, marveling in the simplistic complexity and raw emotions it drew out. They strove to create something even remotely as compelling, something that could shake their readers the same way you shake yours. They even attempted to study beneath you when you were at Eastern Illinois University, if only fate (and finances) had not gotten in the way.

Roxane, you are a big, beautiful, tattooed, feminist, bisexual, Haitain-American woman, rightfully taking up space and speaking out loudly in an industry established and run by everything you are not. When you took your place at Yale, it was a victory for everything you stand for. It was a reminder for the rest of us to speak up and fight for our own places in the world.

That little writer still puts words to paper, although not as frequently in their spare time as they had before. But your very name inspires them to pick up their trade again and push to create—not to perfect or inspire—but simply create. 

That act is, in and of itself, your legacy, Roxane. You continue to create, and in doing so, you inspire the rest of us to do the same.

Keep being a “bad feminist.” It’s working.

Thank you,

A creator, just like you

We want to read your love letters. Who has made a major impact on who you are? Was it an educator? Mentor? Author? Let us know.

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