Caitlyn Jenner On The Importance Of Authenticity

“I am the ultimate double,” says Caitlyn Jenner. “Olympic decathlon champion, and Glamour’s Woman of the Year.” She says it with a smile, and retains a sense of humour about how her life “sure is interesting” — but also acknowledges that this peace and confidence comes after years of struggling with her identity.

In a fireside chat with Miles Young at Ogilvy’s London headquarters, Jenner talks authenticity, diversity, and being “the least social media savvy person in the most social media famous family in the world.” Not that she’s short on subscribers, having broken a world record when she went from zero Twitter followers to one million in four hours, following the publication of the now-famous Vanity Fair cover.

Jenner remembers twelve years ago when she was advised to sign up for Twitter. “I was like, what’s that?” Jenner recalls. While her daughters all took naturally to Twitter and Instagram, Caitlyn wasn’t concerned with social media — until the time came to finally tell her own story.

For years, the tabloids controlled the narrative surrounding Jenner. “When figuring out how to come out and live authentically, social media was a very big part of that,” she says. “Not only did I deserve respect, but this entire community deserved it.” Jenner and her team decided on very limited exposure in traditional media – the Diane Sawyer interview, and that was it. “I had to take this story out of the gutter,” says Jenner. It was crucial that her story be told with credibility; the involvement of Sawyer ensured this. “The trans community is so marginalised,” she says, “it’s really important how I put these things out, because it affects a lot of people.”

With the ascent of Jenner’s profile as an advocate of trans issues, Twitter has become her de facto communications tool. “I really don’t talk to the media that often; it’s all done through social,” she says. “It’s more controllable, and all the networks follow it.” The way she sees it, this approach is no longer anomalous among public figures, but actually the new norm; she cites the President of the United States as its best-known exponent.

But you won’t see any three a.m. tweets from Jenner’s account. Because she feels such a responsibility to the trans community, personal brand safety is her top priority. “I never post anything myself,” she says. “I approve everything that goes out, but it also goes through a large group of people.”

As might be expected from an interview with one of the most famous and influential LGBTQ figures of the 21st century, conversation naturally turns towards the on-going issues workplaces in all industries are facing when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Jenner’s stance on the matter is clear: “We need to celebrate diversity,” she says. “The human race is all about diversity!” It’s really that simple, she elaborates: “You want the people that work with you to do the best job they possibly can, and I believe you can only do that when you’re at peace with yourself. That’s when you really thrive.”

Jenner is speaking from personal experience. She describes the public speaking she did for years following her victory at the Montreal Games, during which she felt people were defining her solely by the 48 hours she spent in that stadium. “I would stand there with my little suit on, and I’d be wearing a bra and panties underneath, and nobody would know. I would stand up there and look out over the audience, and think: ‘you don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me.’”

When asked what advice she would give to a younger person going through what she went through, Jenner passionately states her belief that it is of the utmost importance to be true to who you are: “There’s nothing better than waking up in the morning and just being yourself. I couldn’t do that for many, many years. I would wonder if I’d ever get to tell my whole story. And now, finally, I can. It’s a blessing to be able to live your life without secrets.”

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