Emma Mercury is the Editor-in-Chief of The Messy Heads, a blog with a diverse range of content from monthly poetry slams to journal prompts. She uses her platform to shine light on important issues revolving around veganism, feminism and other topics. The Messy Heads is a place inclusive to all voices: the ideas and talents of many are consistently showcased. Along with the blog being available online, the magazine can also be purchased in print. In our interview with Emma, she shared her thoughts regarding activism, writing, and the inspiration behind The Messy Heads.
Q. As someone who is immensely passionate about social justice, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the corruption of our world. How are you able to find time to collect yourself and relax, and is there a particular way you do so?
A. Think globally but act locally. Yes, it’s so important to pay attention to what is going on all over the world, but bring that back home. Whenever I see something in the news or hear about how a group of people is being treated in a country that I don’t even live in, I acknowledge, ask questions, and just bring myself back to where I am at. Then I don’t get overwhelmed because the questions become much simpler. How can I help muslims in New York? How can I help the homeless in New York? How can I help Planned Parenthood? How can I help LGBTQ+ members in New York? How can I make changes in my life to help the environment here? I can’t chain myself to a tree in the Amazon but I can recycle, switch my power plan to wind powered (if you have ConEdison I highly suggest you switch to a green power plan!) attend Greenpeace meetings; and donate to the RIGHT organizations. I can’t house a refugee but I can go to Brown Paper Bag NY events and help organize and donate food, clothes, and my time.
As an activist, I am begging you to not shut down and feel like you can’t make a difference. You CAN. Think globally and act locally! And use your social media to empower others to do the same.
Q. While arguing with someone with an opinion that goes against yours, it can be hard to remain calm. How do you maintain yourself in those situations while standing up for your views?
I try not to ever argue. If you are coming at me with curiosity and respect I’m always open to listening, and then come out of it knowing even more. I just draw the line at stereotyping other people or condemning an entire group. I’m not going to listen to your opinion if you are using blanketed terms and have clearly never seen what a situation can do to some people. I think it’s way easier to have a discussion in person than on the internet, I don’t really engage much with people who come to argue with me on my platform.
Q. Who are some activists that you look up?
In terms of social media social justice I really look up to the youth, like Rowan Blanchard or Amber the Activist. They teach me that being an activist is just being a person! It doesn’t have to deter you from being young and living your authentic life, it’s just a part of your morals and who you are.
Q. What was the inspiration behind starting The Messy Heads?
I had a tumblr in High School, her-hair-is-always-a-mess, and would post some of my art or thoughts or things and it started gaining traction, I maybe had 30,000 followers on there. I knew that when I left school I wanted to create a REAL blog. My goal with The Messy Heads was just to create content I wished I was reading when I was 15/16. I was always obsessed with magazines but they really harmed my self image, and true art shouldn’t do that. You know— I shouldn’t be ripping workout pages out of seventeen magazine and pinching my fat at age fourteen. Or their diet pages where the calorie count is in big font over the image. Girls have so much to worry about already growing up in a patriarchal society, they need to be empowered and know that physical appearance is not our number one priority. I gave a talk this summer about the concept of perfection and how it hinders you with your inner growth. When you are trying to be perfect physically, it’s a never ending goal. Accepting your current state allows you to turn inward and see yourself as a mind and a soul. Then real growth, love, and change occurs within.
I try to bring purpose and passion back to media, and I knew that eventually once I had enough money I was going to turn it into a magazine. The girls & guys who read The Messy Heads inspire me most of all. A lot of people run up to me in New York and tell me that they have been reading for ages and then say how they started going to buddhist temple every week because of me, or went to Art school, or went vegan, or stared their own charity, or did something else they were too scared to do before because they saw what I was doing with my platform. That is the part that makes me want to keep doing this forever.
Q. What advice would you give to teenagers who are interested in starting their own blog or publication?
I would say be very clear with your purpose for starting this. I get messages like, “how do I get lots of followers?” Um, no. If I had gone into this wanting a lot of followers I wouldn’t be here. I just wanted to make a change and be a voice that wasn’t out there yet. Identify what is unique about YOUR voice and then put that to action. You have a unique perspective on the world and have lived a life no one else can live. What can you do with that? We don’t need another Rookie Mag or another Teen Vogue or another Art Hoe Collective or another Messy Heads. We need what YOU have to bring to the table. If you want to start your own blog or publication, go internally. I stopped reading magazines for about a year while I was curating my own unique voice and perspective so that I wouldn’t be subconsciously creating something similar. There’s no bigger waste of time than making art that isn’t your own.
Q. As a writer, you must also have a great love for reading. Who are some authors and poets that you believe have influenced the way you write and view literature?
Charles Bukowski, Patti Smith, Shel Silverstein, Osho, Hunter Thompson. I think Patti Smith is most similar to my personal, journal writing style. She inspires me immensely. Not exaggerating when I say the book “Just Kids” changed my life. In my daily reading, I read a lot of philosophical literature. Before I dropped out of college, I was a philosophy major. I still have access to all the texts online through my account so that’s what I read most. Mostly ecofeminist literature! These people are badass! Greta Gaard, Lori Gruen, Tom Regan, Carl Cohen, Marti Kheel… I could go on and on!
Q. Do you believe that your move from Los Angeles to New York City impacted your writing?
Completely. I fill up about a journal a week now. A lot of my writing I don’t put on the blog, I think I’m going to save it for something bigger. New York City is the most high energy diverse environment ever. I go on mini adventures with myself and end up on Roosevelt Island or in Macy’s or at a tiny Bakery in Brooklyn. There are so many stories to peel back here I could never get bored.
Q. On The Messy Heads, you recently documented your trip to Paris. What does travelling mean to you and are there any particular places that you would love to visit next?
Traveling is what I like to spend my money on. I’m not really interested in having nice material things. My last “big” purchase was a waffle iron and an abalone shell. I want to spend my money on experiences. Traveling to me is a way to fit more lives into your one short life. Paris is special to me because I lived there for a little bit when I was maybe 8 years old. It was interesting going back and seeing the contrast between my childlike perception of things to now.
My next trip I’m planning on going with my boyfriend to visit his family in Napoli. But I am also really wanting to go to Thailand and Indonesia.
Q. You have already accomplished so much in your career, so what are you ambitious for next and are there any specific goals you have set for yourself?
Aw, thanks for saying that! It does’t feel that way haha. I still write most of my blog posts from my bed or the coffee shop down the street. More magazines for The Messy Heads of course, I have already started on Issue 3. 2017 I have a lot of goals, they are all taped on the wall beside me right now… But I don’t like talking about things before I have done them. I guess you will just have to wait and see!