The names of select people and places have been changed to honor the privacy of those who have not chosen to live their lives in the public eye. Rest assured, the events depicted in this book have not been changed. They are very real.
“You're going to love my entrance.”
I was talking to my mom and my sister. It was just minutes before the start of the 2015 Streamy Awards. I was getting ready to cohost the show and was about to climb to the top of a platform, fifteen feet above the crowd. No one else knew I would be up there.
It was going to be a great night.
I'd made my mom and my sister swear to keep my entrance a secret, to make sure the other six hundred YouTube, Snapchat, and Vine stars in the audience would be totally surprised when I appeared. I'd rehearsed what I was going to do a few times leading up to this momentâtwice the day before, and then once in dress rehearsalâso I wasn't scared to take the plunge. I was ready. All I needed was my cue from
the director and I'd come sliding down the fireman's pole at the back of the room at the YouTube Space in Los Angeles.
As I stared down at the young, well-dressed crowd milling around below, many of them my friends, I couldn't help but think back to everything that had happened to me in the year leading up to this perfect September night. I had gotten to interview the president of the United States of America (
); I was in a Kevin Hart movie (
); I was on a Nickelodeon sitcom (
); I got to fly first class to London to be on a game show (
); I went to VidCon (
); I did dozens and dozens of videos to entertain my awesome fans (
); we did the Third Annual GloZell Festival (
which was in this very building
); my husband, SK, and I had found our surrogate (
); oh and just a few days earlier, I had been selected to be a cast member on one of my favorite reality competition shows ever (
It felt, unlike any other time in my life, like 2015 had been my year, the Year of GloZell. Not that everyone was talking about me or anything, but nearly everything that I could have hoped for in a given year had happened . . . and gone right. Once up on the platform, fifteen feet in the air and waiting for my cue, I was overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude. This year really had been a dream come true. No, that's not right. That's an understatement. This was like an
dream come true, one of those dreams you have to write down in
order to understand. This was the dream of the dream of my dream come true. And being asked to cohost the Fifth Annual Streamys preshow was the cherry on the dream sundae.
Finally, it was time. I got my cue, grabbed the pole, wrapped my legs around the polished metal, locking them at the ankles, looked down to find my mark, and let gravity do its thing. Wheeeee!
Then, two seconds later, I heard it.
The sound and the sight still haunt me. My right leg was obviously broken, and my foot was bent at a ninety-degree angle from the ankle. It looked like a Tetris puzzle pieceâyou know, the squiggly one, not the normal L-shaped one. I sat there frozen in place, more out of surprise than pain. I'd never broken anything before (and if you've seen the stuff I do in my videos, that should be as surprising to you as it has been to me). I guess I knew from movies what a broken ankle looked like, but I had no idea how it would feel; fortunately, right there and then, it didn't feel like anything. The adrenaline of the moment had created a delay in my brain between when I saw my ankle and when I felt the pain of what had happened to it. I think I knew that eventually my nerve endings would have to catch upâno one is
so I was ready when the first jolt of pain shot through my body a couple seconds later.
Nothing prepares you, though. The pain was excruciating, almost blinding, but those two words don't really do it justice. It was like the Hot Pepper Challenge combined with the Wasabi Challenge, marinated in the Hot Sauce Challenge.
Time slowed down. The first thing that came to mind was the reality TV show I was supposed to be on (it involved lots of running and other physical activity). This was supposed to be itâmy big break. This is what all the hard work and struggling had been for. As an entertainer who grew up in the era I did, you always hope one day to get the chance to be on the cast of a big show that reaches every home with a television. The idea that millions of people will see your face every week, all seasonâthat's when you know you've made it. And now that big break had been ruined by . . . well . . . my big break.
I know that all might sound odd coming from someone who, until about thirty seconds earlier, was supposed to cohost an online awards show. It might even sound a little ungrateful, if you consider that the six hundred people staring at me right now, or all the awesome fans who subscribe to my YouTube channel, would probably say that I'd already made it. I don't mean to sound unappreciative or inconsiderate at all. I am
grateful for every last person who has given me a chance or watched one of my videos.
But there's something you need to understand about me: I'm a little older than the rest of y'all. I grew up
a thousand cable channels. When I was a kid, television wasn't even twenty-four hoursâit shut off at midnight and went to a color bars test pattern (you probably don't even know what that is, and honestly, it's too boring to describe). You were lucky if you had five channels, so if you actually appeared on one of them, that meant you were a big deal. And I wanted to be a big deal.
As the people around me finally saw that something was wrong (
hey, that lady who fell from the ceiling isn't getting up
), my mind began to fill with pictures of things that now might never happen: being on TV every week; winning one of the best reality competition shows ever; having an amazing adventure with my best friend; traveling all over the world with other YouTubers; getting my own show.
It was like the next year of my life was playing in my head as a Snapchat storyâthere one day, gone the next. The Year of GloZell had ended. Not with a bang, but a whimper.
Then, through the whir of mental images and the hum of the crowd, I heard a voice. It wasn't loud, but it was perfectly calm and perfectly clear. It said, “Is you okay?”
If I'm being totally honest, I was pretty out of it from the pain, so I don't know if someone actually said those words or if it was the voice in my head, or maybe even the voice of God, but I swear I heard it. And despite the pain, I listened. Because what it was saying was this:
Stop. Breathe. This is right where you're supposed to be. This is the universe telling you to slow down and appreciate all the things that have happened, and all the people who have come into your life. Everything is going to be okay. This happened for a reason. There are other, bigger chances coming. Just do what you've always done. Keep looking forward, be open to the path, have faith, work hard, don't make any excuses, and everything will work out.
And you want to know the craziest part? It all happened in a flash. From the time I landed at the bottom of the fireman's pole to the time I was on my behind and cool with everything, it was less than a minute. Maybe even thirty seconds.
My friend Colleen Ballinger-Evans (a.k.a. Miranda Sings) was the first person to recognize that I was in a little bit of trouble.
“What can I do?” Colleen said, as I pushed the broken bone in my leg back into place
like a #girlboss!
I learned an important lesson in that moment, by the way. Setting a broken bone hurts much worse than breaking it in the first place.
“Give me a phone,” I said.
And then I took a selfie.
When you look at the picture and others from that night as I'm getting wheeled into the ambulance, I don't really look like I'm in a tremendous amount of blinding pain. Colleen looks more uncomfortable than I do. I don't look frightened or panicked, like Katniss Everdeen when Prim is chosen as tribute for District 12. (Girl. Freaked. Out.) No, I was calm. I knewâfrom listening to the inner voice in that brief moment with myself on the floorâthat I was okay.
I spent the rest of the night at the hospital. Let me tell you something about the emergency room: there is an awful lot of waiting for a place with the word
in its name. Besides a lot of hanging around, the rest of the experience was a blur. I know they set my foot and told me I needed to have surgery. They showed me all the metal plates and screws and staples they were going to use to put my ankle back together, which looked like a tiny Home Depot was going to be inserted into my leg. And I got my own pitcher of water with crushed ice while I waited (yay!).
I hope you never have to be in the hospital for anything, but if you do, then at least you'll get to have the best crushed ice anywhere in the world. It's so perfect, I seriously wonder if they only make it for hospital patients. Like, we know you've
had a tough day so here, have the greatest ice water ever. If movie theaters used this stuff in their soda fountains, I would go to the movies every day.
The thing I remember most about what happened after they set my foot was coming home with a deep sense of calm. Any thought about the TV show that was no longer going to happen had melted away. My leg was broken, my ankle was completely shattered (in surgery the following week, the surgeons had to vacuum pieces of bone out), but I wasn't worried at all. I was focused on what was in front of me: finding someone to help me out at home so the responsibility didn't fall to my husband (he still had to go to work). There was other stuff to consider, too: figuring out what we needed to do about our house so that I could roll my wheelchair from room to room easily; coming up with funny ideas for videos in a wheelchair; having my sister, DeOnzell, decorate my wheelchair with green tassels and sparkle paint so I could show all those rappers talking about candy paint and “sittin' on 22s” in their music videos that they ain't got nothin' on me. I'm rollin' two deep on 24s!
Most immediately, I needed to know what time the big Streamy Awards show started on Thursday. I wasn't curious because I was worried about missing it on TVâI was going to DVR it anywayâno, I needed to confirm the time because
I was going;
I had a job to do. Colleen and I were doing the
“Becky” introduction to “Baby Got Back” for a surprise Sir Mix-a-Lot performance during the show. Whatâyou thought I wouldn't go because of one broken ankle? I have two ankles, people. And besides, I had a wheelchair. Anyone tried to stop me, I'd simply roll there myself.
You know that saying “When God closes a door, He opens a window”? Well, it's more than that. For me, He opened the floodgates.
Contrary to all those doubts that rushed through my head at the Streamys preshow when I thought my career had broken apart as quickly as my leg, there's only one word I can use to describe the last three months of 2015: magical.
Just a few days after my injury, I asked to be on the daytime show
. I was the second guest; the first guest was Carol Burnett, my idol. She is everything I have ever wanted to be as an entertainer. When I sign off from my videos with a wink and a kiss and an “over and out,” it's a throwback to Carol Burnett. I always loved how she tugged her ear to end her show, like a secret message to all her true fans.
Before I went on for my segment, Carol came up to me backstage and introduced herself.
introduced herself to
. What?! I got a chance to tell her how much she meant to me, and thank her for how much she did for female entertainers. “You're the reason I'm doing this,” I said. I didn't realize until sitting down to write this book how many different ways that was true. It was a chance I never thought I'd get in my lifetime.
A couple weeks later, I was invited to fly to New York City to be on
The Today Show
on NBC with Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford. It doesn't get much bigger than
The Today Show
. I've watched it every morning for as long as I can remember. And you know what's funny: the day I flew to New York for the showâin my wheelchair, no lessâwas the exact same day I was supposed to leave to start filming for the reality show. It's weird how those things work out sometimes, isn't it?
The rest of the year was just one thing after another: some of it had been in the works, some of it was opportunities that would not have been possible had I been away doing the filming for the reality show. But none of this compared to what I was about to get to do. I had peopleâ
friends of mine
âasking half seriously, “Should I break my leg to get some of these opportunities?”
First, I was asked to interview Hillary Clinton for Amanda de Cadenet's Lifetime show called
. I couldn't believe it. President Obama to start the year and now Senator,
Secretary of State, and former First Lady Hillary Clinton to end it; are you kidding me?! Hillary is the BeyoncÃ© of politics! We spent an hour together and talked about her roles as a mother and a grandma, topics that are close to my heart because I love both of mine dearly and because my ongoing fertility struggles threatened my chances of being one either. I even bought a styling green pantsuit for the occasion, just for Hillary. She wouldn't admit it, but I know she was