Quinta Brunson worked some pretty awkward gigs before finding success as a viral comedy star.
Today, she's the creator of the viral 2014 digital series The Girl Who Has Never Been on a Nice Date and cast member of HBO's A Black Lady Sketch Show. And now, she's releasing a book of personal essays titled She Memes Well—and E! News can share the first look at the cover and excerpt.
In the book, Brunson writes about her personal life and her career. Her essays deal with topics such as her move from Philadelphia to Los Angeles to pursue a comedy career, and being "halfway recognizable" as one of Instagram's first viral stars. Brunson details some of her awkward moments as a struggling performer, including the time she briefly worked as a phone sex operator and the time she answered a Craigslist ad to play an artist for an instructional video...or so she thought.
Brunson's new book She Memes Well, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is now available for pre-order and will hit book shelves on June 15.
Read an excerpt from chapter Craigslist from She Memes Well below: (Warning: Contains explicit language)
Two months into my carpe the diem lifestyle, I was dead broke. I'd spent so much time on the art of comedy that I hadn't managed to book enough freelance work to last beyond the next three months in LA, even on a shoestring budget. A small bubble of panic (or maybe, probably, hunger) began to form in my stomach. So I turned to my dear old friend Craigslist for some fast cash.
One morning, in the middle of my daily desperation Craigslist scroll, I stopped at an ad that caught my eye:
✭✭ GET PAID TO DRAW $125 ✭✭
NOW CASTING artists and aspiring artist in an art tutorial video. TODAY is your LUCKY DAY! Get paid $125 to learn how to draw!
Send headshot and level of skill to: email@example.com
I had taken some drawing classes in high school and figured that at the very least, I could play a budding sketch artist for an instructional video. I responded to the ad and continued my freelance job search.
Within minutes, the account that posted the ad sent me a location and shoot date. My drought had come to an end. My first acting gig! AND I was about to get $125! Four tacos at the truck for meeeee, baby!
I was so excited to be on camera that I basically heel-toed all the way to the studio, which was conveniently down the street from where I lived (another bonus: didn't need to use bus money). When I got to the building, I saw there were already a bunch of people waiting outside. The only discernable commonality about the diverse group of humans was that we all looked like we were about $125 away from moving back home.
Eventually, we were let inside to a big, empty space, with a platform in the middle and a bunch of easels scattered around. I ran my hand across the paper they provided. It was super thick, which meant it was probably expensive. Movin' on up, I thought to myself.
When we were all settled, the doors behind us opened and a man in a toga walked in and scaled the platform. I let out a deep sigh. I looked him up and down, and could feel my face start to scrunch up. He just looked too fresh, like he'd been doing crunches in preparation for this video. His hair was done up, and he had the thirsty energy of an improv comedian. (I know the type well.) He just didn't look like someone interested in the arts; he looked like he was on his way to go crush some Natty Lights at a racist-themed party. Dumb as hell.
I shrugged and picked up my pencil. As I began to lightly sketch his outline, the dude's toga slipped and fell open to reveal . . . an abnormally large penis. Oh-no-oh-no-oh-no. I quickly pieced together what was going on. I'm in the middle of a f--king prank show. Still, no one else seemed to pick up on the fact that it was a setup, even with the donkey dick hanging out for all the world to see.
While my fellow artists continued to expressionlessly sketch away at their easels, I quietly began to pack up my s--t. There was no way I would allow my first role in Hollywood to be "Girl Who Was Surprised by Big Dick on a Prank Show." Wanting to be respectful of production, I made sure not to draw attention to myself and waited for the moment when the "instructional cameras" were pointed away from me.
I hadn't even gotten halfway down the hall before a producer chased after me. "Hey! Um, you can't leave, we're in the middle of shooting" an extremely flustered man told me.
"Turns out, I'm not that good at drawing and I don't want to do it anymore," I lied. I was trying to give us both the opportunity to save some dignity.
The producer furrowed his brow. "Let me level with you." He took a step closer and lowered his voice. "We're actually shooting a new prank show." (I told you.) "You can't leave because we already have you on camera."
"So what? Edit around it."
"We can't edit around it. Besides, you gave some of the best reactions. We'll give you $300 to sign the release form."
Of course, my expressive-ass face gave some of the best reactions. Still, there was no way I was going to allow this clip to be my first on-camera experience—no matter how much I needed money.
"No . . . I'm good, man," I told him.
I left that dumb prank shoot with my head held high and my pocket held empty. Later that day, they emailed me offering $1,000 to use my reactions in their show. I may have been desperate for money, but I was even more desperate to have complete control over my own comedic voice.
A few days later, still dejected from dangle-dick guy, I found a posting on Craigslist that felt—I wouldn't say promising, but manageable.
~ ~ ** MaKe MoNeY U$iNg OnlY YoUR VoICE ** ~ ~
I clicked immediately, and nope—it wasn't an opportunity to work on The Simpsons! It was a "voice massage director" aka . . . a phone sex gig.
As I skimmed through the ad, I thought, I can talk to horny men, no problem. Plus, making up sexy stories on the fly sounded kind of fun, like a solid improv exercise. I could work on my craft AND make money—a win/win! I emailed to say I was interested and they accepted me. That very day, the company uploaded a profile for me. It included a fake name and bio along with a picture of a sexy and busty woman next to a number where "I" could be reached.
I got my first call within a few hours and was thrilled. I curled up in my bed and answered, excited to practice my backstory and crowd work skills.
"Hi, handsome," I breathed into the receiver. I was going for Marilyn Monroe meets Vivica A. Fox, like the picture suggested.
His response back to me was a little too vulgar to print. Just know it involved four of the worst words in the English language, and use your imagination. I was taken aback but managed to respond with a lie about what I was wearing . . . blue lace panties and a red bra. (Horrible combo, but that's improv, baby. Off the cuff!)
The guy on the other end of the line went on to emit the grossest sounds I've ever heard. It sounded like someone chewing on Jell-O after getting their wisdom teeth out. He mumbled something about his wife, and all of a sudden, nausea overcame me. I hung up. I couldn't do it. I was angry that I couldn't just suck it up and make money for the sake of survival. I was mad that I'd spent thirty dollars at Target on summer clothes that I simply didn't need. I was mad that I ever bought toilet paper! I could've just not pooped!
Two weeks later, I got a check in the mail from the phone sex company for four dollars. A dollar for each minute, just like they promised. I laughed as I mobile-deposited the check into my Bank of America account. It would take a day to process, and by then, the account would be overdrawn.
(Reprinted with permission.)