Encounters: Even the Teen Vogue Writer Who Took On Trump Gets Stage Fright


After the election, something changed. “It felt like nothing I was working on mattered anymore,” she said.

So she started writing about Mr. Trump. The Teen Vogue piece accused the then president-elect of “gaslighting,” a type of psychological manipulation intended to make people doubt their own perceptions. (The term comes from a 1938 play by Patrick Hamilton called “Gaslight,” in which a man tries to persuade his wife that she is going insane.)

She wrote: “Trump is not going to stop playing with the burner until America realizes that the temperature is too high. It’s on every single one of us to stop pretending it’s always been so hot in here.”


Ms. Duca with U.C.B. cast members.

Amy Lombard for The New York Times

With close to 1.3 million hits, the piece became the most-read article on the Teen Vogue site in 2016.

Her new purpose has brought a lot of new opportunity, like the invitation from U.C.B. She arrived at the theater on West 26th Street a few minutes early, wearing a long black dress, patterned tights and lace-up boots. She wove past the packed crowd lining up for $2 Pabst Blue Ribbon cans and slipped backstage.

Shannon O’Neill, the artistic director of U.C.B. New York, and Tami Sagher, a cast member and former writer for “30 Rock,” warmed up the crowd and then welcomed Ms. Duca to the stage. Ms. Sagher called her “my hero” (adding an unprintable word before “hero”) and urged the audience to check out Teen Vogue for its unvarnished political coverage. Ms. O’Neill then asked for suggestions for a word that Ms. Duca could riff on to start the show.

“Blooper!” someone in the crowd called out.

“Ah, O.K.,” Ms. Duca said, haltingly. “‘Blooper’ makes me think of messing up, which is something I am terrified of doing now.” The stakes are higher, she said, because she has a lot more Twitter followers now than she did six weeks ago — 142,000 more to be exact. And more followers, she said, means more people are parsing everything she does.

“I could tweet the word peanut and they would be like, ‘Don’t you know that, like, my son’” is allergic, she said, clutching her iPhone in her right hand like a security blanket. The crowd laughed. She seemed to get more comfortable.

Being internet-famous comes with its own strange addiction to the feedback loop. During intermission, Ms. Duca couldn’t resist sneaking a peek at her phone, noticing a shout-out on Twitter from a supportive audience member. Ms. Duca hit the retweet button and returned to the stage.

Her final anecdote was the most personal, and generated the loudest response. Reacting to the audience prompt “blue bloods,” Ms. Duca went straight to her parents, conservative Republicans who live in New Jersey, voted for Mr. Trump and enjoy watching “Blue Bloods,” the CBS police drama starring Tom Selleck.

“They have no idea where I came from,” she said.

After Hillary Clinton’s defeat, Ms. Duca told the audience how she had asked her mother, a physical therapist, to read her political writing, hoping it would sway her opinion.

The elder Ms. Duca praised her daughter, telling her she was “like the Michael Jordan of writing.” But even maternal pride couldn’t stop her from taking a jab at Mrs. Clinton. “You have to admit that we really didn’t know what happened with her emails,” she said.

“So,” Ms. Duca said, ending her monologue, “I can’t be that good of a writer.”

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