Next up in our Speaking to Media series is Meaghan Wray, one of our personal favourites who’s doing it all in the lifestyle arena. Passionate about challenging diet culture and fatphobia? She’s doing it. Looking for lululemon must-haves for the season? She’s got you. Meaghan is a freelance writer and editor whose work can be found in FLARE, Chatelaine, FASHION, Best Health, Global News, Hello! Canada, and Yahoo! Style… to name a few.
After reading her work for years, we were excited about the opportunity to learn a little bit about her beginnings, thoughts on the body positivity movement, and the best way to catch her attention with a pitch.
TW: fatphobia, addiction
We creeped you and noticed your journalism experience goes as far back as high school (if not further) where you were editor-in-chief of the GloBell Roar. Had high school Meaghan dreamed about writing for national publications one day?
That was so long ago! But yes, I’m one of those lucky people that have known what they’ve wanted to do for basically their entire life. I’ve been writing since I was a little kid — I used to bring a notepad and pencil everywhere with me and write poetry. I think I realized early on that I could say and convey a lot with words. I’ve never been much of a public speaker and I tend to get tongue-tied when I’m nervous or passionate, so writing has always felt like the safest way for me to speak out about things I care about. I always dreamed of writing for big publications, and it’s been such an incredible experience getting to see those early dreams coming to fruition.
Once this dream became a reality, at what point did you develop, or get comfortable with, your own voice?
I really started to develop my voice when I was interning at FLARE.com during my journalism degree. I feel really lucky that I got to work with FLARE when their staff was large and they were competing with big American brands, like Teen Vogue and Cosmopolitan, for ratings. It was there where I was really empowered to explore topics that mean a lot to me. I was surrounded by women who believed in the power of lifestyle journalism, and encouraged me to go after stories and experiment with my writing style. When my internship ended, I was hired at Hello! Canada magazine. While I was there, I did a lot of freelancing for FLARE and Chatelaine on the side — that’s when I really started to tap into my voice and see that what I had to say was resonating on a bigger scale. I still find it uncomfortable sometimes because a lot of what I write about is very vulnerable, but it makes my day when I hear from a reader who felt seen because of my work.
The themes of anti-diet culture, fat acceptance and self-love are prominent in your work. How do you think the media’s coverage of these topics is changing the narrative?
Society is still unfortunately extremely fatphobic, despite the mainstreaming of self-love and body positivity movements. It really depends on what media you’re looking at. For example, you’re still going to see “LOSE WEIGHT FAST” on the covers of diet magazines in line to pay for your groceries. There’s still a huge market for weight loss tips, and diet culture has warped to be less in-your-face about it and more hidden, like what we’re seeing in the wellness diet. Just look at Weight Watcher’s rebrand to get an idea of what I mean — weight loss disguised as wellness. But thanks to the folks (fat Black womxn) who started the body positivity movement, there’s been a huge shift in how we see weight and fatness. There is a big market now for anti-diet and fat acceptance essays, and tons of books now being released by journalists debunking the diet myth. So, it’s a really exciting shift to see, but I also think it’s important to know that there is still a long way to go, and there probably always will be.
Who are some of your fave journalists putting in the work to be more inclusive and representative?
I have so many favourites! I love Aubrey Gordon (of @yrfatfriend on Instagram) and Michael Hobbes. They both do a lot of wellness diet debunking on their podcast Maintenance Phase, and they also do their own investigative work on their own. Hobbes wrote the viral piece “Everything you know about obesity is wrong” for HuffPost. That piece changed my life and I think it paved the way for a lot more work on this topic. Christy Harrison is a former journalist turned Health At Every Size dietician, and she does incredible work on her podcast FoodPsych and in her book “Anti-Diet”. I also love Virgie Tovar and Eternity Martis. Stacy Lee Kong founded Friday Things, an incredible weekly newsletter covering pop culture happenings and how they intersect with current events. I’m sure I’m missing some!
Your Chatelaine piece about sobriety giving you a do-over is moving, and one we often go back to. Did you notice any impact on your writing as you worked through your recovery?
I love this question — and the answer is yes, absolutely! I haven’t really thought about it until now, but when I got sober I think my writing got a lot more real and authentic. It came easier because I was writing from my heart, unobstructed by how I “should” or “shouldn’t” be. Getting sober has helped me learn to feel more neutral about my body, too, which has definitely given me a lot more material to work with when it comes to writing! When I was using, I cared a lot about what people thought of me — I still do sometimes, but it’s dissipated a lot.
A lot of your work is extremely personal and reflective — something we love about your storytelling. Does this type of writing limit the types of stories you accept or bring to the table? For our fellow PR peeps, what’s the best way to catch your attention with a pitch?
Outside of writing essays, I do a lot of copywriting in the beauty and fashion realm! I’m always interested in hearing about new products, designers, lines, etc., in those worlds, especially when they intersect with diversity and inclusion. Offering a new take on something is always a great start, or timing into seasons, new trends, etc.
Quick, name drop your top 3 TikTok accounts! What type of content are you most likely to go viral for?
@kelz, @janewickline and @basementgang! But I have so many faves. I think if I could choose what I’d go viral on TikTok for, it would be something to do with skincare or body positivity. I’ve been having fun making videos about what I eat as someone who isn’t dieting, and that’s my favourite “trend” right now. It took me so long to get into TikTok so I’m still learning!
Thank you, Meaghan! Send us a tip at email@example.com if there’s another Canadian journalist you’d love to see featured in this series!