In her new memoir, released on Tuesday, Instagram personality Claudia Oshry — aka Girl With No Job — has a lot to say on "cancel culture," her racist tweets, body image, celebrities, privilege, relationships, and weight loss. But one topic she says she still won't discuss is her mom, the infamously anti-Muslim Pamela Geller.
Oshry, 26, has built a brand that includes the Morning Toast podcast, a comedy special, and a live show based on her life and opinions about pop culture. In her book, titled Girl With No Job: The Crazy Beautiful Life of an Instagram Thirst Monster, Oshry paints herself as a person perpetually striving to be known, first aiming for attention through childhood antics and tantrums and then obsessively seeking popularity as a teenager. ("I cared more about being well-liked than anything else," she writes, saying she decided not to do musical theater in high school because she thought "you couldn’t be a drama geek and a popular kid.")
This "incessant need for attention and desire for popularity” led her to her current career, where she shares her life with her more than 3 million Instagram followers, hobnobs with celebs like Paris Hilton, whom she calls a friend, and attends parties at Robert Pattinson's house. (“My collection of celebrity phone numbers is something near and dear to me. I consider it to be one of my greatest accomplishments," she writes.)
However, Oshry writes about how living in the public eye comes with a price, one she is clearly struggling with.
"As delightfully charmed as my journey may seem, it hasn’t been without its punch-in-the-face doses of humility and ass-kicking moments of failure," she writes.
What Oshry is referring to is her infamous "cancellation" in 2018, when the Daily Beast reported that Geller was her mother and also unearthed several offensive old tweets Oshry had written as a teenager. Oshry references the incident and the aftermath (her show with Verizon's Oath was canceled, she was dropped from several partnerships, and she lost both her agent and manager) several times throughout the book as one of the worst and most defining times in her life.
Still, Oshry focuses primarily on the backlash to her offensive tweets. She excuses the posts as part of her being a teenage edgelord while calling them "racist and abhorrent." When she does address her mother and her views, it is largely to say she is not going to address it. She writes she is "not responsible for anyone else’s views and nobody is responsible for [hers].”
"If you picked up this book hoping to read a scathing chapter on my mom, you’re going to be disappointed," she writes. "It will never happen. It’s not who I am; I wasn’t raised like that, and I hope you weren’t raised that way either. The way people demanded, and continue to demand, that I speak out against my only living parent says way more about them than it does about me. Family is too important to me, and neither politics nor fame changes that.”
She does discuss her mom's career, in vague terms, writing that Geller is a "proud" conservative and that she has faced death threats that have terrified Oshry and her sisters. Oshry writes that watching her mother deal with her career as a "political journalist" has given her a "firsthand look at just how ugly politics and the media can get," and that she has never understood how “adults could get so bent out of shape over politics." An uninformed reader may be led to believe that Geller is an average conservative pundit rather than someone whom the Southern Poverty Law Center calls "one of the most flamboyant anti-Muslim activists in the United States."
Oshry does seem to express genuine remorse for her racist tweets, saying she felt mortified by "the person [she] used to be" when they came to light. But she also takes the time to decry the "cancel culture" she says she experienced, using a phrase often employed to distract attention from one's failings and instead put the focus on the public reaction to said failings.
“The last few years have seen the rise of one of the most alarming (and annoying) cultural phenomena: cancel culture," she writes. "Whether a celebrity missteps, misspeaks, or commits an actual crime, they’re tried in the court of public opinion and — often too quickly — deemed cancelled, or over."
These "social justice warriors" and the "PC police on Twitter," she writes, make it “their responsibility to right all the wrongs in the world, when literally nobody asked them to." Oshry said she feels this culture has made it impossible for someone like her to make mistakes, writing that she believes "it’s okay to have said something ignorant in your past as long as you now understand why it was ignorant."
“Every single person on the planet has said something dumb in their past. If you’re calling someone out on Twitter, trying to 'expose' them, odds are you are guilty of a similar offense," she writes. "So you’re perpetuating a toxic culture that will one day take you down with it. We all have skeletons in our closet no matter how many followers we have on social media.”
It would be easy to classify Oshry from these choice quotes as someone who is more focused on hating on her haters than taking accountability, but that's not quite it. Her musings about how much the "cancellation" has affected her feel genuine, and she says she has learned how to incorporate empathy into the bold persona she has cultivated. She describes how she has taken time since 2018 to understand why things are offensive, such as when a fan called her out for joking she had "dementia." She lays bare her own insecurities in detail, discussing her need to be liked, her "fake" confidence, and her issues with her weight.
“I used to think that being sensitive was a weakness, and now I’ve learned it’s the exact opposite," she said.
It's also clear that Oshry genuinely loves the supportive fanbase she has built, whom she and Jackie Oshry, her podcast cohost and sister, call "Toasters." She values them, she writes, because she ultimately sees herself as a fan of all the celebrities she has tried to emulate her whole life.
“It is an indescribable feeling to have someone that you’ve never met be so excited to meet you," she writes. "I know the power of the fan connection because I feel that way about other people. The fact that people feel that way about me is so special and not something I take for granted.”
It's curious, therefore, why Oshry continues to ignore the criticism she and Jackie have faced over the past year from fans. In August, BuzzFeed News reported that "Toasters" were disassociating from the sisters en masse after several missteps. In May, the sisters responded to a Facebook post from a nurse questioning their decision to host a birthday party during the pandemic with a podcast episode titled "Taking Out the Trash." Several Toasters also grew angry when the sisters ignored calls from the fanbase to respond to racist comments Geller had made about the police killing of George Floyd.
Former Toasters said they had watched as the fanbase had become more and more toxic over the past few years, harassing fans who criticized the sisters online. More than 100 of the Facebook groups affiliated with The Morning Toast have rebranded to distance themselves from the sisters.
Neither of the sisters responded to BuzzFeed News' requests for comments at the time of publication. Further, neither sister has publicly addressed their fans' criticisms.
Oshry says she wrote the book during "COVID-19 quarantine," so presumably she had some time to address the complaints of toxicity in the community, which fans told BuzzFeed News precede 2020.
Her parting message is one of forgiveness, writing in the final pages of her book that she believes she will continue to "fuck up" but hopes people will still follow along. "Let’s stop holding everyone and everything on the Internet to an impossible standard," she writes.
Ultimately, that is what she wants her fans to take away: You will make mistakes and you will fuck up, but you can still thrive.
“I am still proudly oppositional and defiant. I probably always will be. You should be, too. Never forget that you can forge your own path and use your own voice in whatever way you want. You don’t have to play by the rules," she writes.