Breaking Big: How Roxane Gay Became the Voice of a Movement - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Breaking Big: How Roxane Gay Became the Voice of a Movement

Breaking Big: How Roxane Gay Became the Voice of a Movement

By OZY Editors


This novelist never apologizes for being human. 

By OZY Editors

OZY Media’s third prime-time television show, Breaking Big, airs Fridays at 8.30 p.m. ET on PBS stations, and Facebook Watch. Join us as we explore the unexpected journeys to success of some of the world’s most influential stars.

Roxane Gay has always been passionate about telling stories and began writing at just 4 years old. As one of the only non-White kids in her class in Omaha, Nebraska, Gay mostly kept to herself. She turned to the world of literature to escape. 

After experiencing a horrific sexual assault at age 12, Gay turned even further inward. She rapidly gained weight, hoping it would protect her against future attacks. A year into college at Yale, Gay dropped out and moved to Arizona with an older man she met online. Throughout that time she continued to write, but soon realized she would never succeed as a writer without getting serious. 


At 25, Gay went back to school, got her master’s degree and began to pursue a real writing career. She launched the indie literary magazine Pank and began work on several novels and nonfiction books. In 2011, Gay’s wildly successful essay for The Rumpus titled “The Careless Language of Sexual Violence” positioned her as the voice of the new feminist movement and launched her career. Shortly after, her nonfiction book Bad Feminist made her a New York Times best-selling author. 

Gay’s recent book, Hunger, is her most personal yet, taking a deep dive into her past and her experience living as an overweight person. Today she still struggles with being comfortable in her skin, but she’s also learned not to apologize for who she is. “It’s very freeing to stop beating yourself up just for being human,” Gay says.  

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