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Tanya Selvaratnam has said that when life throws you lemons, make art—and she has profoundly done just that in the face of unimaginable circumstances over the course of a long career blending activism and creativity.

Design Matters: Tanya Selvaratnam

Design Matters: Tanya Selvaratnam

WRITER / ARTIST / PRODUCER / ACTIVIST

3.5.21

Tanya Selvaratnam / Assume Nothing / The Big Lie / activism / theater / producing / film

Transcript


Debbie Millman:

In recent years, New York State has seen several of its top politicians accused of predatory behavior. There was Governor Eliot Spitzer, who resigned after it was discovered he patronized a prostitution ring. Then there was Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who also resigned after four women accused him of physical abuse. One of those women was Tanya Selvaratnam, author of Assume Nothing: A Story of Intimate Violence. It’s a harrowing account of the dynamics of domestic abuse. But Tanya Selvaratnam is so much more than a woman on the receiving end of one man’s physical and emotional brutality. She’s not only a writer, she’s also a performer, a producer and an activist. She’s in the middle of a rich and productive career. And we’re going to talk about as much of it as we can. Tanya, welcome to Design Matters.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

Thank you, Debbie.


Debbie Millman:

Tanya, is it true that you used to live in a loft at a former Ex-Lax factory in Brooklyn?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

It’s true. The Ex-Lax building, it’s still there.


Debbie Millman:

As in the chocolate laxative?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

It was indeed the old Ex-Lax factory, a great loft on Atlantic Avenue that I lived in until 2006.


Debbie Millman:

And was there any signage in the building? Did it have any remnants of its former glory?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

Well, there was an original painting of the factory as soon as we entered the building. It was beautiful because my brother and then my sister-in-law also lived in the building. So it felt very familial. My brother lived on the top floor and there was a kind of an exterior room, like a greenhouse, that they said was where the monkeys used to be kept to test the Ex-Lax.


Debbie Millman:

Oh no, no.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

Yes. So we would hear stories about the ghosts of monkeys crying. It was terrible.


Debbie Millman:

Oh, I’m glad that it’s no longer being used in that manner. Tanya, you were born in Ceylon, which one year later became Sri Lanka. When you were a baby, you and your mother moved to Long Beach, California, where your dad had already set up a home for you. What made them decide to come to the United States in the first place?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

My father had left Sri Lanka soon after independence. He came in the late ’50s. We are minorities in Sri Lanka. We are Tamils. And he as a Tamil man had very limited opportunities for upward mobility. And so there was an exodus of very talented, largely male, Sri Lankan minorities who left. And my father always wanted to come to America. He had a pen pal through his church who lived in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He had a love of country music, and I grew up, in fact, listening to country music. Just on Saturday, it was my birthday, March 20th, and I started the day listening to Dolly Parton. So he always wanted to live in America and he felt that California would be a place where the climate was somewhat akin to Sri Lanka, not too cold. And so that’s how we ended up there.


Debbie Millman:

Given how young you were when you moved to Long Beach, did you have any sense of how different your birth country was from your U.S. home, or did that come later when you were visiting your grandparents in Sri Lanka?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

It came later because I was four months old when I came.


Debbie Millman:

You were a really tiny baby.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

Yes. My mother had actually moved to California before having me, and then she went back when she was pregnant with me to have me in Sri Lanka so that she could be surrounded by her family there.


Debbie Millman:

From the time you were a child you loved experiencing and making art. What kind of things were you making when you were a little girl?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

My first memory of performing was in a kindergarten or first grade production of Snow White. And I really wanted to be Snow White, but there was a white girl named Jenny who got the part. And so I played a singing tree and I threw my everything into playing that tree. Then I also started writing when I was very young, and I wrote a story when I was in, I think, third grade, that won an award in my class for a most memorable character.


Debbie Millman:

And what was the character?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

It was actually a pretty dark story. From the time I was a child, I was fascinated by horror movies. My father used to take me to any horror movie I wanted to see. I loved the experience of jumping in my seat, of coming home and wanting to sleep with the light on. And so the first story that I remember writing was about a woman who accidentally kills somebody in a car accident. And it’s about her inner torment about having done that.


Debbie Millman:

Tanya, third grade. I remember reading a comment that you had shared about your father thinking that your interest in horror was rather macabre, and now I kind of understand why. That’s so sophisticated for such a young age.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

I guess. Well, for me, it wasn’t just horror, it was like science fiction/fantasy. It was anything that allowed me to escape from the material world and visualize myself in those other places. I love science fiction. I was a total nerd. When I was in seventh grade, I was one of like maybe six people in the Science Fiction/Fantasy Club.


Debbie Millman:

In thinking about you not getting the role of Snow White, you’ve written about how when you were playing a supporting role as a bag lady in an eighth grade production, the director pulled you aside and told you that you have talent and to stick with drama, and told you what an expressive face you have. And you were flattered, but wondered why he cast you as a bag lady if you had that much talent. Did you experience a lot of discrimination as you were growing up?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

Yes. And it’s discrimination that is not widely talked about because it happens in these very kind of like microaggressive ways. I was the only Sri Lankan in my class. I was picked on by both the white girls and the Black girls. I feel bad even saying that. They would both make fun of me. And the comments that I experienced was this mean girl, a white girl who said I had Black lips, and children of all stripes calling me Pocahontas because I was Sri Lankan and they didn’t know the difference between a Sri Lankan and Indian. And they didn’t know the difference between an Indian and a native person. So my nickname was Pocahontas. And because I was a quiet child, I was shy, I was very introverted, I never fought back. I always kind of comforted myself by saying, “I’m glad I’m not that mean.”


Debbie Millman:

You are—from what I can understand knowing so much more that we’ll be talking about over the course of our conversation today—a really forgiving person. There’s a real generosity spirit that you have. Where do you think that comes from?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

I mean, do you believe in past lives?


Debbie Millman:

I kind of tend to. It’s funny that you ask. I’ve been doing a series on PRINT magazine about what matters to people, and one of my questions is “do you believe in an afterlife,” because I’m so interested in what people think. As I’m getting much older now, I kind of want to think that there is, just so that life continues in some form, but I don’t know. I’m assuming that you do based on that question.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

Well, a vivid memory from childhood—I remember being with my mother and my brother and my aunt and we were in downtown Los Angeles, and a white couple from across the street shouted at us and said to my brother, “Don’t stand so close to our car.”


Debbie Millman:

Wow.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

And we were so shocked by the anger, and they called my aunt a communist slut. And then we just were quiet and walked away, went to an appointment. And then when we came back, our car had been scratched and we knew exactly who had scratched it. And that was an eye-opening moment for me that people will target you just because of what you look like. I was very young at the time, and when I was preparing to read my own audiobook, I listened to First Lady Michelle Obama’s, and I started shaking when I heard her describe the story of how her family car had been scratched when they were in a white neighborhood. And it’s moments like those that are vivid.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

We remember those traumatic moments more, but as far as like what made me calm, I’ve always felt that anger doesn’t serve me. And so it helps me deal with situations that are difficult. And also talking about past lives—so I read Laura Lynne Jackson’s The Light Between Us, about her mediumship, and that book had a profound impact on me. And for my birthday, I gave myself a past life regression. I had never done it before. I had never been hypnotized before. I went with an open mind and I found a missing puzzle piece of my life.


Debbie Millman:

Tell me everything.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

Have you been hypnotized before?


Debbie Millman:

I have, and I did a past life regression. When I was about … I want to say 15 or so, my mother was really into a lot of the woo-hoo things, and I sort of came along for the ride in a lot of her experiments and, yes, I did have one, believe it or not.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

Wow. I’m so curious to know what Debbie Millman’s past lives were.


Debbie Millman:

You go first.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

OK. So the hypnotist took me through various years in this life, and then brought me into the womb. And what happened at each of those stages, I’d describe the scenes and the words that came into my head. And at all those points, I was calm. I was quiet. I was often alone and I was curious and protective. And then when she took me out of the womb into the in-between space, which was like this white space, and then guided me into a past life. And she asked me to let her know when I landed in another body. I was in the body of an 8-year-old child. And we were surrounded by a lot of children, and all the adults had gone away. And the story is much longer because like I went there at 1:30 p.m., when I came out of it, it was almost 4:30 p.m. And she was like, “you were in it for a long, long time.”


Debbie Millman:

Wow.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

But there was one scene when I’ve progressed where I was 11 years old and I was in a one-room shack and I was preparing toolkits with little tools for the other children to take care of themselves. And the hypnotist asked me to remember when I last saw an adult, and I vividly saw my mother, and she asked me, “what was the pact that you made with my mother?” And I said the pact was that she would come back. And she asked if the mother was my mother in my current life, and I said, no, it’s not. And I tried to name who it might be in my current life because in past lives they say that there are sometimes people who are in your current life that are in your past lives. And it became very clear all of a sudden who it was because it was a woman who was tall. And it was a friend of mine from high school, Elizabeth, who had died in a car crash. And I have a picture of Elizabeth by my bed.


Debbie Millman:

Your story as a young child about the car crash and somebody dying. I wonder if that’s connected.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

I didn’t even put that together until you just said that right now, because I wrote that story obviously years before my friend died in a car crash. And in the scene from my past life, the adults were going into the forest. So I was not Sri Lankan, but I wasn’t white. I was a pale brown. I was wearing a course sack-like dress but it wasn’t itchy. I was dirty, but not filthy. We were in maybe a rainforest. And what I remember is the adults were going into the forest to bring something back, but they never came back. So the children were all left alone. And so then I was at 11 years old trying to prepare the children to take care of ourselves. And then when I progressed further, I was 18 years old. I was alone. I didn’t know where everybody had gone and I was saying to myself, “What comes next?”


Tanya Selvaratnam:

And then the hypnotist tried to get me to progress further and I said, “There is no further. I see myself dying, but I don’t die painfully, I die quietly. I just lie down.” And she asked how old am, I said I’m 19. And when I first started going into the hypnosis, I couldn’t tell if I was projecting my own memories and visuals onto what was manifesting, but then once I got into the body of the past life, it was very clear that there were things going on that I simply can’t explain in English. But then an incredible thing happened as she was bringing me out of the hypnosis, which is that she brought me further and further back into my body, into the room, feeling the chair, and then she asked, “Is there anything else?”


Tanya Selvaratnam:

And all of a sudden, and this was not me projecting, all of a sudden, my father who has already crossed about 27 years ago, appeared. And she said, “What’s he doing?” And I said, “He’s holding my hand.” And she said, “Anything else?” He says, “Good job.” She asked, “What else do you remember?” “His hands are soft.” And I remember when my father died, I was with him in the hospital room, I remembered how soft his skin was, softer than it had ever been my entire life. And it felt like he was giving me the validation in this hypnosis that I had been longing for, and that was how my experience ended.


Debbie Millman:

Tanya, you speak about your dad very lovingly. He was a very successful psychiatrist and you lived in a big, beautiful Los Angeles home, but you’ve also written about how well your parents tried their best. They had an incredibly unhappy marriage and you witnessed extreme physical domestic violence. Would it be OK to talk about some of what you witnessed?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

Yes. You can ask me anything.


Debbie Millman:

You stood up to your father and stood between him and your mother when he was beating her. And given your dad’s profession as a psychiatrist, do you think he had any sense of how wrong what he was doing was?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

He definitely knew that what he was doing was wrong, but I also feel like he is the product of the conditioning of the patriarchy that normalizes violence, and particularly the violence towards intimate partners. And also he, like so many abusers, are bifurcated individuals. My father was beloved by so many—by his patients, by his community—and yet he inflicted painful, violent, bloody harm on my mother. And we were conditioned not to talk about it. We had to keep that secret, and it made me furious. It also made me strong-willed as a child in the home to stand up to violence.


Debbie Millman:

I’ve witnessed a lot of domestic violence as well and never felt like I had the power to intervene. That takes a lot of bravery. You’ve written about how your dad was wonderful to you. He didn’t abuse anyone else and you’ve just mentioned that he was beloved. Somehow you always knew he wouldn’t hit you. What gave you that confidence though—you were witnessing this horrific violence to your mother—that you wouldn’t be impacted physically by it? Did he have any sense of how, emotionally, as well, that was impacting you?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

His inability to control his violent impulses towards my mother meant that he obfuscated the psychological and emotional impact that witnessing that violence would have on me. It’s the Jekyll and Hyde thing. I knew that he would never hit me because he and I were friends. We would talk to each other. When he would come home from work, he would sit in the living room, and he’d always had a hard day because of the work that he did as a psychiatrist, and we would talk.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

My father was an intellectual. He was a very brilliant man. And there were many things I admired him for because he came with nothing. He came on the SS Hope, literally. It was called the SS Hope. I still have a postcard. I’ve saved a bunch of his old letters, postcard from the SS Hope. And he really was the American dream. He worked, I think, seven jobs at one time, to put himself through school. And I was very proud of what he had made of himself. He went to Vanderbilt for medical school, which allowed him to also realize more of his love of country music. He really wanted to be in Nashville.


Debbie Millman:

Wow.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

So I admired him in many ways.


Debbie Millman:

I know that you were urging your mother to get a divorce during that time. What kept her from leaving your dad?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

Lack of support from her community, lack of financial resources. So many women stay in abusive relationships because they are financially disempowered. Where would she go? And also, I love my family, but many of them forced her to stay with him. It’s like her happiness and her physical safety were less important than keeping the family unit together and saving face.


Debbie Millman:

Were you scared of your dad at all? How did you view your father at that time?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

I was not scared of him, I was scared of what he was doing to my mother. And I wanted to protect her, and I wanted to get her out, and I felt painfully powerless that I couldn’t get her out and that I couldn’t protect her. But I was never, ever scared of him. I knew in some ways that I had power over him.


Debbie Millman:

In what way?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

I was like a mirror for him because I called him out on what he was doing. I would try and reason with him, although it’s very hard to reason with an abusive person. And also I would stand up to him, I would talk back to him. And I vividly remember one time calling him a bastard to his face, and it hurt him deeply that I did that. And it’s one of those moments I regret. I don’t fondly remember calling him a bastard to his face, and I remember one day him just coming into my room—my brother and I shared a room in the home—and my father came to my side of the bed and just put his head on my shoulder and started crying.


Debbie Millman:

Wow. How do you view him now so many decades later after he’s passed away?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

I feel … can we get a little cosmic now?


Debbie Millman:

Sure, absolutely. Always.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

I think he wants me to tell the truth about his life because it helps him understand why he was so fearful when he was on earth. I also feel that he was very much the product of the conditioning I spoke of of male violence, of this power over culture to power over women. I also feel that because of the discrimination he experienced, he’s like so many disenfranchised immigrants that have so much anger and fear of being otherized in the countries that they immigrate to. … The resentment that they feel having been discriminated against in their own countries and discriminated in their host countries. So I have empathy while still acknowledging that his behavior was absolutely wrong towards my mother.


Debbie Millman:

You left home and got both your undergraduate and graduate degrees from Harvard University. You majored in East Asian languages and civilizations and did your master’s thesis on women’s organizations in a post-Tiananmen China. What did you think you were going to do professionally at that point?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

Well, I had always been discouraged from pursuing the arts, even though I loved theater, I loved writing, but I never saw it as a vocation. Also as a Sri Lankan and as an Asian, we’re all supposed to become doctors or accountants. And in fact, I come from a long line of accountants on my mother’s side and professionals on my father’s side, engineers and doctors. At that time, when I was in undergrad and graduate school, I was always doing a lot of theater and a lot of writing on the side, but I thought that I was on a path to becoming an academic or a diplomat. And I started working very early on with different international organizations—the Women’s Conference in China, I was on the organizing committee that had a profound impact on me and still has today, but I never ever thought that I would become an artist.


Debbie Millman:

Your career in the arts and social justice intersected and began when you were hired to assist a legendary performance artist, writer and actor, Anna Deavere Smith, on the development of one of her pieces: Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, which was about the human toll of the Los Angeles riots after the Rodney King beating by policemen. How did you first meet Anna Deavere Smith, and what kind of work were you doing with her?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

I first met Anna when I was a student at Harvard and she was a Bunting Fellow. And there was a small luncheon that had been organized for women in the arts, and Anna was one of the guests of honor, and we’re seated very close to each other. So that was the first moment that I encountered Anna. And then after I moved to New York in between undergrad and graduate school, I was actually working at Columbia Law School. I was the program coordinator for the Center for Chinese Legal Studies, which was part of my academic path, and Anna was doing a lecture at Barnard right across the street. And so I went to that lecture and afterwards, I saw her on the street and I had an impulse to tell her if she needed help with anything to let me know. And she called me, which stunned me and delighted me, and said—actually, she had not had an assistant before—and she said, “Actually, I’m working on the show.” At that time it was being workshopped at the Public Theater, and she needed an assistant.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

And I just thought, this has come from the universe. This is somebody I admire so much. And it was a magical time. I mean, it was the early ’90s in New York, the Public Theater was hopping. I felt so grateful to be in a room with George C. Wolfe, who was the director, Tony Kushner, who was the dramaturg. It was extraordinary the people that I encountered then. And that, along with the Women’s Conference in China, really shaped the rest of my life and the decisions I made. And also I learned so much from Anna with regard to how to see a story from multiple points of view.


Debbie Millman:

Absolutely. Yeah. She is a master at presenting perspective. Did she help you see that a life in the arts fueled by activism and generosity was really possible? Was that when you first considered or reconsidered what you might want to do for the rest of your life?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

Well, actually, after working for Anna, I went back to graduate school. I still had not made that leap, but then what happened … I mean, and Anna and I stayed in close contact. I have these vivid memories of sitting in the front row at the Public Theater so I would help Anna learn her lines because part of her practice is speaking the words of the people she interviews verbatim, like every “uh,” “um,” and I would sit in the front row and I would mouth the words along with her, and she and I still joke about how she would sometimes just look at me in the front row and I’d be still parroting the words.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

But after I went to graduate school, what happened is that my father passed away, and that opened doors for me in my mind. But life is short and we should follow our hearts. And academia stopped speaking to me. To be honest, I had gone and worked on the Women’s Conference in China in 1995. I got a real up-close look at diplomacy, or the failure of diplomacy, and I believe that we’re all humans. And because I spoke Chinese, I was often asked to be in between the non-Chinese organizers and the Chinese organizers.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

And I just realized how much of it was because people weren’t able to communicate with each other in their own languages. And also I was becoming disillusioned with the changes that I saw happening in China because I had first gone there in 1987. I was amongst the early wave of students who had gone to China, and had gone there three times since then. And by the time I went in 1995, things have changed so drastically and evolved in a way that I found disturbing with regard to just the increasing disparity, economic disparity, the pollution was already getting horrible. And I just felt like this was not the path for me anymore.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

And then what happened is I was back in New York working on follow-up from the Women’s Conference in China. And so I was spending a lot of time up at the UN, and that was a very formative experience. And I was staying in Tribeca, and the Wooster Group was right near there. And I had seen the Wooster Group on PBS, on David Burns’ show “Alive From Off Center.” And I had seen a short film that they had made, Flaubert Dreams of Travel But the Illness of His Mother Prevents It. And I vividly remembered seeing the Wooster Group’s work on television. So when I was walking by, I would take a different route to kind of walk uptown. I love walking and I love taking a different path because you never know what you’re going to stumble upon. And I saw the sign for the performing garage and kind of like when I gave a note to Anna Deavere Smith, I slipped a note under the door saying, “I’m in town for a couple of months. I love your work. If you need help with anything, let me know.”


Tanya Selvaratnam:

It was like a very casual note. And I got a call that day and met with them. And the Wooster Group had been around for a long time, but had not quite reached the stratosphere that it then reached. And I started out as an intern and very soon thereafter, Liz LeCompte just asked if I would show up on a Saturday, which I thought was unusual. And she just asked me to get on stage. And that’s how I started being part of the development of what would become houselights based on Gertrude Stein’s Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights, and the B-movie Olga’s House of Shame.


Debbie Millman:

You moved to New York and spent 12 years mostly on the road with the Wooster Group. That must have been such a creatively fulfilling time for you.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

It was creatively fulfilling. It was also very unsettling because when you’re on the road that much, it’s very hard to orient yourself in what is home. I was frequently in a different country every month. I was touring with the Wooster Group and then also with the Builders Association. I think I toured to 62 cities or something like that. It was wild, but I got to see the world. It was amazing. I got to visit Bogota. I got to visit Perth, Australia, places I would have never gone and that are firmly etched in my memory. And that kind of world exposure with a purpose like that—I was there to entertain people—really helped me also get to know people there. It’s why I feel like we are all human.


Debbie Millman:

In an effort to make some money, you also worked as a waitress, a cook, an office manager, a transcriber. When did you begin to also work as a producer in addition to a performer?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

A friend of mine from college, we had made theater together in college, I was in a production of Dracula that he—


Debbie Millman:

The range. I know you also played Susan Sontag. I love that you went from playing Dracula to Susan Sontag. That really shows your diversity.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

Well, and I played Christian Amanpour, too.


Debbie Millman:

That’s great.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

That was one of my favorite ones. I do a really good Christian Amanpour voice. So he and I had taken very different paths after making theater together in college. He had gone into the Hollywood studio system, had been very successful there and he decided that he wanted to make an independent film. He wanted to get out of the studio system and he just had this instinct to reach out to me and say, “Would you like to develop a movie with me?” And that was in 1997. Because it came so out of the blue and because I love him so much, I said yes. And that film, which is called Online, got into Sundance, which as a first-time producer was a dream come true. And then after that film, people thought I could produce movies.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

Now I had always been producing events. When I started producing that film, I was actually at the Ms. Foundation as the special projects coordinator, but I had never produced movies before. And it was wonderful to learn so much from Jed Weintrob and to be surrounded by so many professionals. Josh Hamilton was in that movie, Harold Perrineau. It was an incredibly life-changing experience and incredibly hard experience. I made no money at all, but because I put in a lot of my labor into it and it was successful—it got into Sundance and Berlin and people were talking about it—then other opportunities started coming to me, because when your film is at Sundance, people are like, “Oh, she can produce movies.”


Tanya Selvaratnam:

And it’s been ongoing and I love that. And especially in the tragedy of the pandemic where live performance has been nearly impossible, I’ve been fortunate that I can continue to produce movies because so much of the content I produce is digital. So I have been able to continue working, and my heart goes out to my friends who run theaters, who work in the live arts. And I’m just really looking forward to when we can all be safely together in person again.


Debbie Millman:

Yes. Tanya, by the time you were 37, you had gotten married. You decided to start a family. And for the next three years, you tried to conceive naturally, but had two more miscarriages. You stated that one miscarriage felt like a disappointment, but three felt like a curse. And you began to consider the mistakes you’d made in your life that resulted in your not being able to carry a baby to term. So you were blaming yourself for three miscarriages.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

I was not prepared for the fertility rollercoaster. And it’s what so many women do. We blame ourselves. We blame ourselves for the abuse we experience. We blame ourselves for our shortcomings in our careers. We blame ourselves for not standing up for ourselves. And so yes, I was blaming myself for the miscarriages. Is there something I could have done differently? Should I have done more to educate myself about fertility? And I was winging it. I was winging it. I got pregnant very easily but then each of those miscarriages highlighted for me like maybe I should have been more intentional.


Debbie Millman:

You wrote about how the years of failing to become a mother gave you time to think hard about what you wanted, and sparked an intense desire for success at having a child that increased to a point where you felt you would be destroyed if it didn’t work out. And at 39, I tried and also was able to get pregnant, but was not able to stay being pregnant, and ended up having two miscarriages. And then I gave up. I couldn’t go through it anymore. And at the time I remember getting really caught up in the “I have to be successful at this. I’m only going to be a full person if this is successful.” And ultimately it wasn’t and I just couldn’t go through the heartbreak. And also what I was putting my body through at that time was just so brutal. How did you ultimately come to understand that it wasn’t about you and what you had done, but about biology and about science and about age and about evolution?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

When I decided to pursue fertility treatments after the three miscarriages, I started to do research into the issue and realized how common my story was. So I knew that I was not alone and also sharing stories with my friends and realizing how people I had known for decades had had miscarriages and we just had never talked about it. And my husband at the time after I started having my miscarriages, he found out from his own mother that she had had a miscarriage that he had never known about. So it was recognizing that my story was one of many, and that we need to take the shame and stigma out of miscarriage and infertility. And also realizing that so much of our brainwashing around having a child is because of societal pressure and popular culture and misinformation. There’s just so much misinformation that continues to be perpetuated. And I think it’s in large part perpetuated because we live in an aspirational society where we present only the positive spin and not the hardships that we go through.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

And I think people really kind of break the dam when they do share their hard stories about miscarriages and infertility. And I think about people like Chrissy Teigen talking about her miscarriage last year, I think those are all very important. And also there are too many people who are profiting on keeping women and people in general in the dark about what goes into our biologies and our fertility spans. When we are given sex education … when I was having sex education, it was completely about preventing STDs and preventing pregnancy. We weren’t talked about sexual pleasure. We weren’t talked about fertility awareness. It’s kind of mind-blowing that that hasn’t been overhauled completely.


Debbie Millman:

You ultimately turned to IVF, but while preparing for the procedure, your doctors discovered you had two cancers, a thymoma and a gastrointestinal stromal tumor. Tanya, I really am so sorry that you’ve had to go through all of this in your life. It’s interesting that the title of your book is Assume Nothing because it’s so much more when looking at your life to see that you’ve just gone through so much and have been able to overcome so much. And at the time you stated that you felt like you skipped a midlife crisis and went to straight to an end-of-life crisis. How did you manage? How did you manage?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

First of all, my having gone through so much—being from Sri Lanka, where people have gone through natural disasters, tsunami, decades of civil war, and so many people around the world—for me, I say I feel very fortunate to have a home, to have friends, to have a job. So I’m able to put that in perspective. But in terms of what’s happened in my own life, I feel like I’ve kept my spirit guides working overtime. And I am actually grateful that the tumors were found. I feel like the universe intended for me to be pursuing fertility treatment, even though I couldn’t follow through with it because on the day that I went for the baseline ultrasound, the day that I was supposed to start taking the fertility drugs—they had all been delivered to my house—and I had had a dozen ultrasounds over the previous year-plus because of the miscarriage, and also because I was preparing to start fertility treatment.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

But on that day of the baseline ultrasound, they suddenly noticed a growth and they were like, “we need to find out what this is before you start the drugs.” I was like, “OK.” And at that point, it was a complete rollercoaster for many, many, many weeks because it took them a long time to figure out what it was because it was so unusual. And then I had an amazing doctor at Mass General, who said, “Let’s just do a full-body scan and see what else is going on inside you.” And it was when they did the full-body scan that they noticed another growth, and this time it was right in front of my heart. That was the first time when I felt the blood rush out of my veins. And I had faith in my doctors.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

I submitted myself to science and I just said, “OK, now I really just have to be in the moment and appreciate every second because I have no idea how this is going to unfold.” But fortunately, because the tumors were caught so early, I was able to save my life. Thanks to the doctors who were looking out for me and my spirit guides. And now I go for a CAT scan every year. I had my last one at the end of 2020 and so far so good. It’s been eight-plus years since they were first detected. Both tumors were incredibly rare. The gastrointestinal stromal tumor about not that long before I was diagnosed with it, they didn’t even have a treatment for it. People usually died of it. And with the tumors I had, my doctors made it very, very clear that if they had not been found when they were, that I would have gotten very sick and might have died. And in fact, I have a distant cousin who died a few years ago of a similar tumor with the one in the chest area, and she died when she was 29.


Debbie Millman:

Oh Tanya, life is so crazy. I mean, the infertility in many ways saved your life, right?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

Yes. Instead of making a new life, I had to save my own.


Debbie Millman:

In the fall of 2012, after successful cancer treatment and ready to move ahead with IVF, you were in France on tour with a show that your husband was directing, and that you had produced and also appeared, and your husband told you he wanted to separate. What happened?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

It was a complete shutdown. I have moved so far away from that experience because I was very focused on not being bitter or angry. And also that moment was so painful for me that it took me many years to dig myself out of that hole. But I think it was—and I don’t want to analyze him, but it was, I think, fear.


Debbie Millman:

Yeah. You said you could have crumbled, and you did, but you also wrote a book, which is very Tanya-esque way of, I think, making lemonade out of lemons. You called the book The Big Lie, which was a deeply personal journey through pregnancy, miscarriage, infertility and the myths and misconceptions that surround female fertility and delaying motherhood. It’s a really good book. I think it’s a really necessary book. What made you decide to write it at that time?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

So I actually decided to write the book while I was still married, and before I started fertility treatments. And the book came the way much of my writing comes to me, which is I’m an intrepid note-taker. I have been from the time I was a child, because I was shy and introverted. I was always journaling. I was writing things out. I was working things out through my writing, and I had been taking notes the whole time that I was going through the miscarriages. And after talking with many friends and doing research about what information was out there with regard to fertility, I was like, “we need to be talking about this, and I want to write a book that sparks discussion about it and also gives them resources.” Like, one of the chapters I’m proudest of is “What the Experts Wish You Knew,” where I went around and interviewed experts all over the country, fertility consultants, the head of the International Society of Fertility Preservation, who’s remained a friend.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

And I wanted to take the hard experiences I’ve had and turn them into tools for other people, which is what I feel my soul’s purpose is, but I could not prepare myself for the twists and turns that my life would take after I started writing the book. And the twists and turns were the cancer, the surgery and the divorce. I didn’t tell my editor about all that was going on. When I turned in the manuscript, he called and he’s like, “What?”


Debbie Millman:

I was going to say, wow. Yeah. Why didn’t you tell him? I mean, I’ve gone through experiences where I never told anybody at the office I was working in at the time about my two miscarriages. I didn’t tell them about my divorce when I was first going through it because I didn’t want anybody to think that my performance was going to be impacted in any way, and so they couldn’t blame anything on a divorce or a miscarriage. Was that the same for you?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

Part of it was I wanted to surprise him. That was actually deliberate. And also because my story was unfolding in real time and I didn’t know where it was going to land by the time the manuscript was due. I also didn’t know at the time how things were going to unfold with my now ex-husband, because the way the book ends is we’ve separated and he’s asked for space. So it ends before we actually got divorced.


Debbie Millman:

Yeah. OK. I wish that your book had been written when I went through all of my infertility rows, which were quite some time ago, 1999 and 2000. What advice would you give young people today that might be listening, about fertility?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

Everyone is different, and know your own fertility and be your own advocate. And don’t wait for the information to be given to you, seek it out and seek out accurate information through books like mine, through experts. And also to be very wary of the medical industrial complex that tries to push fertility information onto you. There are very corrupt private clinics out there that are trying to get women to freeze their eggs at early ages and to engage in very invasive procedures without adequately preparing them for the side effects.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

And I would just say, be your own advocate, educate yourself, have conversations with friends and plan for your fertility future. We are trained in schools how to become successful in our careers, but we are not trained about how to treat each other and how to live our best lives. And I hope that that is a change that happens in education because too many people suffer because of misinformation or lack of information while they’re growing up. And these behaviors become ingrained from the time we are young. It’s the same with intimate partner violence, where millions of people experience it before they turn 18.


Debbie Millman:

Yep. Absolutely. Well, that brings us to our next topic. In a video interview I watched about your journey writing The Big Lie several years ago, you stated that we have to strip away the guilt that we feel at so many junctures in our lives. I was really struck by that sentence because you said it years before what ultimately became another juncture, an important juncture. And I think that that line could also apply more recently to the relationship that you had with Eric Schneiderman, and you write about it at length and with great poignancy in your new book, Assume Nothing: A Story of Intimate Violence, which came out last month. Thank you for writing this important book as well, Tanya. And I’d also like to ask you if it would be OK to ask you some questions about it. I know you said I could ask you anything, but this is particularly sensitive, both for you and for our listeners. And I want to make sure you’re OK with it.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

Yes. Again, you can ask me anything.


Debbie Millman:

Thank you. Thank you for being so open. You met New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman at the Democratic National Convention. You were working on the Democratic National Convention in 2016. What was that first meeting like?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

It was like a fairy tale. It was this magic moment where I was not even supposed to be at the convention that night, but a friend gave me an extra pass he had. And so I quickly got my way over to the convention center and a friend whisked me into Governor Ed Rendell’s box. I was perched on a stool taking notes. I was wearing this blue Liz Collins dress with stars all over it, and a white vest and red shoes. And I was like, I thought, well, I look like an American flag.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

And I felt this man glancing at me and we exchanged glances. And then he came over to me. And he was amazed that I was taking notes, like actually writing in a book, which I still do—that I wasn’t typing into a phone or on a laptop. And then he struck up a conversation that was very charming. It was very kind, curious about me and my work. We discovered that we had both gone to Harvard and that we had both studied Chinese and that we were both interested in spirituality and meditation. And that was how it began. I felt curious about him. I was also impressed that he was a politician who meditated.


Debbie Millman:

Initially it seemed like his values aligned with yours. You didn’t really rush into things, though. From the way you described the early days of his courtship, you really moved quite slowly toward having a relationship with him. Was that something that, looking back on it now, you feel was your own sort of inner warning system, or was it just your style of moving into a relationship?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

It was more that I had not been in a long relationship since my divorce, which had just been finalized less than two years before. And I was trying to protect myself, but also there was a natural obstacle to progressing too quickly, which is that a few days after we met, we met again, we had lunch in Manhattan after we were both back in the city, and he was going to a meditation retreat that night and I was going to Portland, Oregon, where I lived part-time, for a few weeks. So that was a natural obstacle to moving too quickly.


Debbie Millman:

You write about how his outward-facing spirituality was a mask for the torment beneath his surface and how his outward-facing feminism was a mask for his misogyny. Through public events, he perpetuated a narrative of himself as an agent of change and transformation. Many people you trusted depicted him as a hero, and he positioned himself as standing up for many causes that we both believe in, and yet it was all a big lie. When did you first start seeing that bifurcation in him than the persona that he was presenting publicly?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

It was a drip, drip, drip after we started actually seeing each other. And there were hints of it early on because of him being a politician and the narcissism of politicians—not all, but many. And how he would preach this language of transformational politics, transformational activism, but I was witnessing behind the scenes how transactional he actually was. So that was one sign just on a kind of macro level. Then on a micro level between us, I noticed shifts in his behavior towards me, which progressed from being very adoring and supportive and curious about my work and really complimenting me a lot, to starting to take digs both subtle and overt at me about the way I dressed, about my hair. And at first when they started happening, I would let them slide because they would happen in the moment. They were not ones that deeply impacted me at the time, but then they became more insidious. The way he started attacking my scars that run down my torso—really like the scars are a running theme in the book.


Debbie Millman:

Yeah.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

The scars that we bear on our bodies and the scars that we conceal on the inside. And he would at first look at my scars and refer to them as a badge of courage that I had overcome adversity, but then as the months went by, he wanted me to get plastic surgery to remove my scars. Then there was also the racism that emerged in the bedroom. Warning in advance because some of this is disturbing. But he would start slapping me in the bedroom and asking me to call him master and refer to me as his slave.


Debbie Millman:

Brown slave.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

And when it started happening, it was in the flash of an eye. I was naked, it was dark, it was disorienting. I felt like I had vertigo, and it didn’t last long. And then I would go to sleep and I’d wake up, and I’d wake up like I had had a weird dream the night before, and he would be not that person that he was at night. So again, it was this like drip, drip, drip of manifestations of abuse with the demeaning, belittling, controlling behavior, the coercive control, and then escalating to the physical violence. And also just recognizing that violence is not just physical, but it is emotional and verbal and psychological as well.


Debbie Millman:

I mean, while you’re supposedly making love, he starts to beat you and to choke you and to demean you. He even threatened to kill you at one point. Did you think it was possible that this was an anomaly, that he was ever going to change?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

Well, by the time I got entangled in the abusive relationship, I had been so broken down that it was hard to see outside of it.


Debbie Millman:

Yeah.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

Which is—


Debbie Millman:

I understand that.


Tanya Selvaratnam:
A victim looks like all of us. And I have been stunned by the number of people who’ve reached out to me sharing their own stories of similar abuse with the choking and the spitting and the slapping. I feel like these guys are all watching the same bad porn that somehow condones physical violence against women without their consent. And they do it in the context of the bedroom because they think they can get away with it. It’s easier to get away with it in the bedroom in the sexual context than if he had hit me in the living room or the kitchen. And I did think that he could change. It was very much after the election in 2016, and then especially after the inauguration when things started taking very dark, dark pivots, and his drinking was increasing, his consumption of prescription drugs was increasing. And I felt like he’s depressed. There’s so much pressure on him.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

He was also in the national spotlight more than ever before. Like I had never heard of him before, but suddenly he was everywhere because was seen as the bulwark against the now, we can say, former president. I wanted to help him. And he said that he would get help. I tried to get him to speak to a therapist. He said he was going to get counseling, go to meditation retreats, but it was all just talk because even if he would go away and get help, he would come back and the pattern would repeat itself.


Debbie Millman:

You provide some terrifying statistics in Assume Nothing. You share that intimate partner violence is a pattern of abusive behavior used to maintain power and control over a partner. The abuse can be physical, emotional, verbal, sexual or financial, just to name a few. Intimate partner violence can occur in any kind of intimate relationship. And then there’s this statistic about one in four women, and nearly one in 10 men, have experienced sexual violence, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime. Tanya, why hasn’t this topic come to our attention until now? Is this a different kind of shame?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

There’s a whole ecosystem that perpetuates this type of violence. And I blame it on popular culture, which has not paid attention to this issue, or has done the opposite and glorified the violence. And we’ve seen so much of that with what happened around police brutality last year, how much popular culture played into that. We’re seeing that now with hate crimes against Asian American Pacific Islanders, how much popular culture plays into that. Intimate partner violence also has been the by-product of a popular culture conditioning. It’s also because of problems with our education that we aren’t prepared for how to protect ourselves if someone decides to target us. I wasn’t prepared for my path to intersect with an abuser. I wasn’t prepared for the grooming and gaslighting and manipulation. And I wanted to show that even fierce women get abused. Another big problem is resources that are allocated at a federal level to organizations that address intimate partner violence and provide legal services, shelter and mental health counseling services.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

You take, for instance, with law enforcement, the No. 1 reason for calls to 911 is domestic violence, but domestic violence is a fraction of the budget for law enforcement. And I feel in the same way that there’s now more racial bias training in law enforcement, there also needs to be domestic violence training so that law enforcement is better equipped to handle these cases. And also there needs to be a more victim-centered approach because not everyone feels comfortable getting entangled in the legal system. And it is especially fraught for women of color who have been already targeted by law enforcement.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

The other statistics I cite in the book are the devastating ones around the majority of women in prison are survivors. The majority of homeless women are survivors. I mean, these are terrifying statistics, but I feel like we have an opportunity now with the pandemic having heightened the urgency of addressing the domestic violence crisis because victims have been in lockdown with their abusers, and the alarming rises in domestic violence around the world, we see more clearly how we have to address it. And there’s been amazing work done by Rachel Louise Snyder, the author of No Visible Bruises, where she cites the studies about the economic impact of violence against women, how much it costs to treat these cases, the medical injuries and how much productivity of women is hampered because they are victims and survivors.


Debbie Millman:

In your book, you state that women get blamed for staying in abusive relationships. They get blamed for fighting back. They get blamed for getting into the relationship in the first place. Why do you think that so much blame is placed on the women when they’re the victims?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

The patriarchy.


Debbie Millman:

You write in Assume Nothing that before your story of intimate violence became public, you’d been known for your work, your advocacy, your art, your performance. When you wrote The Big Lie, you were largely in control of the narrative, but here the story and your character were being spun by outlet after outlet in a way over which you had no control. And as a matter of fact, I found out about it on Twitter when The New Yorker tweeted one of the quotes that you stated in the article that they wrote about you when this first came out. How did you manage through that? I mean, I even remember being worried about writing you about it because I didn’t want to interfere, and I’m a friend. But how did you feel about the whole world sort of participating in your life at that moment?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

Well, I am very good at hiding, and this is where the shy introvert in me comes in handy. As a producer, I am forced to be more public, but as a writer, I’m able to be more private. And I had made very careful plans in the weeks before the story would come out to leave my apartment, delete my name from my buzzer on my apartment, and deleted all my social media accounts. And I moved into a friend’s place. And I was in a cocoon over there, so that when the story came out, nobody would be able to find me.


Debbie Millman:

You had to escape from your own life.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

Yes. And I also know that in this fast-paced media culture that the new cycle would pass and eventually nobody would care anymore. So I just thought, I’m going to ride this out. I was worried about my career and reputation. I was worried before the story came out about my physical safety as well, because if the story did not land in such a way that resulted in his resignation, he would have still been in power and I had no idea what kind of resources he might be able to deploy to destroy me.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

And I believe as a producer in envisioning possible outcomes, and so there was an outcome that was positive, where everything would be OK. But then there was an outcome where I would be in grave danger. And I think it is important to be aware that you can’t anticipate how much someone will snap when they feel everything’s slipping away from them. And I have so many friends who’ve been in relationships with very powerful people, or who’ve been in work relationships with very powerful people, women or men who will go to extreme lengths to intimidate them.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

And I did a private security training with a team from Gavin de Becker’s office, and that was mind-blowing and very helpful. I carried pepper spray in my bag, and I also left the country for a while. And thankfully, the story landed like a surgical strike because the reporting by Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow was so airtight. I mean, I trusted them. I trusted David Remnick, but I had no idea how the story was going to land. But when David Remnick gave me a heads-up, saying he’s going to resign and this is unprecedented, I knew. I suddenly felt my shoulders go down, and I was like, I think I’ll be OK. I’ll have to go away for a while, but eventually I’ll be OK.


Debbie Millman:

Well, he resigned three hours after publication of the article in The New Yorker, and District Attorney Madeline Singas ultimately proposed a new state law to protect victims of sexually motivated violence by making it illegal to hit, shove, slap or kick someone without their consent for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification. That’s a start. You helped make that difference, Tanya, thank you.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

I’m grateful to D.A. Singas.


Debbie Millman:

You said that you used to avoid discussing the memories of your childhood not because they were painful, but because you felt they tainted you. Do you still feel that way?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

No.


Debbie Millman:

Good. Now that the book is out, now that there is this new law proposed, how do you look back on the experience? How do you see your own growth and evolution and power in this chapter of your life?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

I’m grateful that I’m a writer so that I could write my way out of the darkness, because I had gone from getting out of the relationship with Eric Schneiderman, to wanting to get on with my life, to recognizing that I was part of a pattern and realizing that I had to come forward because my conscience wouldn’t let me not. So I went into survival mode, and then it was many months of survival mode and preparing for the story to become public. And then it was in hiding mode. And so when I could stop hiding—because for a long time after the story came out, I was not comfortable being visible. I didn’t want to be seen. However, I had to keep showing up because I started a new job within a month of that story coming out. And I was very grateful that my boss at the new job said “we’re still on” the day after the story came out.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

So I had to show up to work and I was very grateful for that work. And I decided to write the book because I had so many people who were reaching out to me in those months after sharing their own stories. And when I was searching for books about intimate violence, specifically in the sexual context, I was hungry for resources and hungry for a narrative that would draw people in. So I thought, I want to write this book for all the people that are reaching out to me. And also I wanted to write my way out of the darkness and hope that it helps others find their light too. And I’ve been so gratified by the notes that I’ve been receiving since the book came out, with people saying that it’s released memories that they had suppressed, that it’s allowed them to talk to their children, to their family, to their spouses about what they experienced when they were younger, and also to understand the domestic violence that they witnessed as children between their parents more.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

And I’m very grateful for those notes to show that the book is landing in such a way that it’s providing healing for people and also providing resources to help prevent intimate partner violence, because I wasn’t prepared for the stages I went through. And by walking the reader through those stages, I’m hoping that it really does help other people. And by getting to the end of writing the book, I feel that I became my strongest self ever and emerged with more gratitude and more love for the people and colleagues in my life, and people like you who’ve been so supportive. I’m really looking forward to when I can really relax and take in how the book has landed. And I’m excited for the next stage of the book too, because I think I’ve told you that it’s being turned into a series.


Debbie Millman:

Yes. Over the course of your life, you’ve said that activism is the throughline of everything that you do. And there’s no question that Assume Nothing advocates for a more safer, for a more just world. And so I’m hopeful that this series will continue to do that work, but it’s not the only activism that you’re part of. And I’m very conscious that the other work that you do is also really significant. So two last questions for you. First, can you share some of the other efforts that you’re part of these days, because they’re significant?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

I was so proud to work on Joy to the Polls around the general election, and then because of the Georgia Senate runoffs, it continued. It was a beautiful project with a beautiful team that sought to make voting a celebration and deescalate tensions. It was a nonpartisan effort. We just brought flatbed trucks with flowers and dancers and DJs to polling centers. And it was fun working on the Spotify playlist series with contributions from President Barack Obama and Marissa Domain, I mean, so many amazing people. It was a beautiful experience and that work has now evolved into the work I’ve done with this amazing company Invisible Hand. I produced and directed a series of videos to highlight The Black Church Series hosted by Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. that premiered on PBS and is still available to stream.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

So I got to make videos with gospel singers Tasha Cobbs Leonard, and Erica Campbell and Fred Hammond and John Legend, and getting to listen to gospel music every day has also brought me joy. So I’m just trying to surround myself with as many joyful projects as possible. And then I recently became the senior advisor for gender justice narratives for the Pop Culture Collaborative, and I’m working very closely with Tracy Van Slyke of the Pop Culture Collaborative and hoping to get that off the ground so that we can change the narrative waters around gender justice and really dig deep into why popular culture is lagging behind. Because as a friend told me, when you change culture, you change culture.


Debbie Millman:

Yes, absolutely. Seth Godin said government doesn’t change, culture changes government. And I love that. I really love that. Tanya, the last thing I want to ask you about is the power of making art. You’ve stated that art can help shape consciousness through creativity. I love that. What advice do you have for artists who doubt that art can make a difference in the world?


Tanya Selvaratnam:

Well, I think of the work of Leonard Shlain, the father of our dear friend Tiffany Shlain, and his book Art and Physics, which shows how many advances in science were predated by what artists saw. Over the past many years, I’ve been working on organizing and producing coalitions of artists around particular issues. So the work that I did on Planned Parenthood, which you hosted the launch event for, with the Unstoppable Campaign, the work that I’ve done with Four Freedoms, the coalition of artists and institutions around the country and in DC and Puerto Rico to catalyze civic discourse through art. And the work that I did with the Federation with Laurie Anderson and Laura Michael Shushan to keep cultural borders open and show how art unites us.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

I believe that art can convey messages in ways that stir emotions that might cause people to take action in ways that speeches and politics might not. So I think the linkages between art and activism and art and politics are crucial if we’re going to bring people together, because art does have that power to bring people together and help them see multiple perspectives. Like, going back to our conversation about Anna Deavere Smith, the way Anna does.


Debbie Millman:

Yeah. The last thing I want to share with our listeners is a quote I found of yours online. And you state that when life throws you lemons, make art. Tanya, I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody that’s been thrown so many lemons and has created such important art for our culture. Thank you, thank you, thank you for doing that. And thank you for joining me today on Design Matters.


Tanya Selvaratnam:

Thank you so much, Debbie. I’m glad you dug up that old quote from me.


Debbie Millman:

Tanya Selvaratnam’s latest book is Assume Nothing: A Story of Intimate Violence. You can see more of Tanya’s work at tanyaturnsup.com. This is the 17th year we’ve been podcasting Design Matters, and I’d like to thank you for listening. And remember, we can talk about making a difference, we can make a difference, or we can do both. I’m Debbie Millman and I look forward to talking with you again soon.

And remember, we can talk about making a difference, we can make a difference, or we can do both.  — Debbie Millman