Amanda Hirsch wants you to know that you can still be you and have a kid. Or, as she told a 24-year-old Instagram influencer over dinner recently, “You can still be a dumb b*tch and have a baby.” She relayed this story to me in September at her Upper East Side apartment and I nodded enthusiastically in agreement.
We were seated at her kitchen table, in front of a plate of chocolate chip cookies arranged by Hirsch’s husband, and a medley of probiotic fizzy drinks sent by a potential brand partner. Hirsch offered me one (which I declined), and I don’t think we should expect to see her do any spon-con for them because after one sip, she nearly spit it out.
If you’re unfamiliar with the 33-year-old Hirsch, who runs the beloved pop-culture Instagram account @notskinnybutnotfat and hosts a podcast of the same name, she’s not entirely sure how to introduce herself to you. She thinks it’s “annoying” to call herself an influencer, “hates” being called a content creator, and doesn’t think saying she “works in media” is quite right, either. Fellow podcaster Taylor Strecker says Hirsch is “a vacation from my daily anxiety,” while Hirsch’s sister Arielle believes Hirsch has always been an “entertainer.”
Hirsch herself says she is “literally sharing her opinions and providing commentary.” Those opinions have earned her more than 400,000 followers on Instagram, and over 2.7 million downloads of her podcast, which she says has grown by over 200% in the last year.
An average day on @notskinnybutnotfat might include Hirsch’s analysis of a Skims ad featuring Kourtney Kardashian and Megan Fox holding each other and biting into a shared apple, which Hirsch pronounced "genius." (Kim Kardashian later shared this very post in her stories, accompanied by the caption “I love you!”). It might include a riff on John Mulaney’s relationship status, or A-Rod’s new men’s concealer, or the latest Vanderpump drama. Judging from her enthusiastic and vocal fan base, people follow @notskinnybutnotfat not because they share every one of Hirsch’s obsessions, but because of her formidable personality and voice. Spend a few minutes in her world and you’ll find that looking at pop culture, memes, and celeb gossip through Hirsch’s snarky, jubilant lens is a much needed distraction from the rest of the world. It is, simply put, fun.
Hirsch can trace her love of pop culture back to her earliest memories of childhood. She laughingly recalls accompanying her mom to the Stop ’N Shop in Riverdale, a leafy suburb of New York City, under the guise of “helping” but really just to read the tabloids. “The cashiers would always yell at me because I’d walk around the supermarket and my mom would be like, ‘Where are the apples?’ I'd be like, ‘I'm reading.’ I literally was obsessed, always.”
The high school she went to was progressive, the kind of place where kids went to protests instead of, say, Friendly’s, which is where I spent most of my free time as an adolescent. But Hirsch was more “into pop culture, celebrities, E!, sh*t like that. It was embarrassing at the time because it didn’t make you feel smart and didn’t make people think that you were smart,” she says. When she decided to major in communications at Ithaca, she remembers her older sister Allison, who volunteered abroad and studied pre-med in college, saying something to the effect of: “Because she’s superficial and all she cares about is celebrities.” Hirsch can laugh about these memories now, and says that Allison is happy about her success, but she “won’t forget” that incident, or a similar altercation that ended with Hirsch throwing a hot coffee in Allison’s direction, a scene worthy of Hirsch’s future as a #CertifiedBravoholic.
“It is a wild, wild world to live in right now with social media, with everyone watching, with even the word ‘cancel’ to exist.”
After college, she traveled to Israel, and almost immediately met her now-husband, Yaron Weiss. She and Weiss stayed in Israel for five years, a period of her life she describes as professionally aimless. “I was happy, in love and having fun. And what I’d always tell my husband is, ‘If I wasn’t here and I was in America, I’d be working at Vogue and doing all this sh*t.’” When they returned to New York, she tried to do just that, but after realizing she wasn’t going to “be Anna Wintour without even an internship in writing,” Hirsch picked up more odd jobs (this time, recruiting). And it was in 2016, during that particular limbo period of being a young adult trying to figure herself out, that @notskinnybutnotfat was born.
She told me she’s always written, but when she first discovered meme accounts like @fuckjerry and @thefatjewish that weren’t just using Instagram to show off their filtered brunch snaps, it was a revelation. “I thought ‘Oh my God, this is funny. People are writing funny things! I could write funny things.’”
The early days of @notskinnybutnotfat were primarily memes that, as the name might suggest, were related to diet culture and self-deprecating humor about the conflict between loving food and having a body. One of Hirsch’s more vintage memes, which is just text on a white background, reads: “Looking back on old pics and remembering how you thought you were so fat then but you’re so much fatter now.” At the time, Hirsch chose the name for her account based on her own personal history of feeling a little in-between, though she didn’t choose to interrogate the culture that made her feel this way, or how her pejorative use of the word “fat” might be contributing to more people’s self-loathing and misery, until more recently. She says if she could go back, she wouldn’t choose the same name for her account — but that she could call it “poopadoop” or something similarly irrelevant, and it wouldn’t matter.
Today, memes about “cheating” on diets are rare on her platform; you’re much more likely to see photos of Hirsch with her extremely cute baby, Noah (the joy she feels in his presence is as palpable in person as it is on her Instagram — you get the sense she’s constantly restraining herself from taking a bite of his baby sweetness). Both “the husb” (provider of aforementioned cookie tray) and Noah made appearances during our interview, and I was — despite Hirsch’s dismay at being dubbed an influencer — genuinely influenced IRL by Noah’s whale T-shirt, which was sent to Hirsch by a kids’ clothing subscription box called Dopple.
In between celebrity posts and shots of Noah being cute, Hirsch peppers in sponsored content, and I was surprised to learn that her work has only been monetized since Noah’s birth last year. Before brands started inquiring about partnerships, Hirsch was “just having fun” with her Instagram account and podcast, and her income depended on her freelance recruiting job and work at “a random-*ss place” that had nothing to do with her career goals. She says that she never set out to make her platform monetizable, and that, prior to sharing sponsored posts, she “made fun” of stereotypical influencers. “It’s very hard for me to be like, ‘swipe up,’ you know? Because there is the typecast of an influencer and I know I’m not that,” she says. “Do I know that I can sell a product or I can endorse something that I like and have people want to buy it because I bought it? Yes. So technically that’s an influencer.”
Hirsch admits to having “f*cked up” in the past, and freely acknowledges she likely will do so again, so I wondered if she ever felt worried about cancellation, especially as someone who’s made a career (at least in part) of snarking on others. “It is a wild, wild world to live in right now with social media, with everyone watching, with even the word ‘cancel’ to exist. About a person,” she says. “I remember when I first saw it, I was like, ‘Wait, what do you mean? They’re alive. Why are we killing them?’”
Hirsch thinks it’s worth paying attention to what’s triggering for others, but also says she thinks there’s a fine line between being thoughtful about doing potential harm and censoring one’s creative voice. “Sometimes I'm like, ‘Can't we laugh?’ Let’s be honest, you say that sh*t to your friends, so why can’t we say it here?’” She thinks that trying to please everyone is the anathema to creativity, especially given the fact that someone will always take issue with something, especially when one has a few hundred thousand followers.
She has developed what she calls a “quick filter.” “I like being snarky. I like kind of treading on the line of a little b*tchy but not to the point where I …” she trails off, thinking. “Before I post something, I’m not going to sit and do a thesis on it, but I do think, ‘Am I OK with this amount of people seeing it? And, moreover, am I OK with the person I’m talking about seeing it? If I’m writing something about Kim Kardashian and she sees it, am I OK with that?’ That’s the quick filter.” (Hirsch recently attended Kardashian’s taping of Saturday Night Live, so it looks like things are all good between Kim and Kamanda).
Hirsch thinks (probably rightly) that her appeal lies in her rawness, her decidedly unfiltered voice and presentation. Recalling her niche obsession with Gigi Hadid’s stroller (she had been gifted the same Bugaboo stroller that Hadid used “as her main stroller, not her side piece stroller!”) she notes that leaning into her obsessions, rather than obsessing about whether or not said obsession will be “relatable content,” is what sets her apart. “If I had to think, ‘What am I going to do so people relate and engage?,’ it wouldn’t work.”
Hirsch is still pinching herself that she gets to “spend 20 hours out of every 24” following her passion, and honestly, it’s refreshing to meet a mom who is so adamantly herself, regardless of whether that self might fit into some sort of arbitrarily ideal momfluencer mold. You know you’re not going to see perfectly curated “messes” on Hirsch’s feed (something we both noted as obnoxious in certain momfluencer feeds), and she took absolute glee in confessing to “dropping my baby on the floor because I was so f*cking blown away that Kourtney got a haircut.”
She thinks people can relate to a person who just kept on being herself after motherhood, a “loungey, homebody person that does have her own life and a baby and everything.” Shockingly (to both me and Hirsch), she says she’s never been mom-shamed, something nearly impossible to avoid when you exist as a mother on social media.
Instagram demands a layer of artifice, a necessary performance of identity. We all seem to acknowledge that what we see on Instagram isn’t real. Hirsch wants to push back against such an assumption. “I'm like, ‘Why? Why? Why can’t it be real?’” she says. “I’m not like the team of, ‘You need to show every stretch, mark, and cellulite, and whatever.’ But you can also just be yourself. You don’t have to be someone else.” And if you listen to her podcast, or scroll through her Instagram, Hirsch being herself is precisely the point. As Bravo star and podcaster Katie Maloney put it to me in an email, “In a sea of influencers and creators trying to appear relatable Amanda just is.” And maybe that’s why her fans want to know what she thinks about Deux cookie dough, or about her childhood resemblance to one of the Hanson brothers, or, or, or. Because Amanda Hirsch has made a name for herself that defies categorization, on a platform that seems determined to box us all in.
Photographer: Caroline Tompkins