Ten years ago, Brené started the Daring Interview series on her blog. It quickly became one of our favorite features. Now, we are relaunching the series and adding in a few new questions, including some from the late James Lipton, host of Inside the Actors Studio, and Smith Magazine’s Six-Word Memoir.
It started as a hobby in the summer of 2014. A fun food-and-fitness blog, with Alex Snodgrass covering food and her sister, Madison, taking care of the fitness. The Defined Dish, they called it.
Madison would soon move on from the blog, creating a sort of fork-in-the-road decision for Alex: move on as well or lean in in an even bigger way.
Alex — a young woman starting and raising a young family with her husband in Dallas, Texas — opted for the latter.
And growth followed. The blog blossomed into a full-on business, with cookbooks (The Defined Dish, The Comfortable Kitchen, Dinner Tonight) that would make the New York Times bestsellers list; a multi-platform community of hundreds of thousands of followers and fans who would tune in for simple, healthful recipes and pointers on how to avoid kitchen fiascos; and, eventually, a line of dressings, called SideDish.
Brené often makes Defined Dish recipes for her family (Better Than Takeout Black Pepper Chicken and Salt and Vinegar Chicken Wings are two faves), but what also draws our community to Alex is her willingness to share — amid the recipes and the posts about adventures with her family — honest reflections about the not-so-sugarcoated parts of life. She isn’t afraid to open up about health struggles, especially during her postpartum phase of life; coping strategies for flight anxiety; balancing work and home life; boundaries around social media; or just an ordinary day that feels hard, modeling the great power in embracing imperfection and vulnerability.
“Vulnerability plays a large role in my work. Being able to share difficult aspects of my life that I have worked to overcome is very important to me. I’ve seen how sharing my own personal experience, even when really hard, can help others,” Alex says.
With what Brené once described as “playful soulfulness,” Alex embodies what it means to be awkward, brave, and kind, wading through the waters of online culture with a joy, groundedness, and accessibility that we love.
Vulnerability is . . .
Well, thanks to Brené, I’ve learned a lot about vulnerability, and to me, it’s being emotionally exposed — sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly. I think it’s good, in most instances, to be able to express yourself vulnerably and let out your emotions. Even if it is at the risk of being ridiculed; in the long run, it will lead to understanding, growth, and so much more.
What role does vulnerability play in your work?
It’s easy to share all of the “good” parts of life online, but when we share the not-so-great experiences that we have worked through or are working through, we can help encourage others that they are certainly not alone in their journeys.
What’s something that gets in the way of your creativity, and how do you move through it?
Cooking is a huge part of my soul and my identity as a person, even without the business I have created. It’s just one of the most important parts of who I am as a person and the number one way I express myself. Sometimes, because it is my business and because of the nonstop content-producing side of it, it can create burnout. Over the years, I have gotten much better at identifying when I am burned-out, or on the verge of being burned-out, and take the time to take a step back and reset. It’s essential in maintaining my creativity in the kitchen, and more importantly, it’s essential in preserving my undying love for cooking. When you are just producing to produce and keep up with the beast that is content creation, it’s not authentically you or your best work. I am so grateful that my business is formatted around my passion for cooking, and I work very hard to preserve that passion and creativity.
It’s often difficult to share ourselves and our work with the world, given the reflexive criticism and mean-spiritedness that we see in our culture — especially online. What strategies do you use to show up, let yourself be seen, share your work with the world, and deal with criticism?
This is something I’ve really worked through over time and continue to improve on. As a quintessential people pleaser, I have found that having the platform — and the criticism that inevitably comes along with it — has actually helped me to quit caring so much about what other people think, which is something I have worked on my whole life.
I’ve slowly but surely learned (and honestly have continued to learn) how to process when people give me criticism, especially when it is unwarranted. I first think, Is this something that might be constructive in how I share on my platform or not? Then I try to look at it from the critic’s perspective and see if I can shift my delivery and do better next time. However, there are also people online who are mean to just be mean, and that’s something you have to realize. You have to remind yourself that it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. Those conversations aren’t worth engaging in, in my opinion, and I have to really try not to let their harsh words leave scars on me.
At the end of the day, I’ve realized one thing — the most important people in my life are around my dinner table at night. They love me for all of me, imperfections and all. I shouldn’t expect that from others, and I should always remember that at the end of the day, it’s what those people around the table think of me that truly matters.
Describe a snapshot of a joyful moment in your life.
You know that feeling when you’re on vacation, like a truly laid-back, sit-by-the-beach vacation where everything that is fast-paced in your life seems to quiet down and you are just there, in the moment, without the usual hustle and bustle? I just left Cabo [San Lucas, Mexico] with my family and had that moment where I just was there, present and with my happy thoughts, looking to my right at my husband relaxing and looking into the pool with my girls playing, and that was pure joy.
Do you have a mantra, manifesto, or favorite quote for living and loving with your whole heart?
“I am here right now and I am enough.”
What is your favorite word?
What is your least-favorite word?
What sound or noise do you love?
Waves crashing at the beach.
What sound or noise do you hate?
Nails being filed or clipped. Yikes.
What is your favorite curse word?
The f-word, for sure.
A song/band/type of music you’d risk wreck and injury to turn off when it comes on?
Panic! At The Disco! Their music makes me lose my freaking mind. I can’t do it.
Gosh, I love a good series, so it’s hard to choose! But when I am tired and want to rewatch something, it’s usually New Girl. That show always makes me happy and calms me down.
I love a good ’90s movie, and one of my favorites has to be Drop Dead Gorgeous.
What are you grateful for today?
If you could have anything put on a T-shirt, what would it be?
Well, that’s hard. But I guess if I had to pick, it’d be a bowl of pasta pomodoro — in Italy.
A talent you wish you had?
To be bilingual.
Kacey Musgraves is my number one gal.
What’s on your nightstand?
A book, a charger, nasal spray, and ChapStick.
What’s something about you that would surprise us?
I am an awesome person to take to a karaoke party.
Your six-word memoir . . .
Life is better around the table.
Life is better around the table.