Stefanie Williams, bootstrapped millennial, funded her web series with handouts

In News by Sara Morrison / February 25, 2016

The problem with writing open letters that go viral is that they can come back to bite you in the ass.

Talia Jane discovered this when her open letter to her boss, the CEO of Yelp, led to him to no longer being her boss, and people scouring her social media accounts for any evidence that she may, in fact, be able to afford bread after all (and cupcakes and bourbon).

One of the people who happily heaped scorn upon Talia Jane was Stefanie Williams, who wrote her own open letter which went into great detail about how she spent her post-college years working her way up in the world — earning her every penny as a hostess, then a cocktail waitress, then a bartender at the restaurant her family friend worked at, which is how she was able to get that job with no prior experience in the first place. She learned the value of hard work and not having anything handed to you.

For this, Williams has been feted as a millennial hero, having appeared on “Fox & Friends” during a segment labeled “Wussificiation of America” to put down Talia Jane and the “lifestyle [she] chose,” even though her income didn’t support it. (It’s interesting that Williams would criticize Talia Jane for wanting to be paid more than minimum wage when Williams herself has written that minimum wage in her particular field is not enough to support her alone and therefore everyone should give her a 20 percent tip, minimum.)

“But you are a young, white, English speaking woman with a degree and a family who I would assume is helping you out at the moment,” Williams wrote in her open letter, “and you are asking for handouts from strangers while you sit on your ass looking for cushy jobs you are not entitled to while you complain about the establishment, probably from a nice laptop.”

Here’s where I ask if Williams is talking about Talia Jane, or perhaps herself. Because while we don’t know if Talia Jane’s parents provided financial assistance (her tweets have indicated that this is not the case), we do know that Williams’ did. As stated in her open letter, Williams lived with her mother while working a part-time job, an opportunity not afforded to those of us whose parents don’t live within commuting distance of the cities in which we want to work or with parents who tell us we have to be out of the house by the Christmas after college graduation for our own good.

And Williams has asked for handouts from strangers. In November 2013, she launched a Kickstarter for a web series she wrote and starred in called “Front of House,” about three friends who work at a restaurant in New York City. (Hey, you write what you know!) Williams’ campaign was a success, raising $11,200. Financial assistance also came from Williams’ mother (again), who, Williams says in the campaign video, put the money she would have spent on Williams’ wedding on the web series.

“Like any liberal arts degree holding person that works in the service industry,” Williams says, “I’m used to asking my mom for stuff!”

Five episodes of “Front of House” were planned, but it looks as though only three ended up being produced. Check them out!

And Williams’ whiteness is nowhere more apparent than in her many tweets about the Black Lives Matter movement. She is not a fan.

I found this tweet especially ironic, considering the conclusions Williams jumped to about Talia Jane:

So: Is there more to Williams’ story? I emailed to ask about the Kickstarter campaign.

“No problem explaining my crowdfunding project which, sites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe usually cater to in regards to helping people get creative projects off the ground as opposed to helping people pay for things like rent!” she responded.

Williams explained that her mother and sister donated to the project and earned executive producer credits, and that none of the money raised went to herself and especially not her rent or groceries. She also said she worked 11 extra shifts to raise money for the series, and that her mother was paid back the money she donated within seven months.

“If you have any other questions please feel free to email me again,” Williams concluded. “Although I have about 13k emails at the moment, I love nothing more than taking the time out for people like yourself who think they are so smart and snarky. It gives me great joy and, a bit of sadness, that I have to explain the difference between using a crowd funding site for what it was made more [sic] and not for a form of unemployment.”

I’m looking forward to the inevitable open letter from the millennial who had to clean 431,983 toilets to fund her web series and resents people such as Williams who just had that money handed to them and didn’t learn the value of working for everything you have.

Or, you know, we could just make sure our houses aren’t made of glass before we throw all those stones in them.