BACK IN 2013, a bright-eyed, curvy-hipped, foulmouthed comedian exploded onto cable TV with Inside Amy Schumer, a sketch comedy show unlike any other. Her humor was crass. Her delivery was obscene. And her insights about life as a woman in our sexist, double-standard-embracing culture were brilliant. Since then, Amy Schumer has become an author (of an essay collection, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo) and a leading lady—her latest film, I Feel Pretty, is a sharp critique of the way women perceive themselves. In case you haven’t seen it yet, a bump on the head convinces Schumer’s character she’s become supermodel gorgeous overnight; newly confident, she lands a great job and a cute boyfriend. When she finally discovers that her appearance never changed, she realizes it’s not how you look, but how you feel. That’s a message I can get behind. I sat down with Amy to talk about her remarkable career, her recent marriage, and what it means to be female in the America of 2018.
Amy Schumer: Even before I knew about this interview, I said to my husband, “I know I’ll meet Oprah someday.”
OW: Now it’s happened. Do you like saying “husband”? When you say it, what feeling does it give you?
AS: It’s like a calm, a peace. I’d never wanted to be married. I thought the concept was weird. Why would you involve the government in love? But then I met this man and wanted to sign all available paperwork to commit to him.
OW: I love that. And I loved your film. I felt you were saying the same thing I’ve been trying to say for years, which is that you become what you believe.
AS: Right. It’s all about how you see yourself.
OW: You’ve changed the way so many women perceive themselves, through your work, your art, through yourself.
AS: Dammit, Oprah. You’re making me cry. I never set out to change anyone’s life; I just wanted to make people laugh. But at some point I realized people were paying attention, and I had an opportunity to be a voice for women.
OW: When did you first say to yourself “I feel pretty”?
AS: Probably as a little girl. My parents drilled into my head that I was special, and I bought it. By the time I realized I didn’t look like the women in magazines, it was too late.
OW: You already thought you were fantastic.
AS: Yeah. I mean, bullying happens, but I had the groundwork to be like, no, my mom said I’m gorgeous. Of course, entering show business, I’ve struggled at times. But I feel great in my body. I’ve had to walk other people through my body, to hold their hand and say—
OW: “It’s okay to have a body like this one.” How do you feel about people who disagree?
AS: They used to hurt my feelings. But I couldn’t feel a mean internet comment now if I wanted to.
OW: When you posted Annie Leibovitz’s mostly nude photo of you, you captioned it with a list of descriptions: beautiful, gross, strong, thin, fat, pretty, ugly, sexy, disgusting, flawless, woman.
AS: I was commenting on people’s experience of my body. Some people were like, “She shouldn’t post that. It’s disgusting.” But I love this package I come in. My dad has MS. He’s in a wheelchair. Who am I to be upset that I don’t look the way society has conditioned us to feel is right?
OW: What do you see as your mission as an artist?
AS: Before I did my first hour-long special, I couldn’t remember hearing a woman comic talk about sex much. I thought, If I can help women enjoy sex and realize they have a right to an orgasm, too, I’d be doing my part.
OW: But you’ve done more than that. You’ve given us permission to even talk about where our poop comes out.
AS: You’re welcome. I am doing God’s work.
OW: When did you realize your message could be received?
AS: The reaction to the first season of my show told me there was a demand for this perspective. We hadn’t known that what we were doing felt revolutionary to people.
OW: One thing that struck me in your book was your discussion of “grape.” That felt revolutionary.
AS: Right, “gray-area rape.” When we’re warned about rape as children, it’s about a guy popping out of the bushes. They don’t say it’s probably going to be a guy you know well. For me, I lost my virginity while I was asleep.
OW: And you worried about how guilty the guy would feel the next day. Would you still call it “grape”?
AS: Yeah, he was my boyfriend. I loved him. I also felt really angry, and that rage has stayed with me. I feel I lost my virginity through rape. I didn’t consent.
OW: Right. When I read that, I was like, that is rape.
AS: I have a fear of saying that, because it will be a “thing.” People get angry when you share your story. That’s why the #MeToo movement is so important, because we’re saying to women that not only are we not angry you’re telling your story, we’re grateful you were brave enough to do it.
“I just wanted to make people laugh. But at some point I realized people were paying attention, and I had an opportunity to be a voice for women.”
OW: I was proud of you, while reading your book, when you realized you were being abused in a past relationship. Because I’ve done so many stories about battered women who say, “But he just shakes me. He just pushes.”
AS: I was always saying I was hurt “accidentally.” “He didn’t realize how hard he grabbed or pushed me.” You experience it like you’re not in your body. I can picture being thrown on the hood of a car like it was an hour ago. And running from him, carrying my shoes. You’re like, I’m not this woman. Who’s this woman? This can’t be me.
OW: You want to believe you’re not “that kind” of woman.
AS: And then you realize there is no “kind” of woman.
OW: What’s the lesson that took you the longest to learn?
AS: That I am proud of how I’m living. I’m proud of mostly everything I do. The people I love, love me, and they’re close to me. I’m going to create my own destiny. I think you once said luck is “opportunity meeting preparation.”
OW: Yes. What are you most excited about right now?
AS: Going home. My husband will make amazing pasta, my dog will be there, and I’ll be in sweatpants—just, the real stuff.
OW: Yes, the real stuff. Thank you, Amy.
AS: Thank you, Oprah. ■