Larissa May

Season 3 – Episode 2: What Happens When You Tell the Other #halfthestory

What does your life look like on your social media feed? Are you creating an unattainable and a completely unrealistic picture of a successful and happy life? Our guest Larissa May was only 20 years old when she realized that her glam shots were part of the problem of creating a culture that filters out pain, struggle, and vulnerability, which are the other half of the story—very important part of our whole human experience.

I’m Tajci. At 19 I was a superstar and I was lost inside. I left it all behind, switched continents and started all over. Years later I found myself lost again, this time in the American Dream. This is a story about awakening. About living the life you were created for. About going inward and discovering the joyous and purposeful person you and I are both meant to be. This is Waking Up in America.

We’re here at the beautiful O’ Gallery, Nashville with Larissa May, also known as Live Like Large. Welcome!


TAJCI    So good to have you here.

LARISSA    Honestly, it’s a pleasure.

TAJCI    Okay, do you have the Half The Story hashtag?

LARISSA    I do, I do.

TAJCI    We need to show that. And everybody, make sure that you like Half The Story.

LARISSA    Yeah. So follow Half The Story on Instagram. And what you’ll do is click the link in the bio and you’ll get Half The Story.

TAJCI    And we’ll tell you why is that important. Alright, Larissa. Describe yourself in three words.

LARISSA    Quirky, eccentric, and passionate.

TAJCI    Awesome. So in your story, and we’ll get into what turns you. And this was, twenty, you were like yesterday, right?

LARISSA    It was crazy. Essentially it was last Spring but it took a little bit for me to act on it.

TAJCI    You know I have a teenage son and that’s kinda when a lot of the teenage confusions starts. We’re growing into people that we think we are or should be.

LARISSA    Right.

TAJCI    Take me into your head when you were in high school.

LARISSA    Oh, absolutely. So when I was in high school I went to St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago. It was an absolutely incredible experience however when I was younger I was an artist. I was born. By the time I was 14 I was in 18 musicals. And I had a little business card when I was 10 years old always trying to create and produce.

However, I neglected all that because I thought that I had to be someone else. I thought that I had to fit inside a box.

And because of that, in prep school I hit a low during my sophomore year where I tried to do every AP, I tried to join every club, and I tried to be perfect so I can get in to the perfect school to get the perfect job and to live the perfect life. And a lot of that was perpetuated by social media and you know, I think it kinda dictated a lot of what I thought my college life had to be like. And you know, those additional pressures ironically put me into a place where I wasn’t happy at all and it was a result of that that I figured out how to get back into my artistic space and use the social media in a positive way rather than become a victim of it.

TAJCI    Yes. And one thing that we need to make clear is that social media is your new social environment, right?

LARISSA    Right.

TAJCI    It’s your living room, it’s your party.

LARISSA    Right.

TAJCI    It’s the street where you go and play with the other kids.

LARISSA    It really is. I mean nowadays, my little sister, she’s in high school. She’ll respond to snapchat faster than a text message or phone call or anything.

So it’s insane because social media has the power to take one thing and spread it around the world. And that can be a good thing or a bad thing.

So I think, you know, from what I’ve seen is social media is not good or bad. It’s only half the story and if we share the good half and the human part then it can be a great thing to connect people around the world.

TAJCI    Yes. And you, yourself fell into the trap of shaping your life around the expectations.

LARISSA    Absolutely. And coming to college, I think this is something that everyone can relate to is: the freshman year you almost start to create friend groups via social media. And I remember going through the roommate search looking at girls’ Facebook and it was like extremely intimidating. And people are picking roommates off who’s prettiest, who’s skinniest, who’s this and that. And it’s a really terrifying world that you know, social media really allows you to create a version of yourself and that’s the first impression. And so you know, I think that’s a moment that everyone deals with. And when you get to college, you know…

There was this girl who wrote about half the story and she said, “Hey, I go to this school. Freshman year I used to sit behind my computer and look at everyone’s social media stories on nights that I felt extremely alone.”

And it’s crazy because so many people feel that way. It’s so natural to leave your high school. And you’re away from your parents, your friends, everything. It’s not gonna be this seamless fit. And social media does a great job making it look like that. But ironically the more that we try to perpetuate this perfect lifestyle the more that people feel disconnected.

TAJCI    Absolutely. I mean, we are part of the problem. So take me, now you’re in Vanderbilt.

LARISSA    Right.

TAJCI    And you’re starting to go back to art.

LARISSA    Absolutely. So I got to Vanderbilt and I had my freshman year. It was great. I went out and it was a very social time. And then that summer after freshman year I went to Los Angeles for an internship at a PR Internship I got there when I was 18. I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t have a car. I had this Jenky bike that I bought with my Dad. I think the chain fell off probably every week.

And you know, it was in that moment that I was confronted with a huge challenge. I mean, a) how do I meet friends, b) who am I when there’s no one else around me telling me who I am, and see what am I gonna do with that.

So it was during that time that I realized, you know, I was an artist, you know? For the first time in a while I took a moment to stop and listen instead of talk or aspire to be something I wasn’t. And so I used social media to find other artists and blogger groups. And then that was where I found my home because I followed the passion not the person.

TAJCI    Right.

LARISSA    And that’s when I realized that if you use social media for the passion then you find the people. It’s not finding the people and then the passion.

TAJCI    Wow. So you did some listening. It sounds like that. We’ll get into that when we come back. We’re talking to Larissa May, the founder of the Half The Story project.


TAJCI    We’re back talking to Larissa May, the founder of Half The Story. Thank you so much for being here and really helping us to understand really how hard it is for young people to… it’s already hard as a teenager to know who you are and what defines you. And now you have this whole element of social media. It’s hard for my generation. We look at other moms and you know, other wives that look perfect and we’re missing that vulnerability. And so you’re in L.A. It sounds like you listen. You listened to the voice inside that said what?

LARISSA    I listened and heard that I was the same person I was when I was little and I just got distracted by trying to be someone that I wasn’t.

So I think that obviously in life there are enough distractions. And now as a result of social media it’s disrupting all generations. I know that my mom’s age, they are always on Facebook and looking at everyone else’s wives. And it’s like, “I work, she doesn’t. They don’t work.” You know what I mean? And it’s difficult because everyone’s trying to be perfect but it’s not possible.

And in the college world, you know, everyone’s posting what they’re doing 10% of their time. So that’s going out or going on vacations. But no one’s posting what they’re doing 90% of their time. And that’s their intellectual pursuits. That’s their charity. Those are the things that make them move. Those are the things that make them tick and those are the things that make us human.

TAJCI    And yet you have a fashion blog.

LARISSA    I do.

TAJCI    A lifestyle blog.

LARISSA    I do.

TAJCI    Okay. So tell me about that.

LARISSA    So I started my fashion blog. Living Like Large is a way to get back into my life and really who I was and my art. And that was my voice and my way of creative expression. And it was interesting because in the beginning, when I started using social media to share my heart and my passion, that was vulnerable.

And most people think that vulnerability has to be something depressing.

But vulnerability can be something that makes you happy but other people don’t support it.

I remember I would shoot photos outside the Vanderbilt library. I remember going to street corners packing a little bag and trying to do three photos in what? Three outfits in one day on a street corner. And I got so much criticism. People would say haha, I’m Living Like Large. I remember like seeing tweets of people making fun of me or people talking about it because I wasn’t going down the traditional path. And it wasn’t easy but what I realized is that if you use social media to inspire people then it’s a good thing. So when I started doing that, on Facebook I received a message from a girl who’s now my assistant. I had never met her before and she, you know, she said to me, “Hey, I know you don’t know me but I’ve seen some of your posts and I just want to let you know that what you do inspires me and I just want to get to know you.” So we went out one night

TAJCI    That’s perfect.

LARISSA    And had an inspiration feast at a place called Feast in Chicago. And I remember just writing down and helping her find her purpose. And it was, you know, life is not about the destination. It’s about the journey.

TAJCI    You’re so right with vulnerability, when you show up with courage wholeheartedly.

LARISSA    Right.

TAJCI    It’s scary because we are, like you said, running into the danger, the risk of being criticized—one thing that matters a lot to us. So you had the turning point in a place where most of the young women and ladies and girls dream about.

LARISSA    Right.

TAJCI    And I know that a lot of people say, “Oh, you’re crazy. How can that be a bottom?”

LARISSA    Half the story.

TAJCI    I know. So tell me about it.

LARISSA    Well, it was September of New York Fashion Week this year. It was 80 degrees and I was covering for a look book in AOL Lifestyles.

I was running from the Betsey Johnson show to AOL because DVF was giving a build speech. Now, DVF, Diane von Furstenberg is the queen of fashion. Literally the queen. And I had 15 minutes to get from Penn Station to 16th and Broadway. And if I didn’t get there it would have been… I mean, if there’s a front row seat in front of DVF that’s missing, that’s one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your career, especially as a 20 year old when you’re given that opportunity.

So I got on the subway. I got lost. I had eight minutes. I was running. I was wearing a double denim outfit, face planted, broke my phone, made it there in the nick of time. I was literally wiping sweat off my face but later that day proceeded to post a picture that I had shot with a photographer from a major street magazine.

And I realized, you know, this is only half the story. People don’t see me staying up until 3 A.M. They don’t see me Skyping into class at Starbucks. I mean the only two meals that I had were when I would eat wraps walking down the street or at 2 o’clock in the morning and I would order Seamless and that was only half the story. And so the more I was getting into my career and the more connected I was becoming, the more disconnected I was with people around me.

TAJCI    Yes.

LARISSA    And people would say, “Oh, your life isn’t real,” “This is crazy,” “This is that”. And it was like I am choosing myself to be shown that way.

10:53 And when I woke up and realized this is only half the story and people are misunderstanding art as reality. And there is no problem with creating art but art is inspired by reality so sometimes you gotta take a moment and just be like, “Hey, this is me and this is how I relate to you.”

TAJCI    Yes. Plus, by doing that we are creating the expectation that everything comes easy.

LARISSA    Right.

TAJCI    That life with glamour comes naturally. That some of us are just blessed.

LARISSA    Right. #blessed.

TAJCI    Yes. Exactly. Which, it is, those are beautiful moments.

LARISSA    Right.

TAJCI    But you’re so right and I thank you so much to show there’s hard work, there’s sacrifice, and there’s dedication and there’s who are you in this whole thing. Because I know that you are not just the beautiful picture. There’s a soul deep within. And when we come back we’ll talk to Larissa about that—what’s behind her project, her glam shots, the other half the story.


If you feel stuck in your life right now and would like to create your own turning point, learn how these episodes and the stories of guests featured here can help you. In my book, “Turning Points”, I break it all down for you. And I offer some guidance in the interactive sections at the end of each chapter. Visit to purchase a signed copy or download an e-book at

TAJCI    We’re here with Larissa May, the founder of Half The Story. And our half the story today is that we’re in this beautiful O’ Gallery in Marathon Village. And we love the art, it’s so inspiring. But with this comes stuff like sounds from above. So that’s our half the story. The other half the story.

Alright Larissa, thank you for bringing us into this world that is privileged, it’s blessed. And it’s part of setting up an example that most of us can’t really achieve, can’t attain. And then it just creates a lot of, a sense of my life is not as good, my life is not as pretty, I’m not as pretty, you know. I’m nobody. Nobody loves me. So tell me, tell me how this project, this Half The Story project changes that from your perspective.

LARISSA    13:21 Half The Story allows the story to be about you and not about what you’re doing, not about what you’re buying, not about what you’re eating, not about where you’re working out. It’s about you and who you are as a person removing all of that.

Half The Story is about the passion and what you see inside your soul.

And you know, like I was saying earlier, what makes you tick? Is it that you volunteer at the Special Olympics every week? Is it that you dream to be an entrepreneur? Is it that you are super, you are extremely passionate about you know, eating disorders because you suffered from one? And those are all things that unite us yet so many times we feel so inadequate because we’re posting the curated moments that divide us and that’s what it’s all about.

TAJCI    That’s so beautifully put. Thank you. You know, all of my show is about turning points. My concept is that once you awaken, once you’re willing to show up with courage and vulnerability then you connect with others, and then we change the world, we change the culture. Would you agree?

LARISSA    I agree. I mean, that’s why I’m doing this. My favorite thing about being an artist is not necessarily being there making the art, but bringing two people together that wouldn’t have met to make something beautiful.

And that’s the point of this project. It is that you can take two people who didn’t even know each other, that have a common ground to make something or to connect. And that is the power of social media. And I encourage people to use Half The Story to do that and to connect. And to use this as a platform to do that.

TAJCI    Yes. Beautiful. So now take us back. So you’re sitting in the front row at DVF show and you know that this is going to change, right?

LARISSA    Right.

TAJCI    What was the first thing that you actually practically did?

LARISSA    I thought about it and I was… so that was the first thing: a thought. The second thing was I was in a photo project—a black and white photo project. And what I decided to do was create some kind of a physical replication of what Half The Story would be. And I thought about it and thought about it and figured out I loved the project that I created. However I wanted to make it on a larger scale. And in order to do that I had to make it digitally. So then, I went to one of my professors and asked her if I could have this as an independent study and actually make this a course at Vanderbilt. I can make a difference in the world rather than just be focused on the textbooks in front of me.

TAJCI    Did you come to any resistance?

LARISSA    It’s the one thing I’ve done in the past four years where I have not received criticism. The people that used to turn their head the other way are the ones that are asking me questions and that’s how I know that this is powerful.

TAJCI    Why do you think that is?

LARISSA    Because people who would criticize or not understand my art or my fashion and they don’t have to understand Half The Story because humans’ invulnerability and the constant feeling of inadequacy because of the constant exposure to someone that’s better than you, smarter than you, prettier than you, or faster than you is destroying us every single day.

TAJCI    Yes. And you mentioned earlier something, you know, listening and being heard.

LARISSA    Right.

TAJCI    I feel that Half The Story allows us to be heard, to tell the story that nobody really wants to hear.

LARISSA    Exactly. And you know, it’s a pain. It could be a pain or it can be an experience.

TAJCI    Yes.

LARISSA    Or an aspiration or a dream. And this is the point of Half The Story.

Everyone has been talking, “Oh, social media is bad,” “Social media is good,” “You should be more authentic on social media.”

But the reality of life is, if you’re alone and it’s so much harder to do something. But if you have a group of people around you then you can do it.

So Half The Story is the support group for people to do this and you know, take this arbitrary thought and make it a reality and also something cool. Because it’s cool to be like, “Hey, I shared my Half The Story. I’m a real person and I’m just not, you know, I can admit that I’m not perfect or that I have a passion that I’m not trying to fit inside this little box.”

TAJCI    Yes. Do you have one story?

LARISSA    Yeah, I do. Actually one of the girls that’s working on the project with me found this artist. 17:10 And she’s a student in New York. And she creates a series of art based off of an eating disorder that she once had. And she felt so connected to our project and was so excited that we shared her art on our platform and was just crazy inspired. And one day she texted me and said, “Hey, you know, tonight I had a bowl of pasta with my mom. And my mom was like, ‘What happened to you?’ you know. ‘I haven’t seen you do this forever,’ and she was like, ‘Text the Half The Story girl,’ “and you know, there were those “It’s Half The Story!” And it was so crazy to me. It was insane.

And then you know, it’s moments like those that make you realize that something that comes from your heart can heal someone else, and it connects people of all ages.

I mean another amazing experience going back to my high school and there’s a little girl that absolutely loves our project. She’s texting me every day and it’s just unbelievable to think that something I’ve created helps someone else find purpose. And what you can do that there’s no other more fulfilling thing in the world.

TAJCI    Yeah. That’s where true success lies. When we come back we have more fun stuff talking to Larissa May.


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TAJCI    We’re here with Larissa May and now it’s time for one-word answers. Are you ready?

LARISSA    Uh-oh. Let’s go.

TAJCI    Okay. What makes you feel most awakened?

LARISSA    Music.

TAJCI    Your biggest challenge?

LARISSA    Not losing things.

TAJCI    Your biggest fear?

LARISSA    Losing passion.

TAJCI    Oh, your favorite treat?

LARISSA    Sour watermelons.

TAJCI    Oh, yummy. Most grateful for?

LARISSA    The people around me.

TAJCI    What’s the last picture you took on your phone?

LARISSA    Of my shoes.

TAJCI    Oh. I believe…

LARISSA    In Nashville.

TAJCI    All that our world needs is?

LARISSA    Passion.

TAJCI    If you could abolish anything from the earth it would be?

LARISSA    Haters.

TAJCI    Blue or orange?

LARISSA    Orange.

TAJCI    Ocean or mountains?

LARISSA    Ocean.

TAJCI    Lion or eagle?

LARISSA    Lion.

TAJCI    House or apartment?

LARISSA    Apartment.

TAJCI    Fly or drive?


TAJCI    Summer or winter?

LARISSA    Summer.

TAJCI    Dress or pants?

LARISSA    Dress.

TAJCI    And this year you claim,

LARISSA    To wake up every single day, do what I love and help other people do what they want to do.

TAJCI    Wow. Thank you.

LARISSA    No, wait. Just kidding. This year I want to help cool people do cool things.

TAJCI    Awesome. A viewer had this question for you. Does the fear of being criticized, of stepping out of vulnerability ever subside?

LARISSA   19:50  I think it does. And because #HalfTheStory is you know, it’s a statement, it’s a personal statement at first. Also, then it becomes a moment. And I have had a lot of people say, “Oh. I had a Half The Story moment where my flight got delayed and I lost my bags and now I only have one outfit for my work weekend.” So I think it’s definitely an evolution. First it’s like, “Hey, I stand for Half the Story and now I’m going to talk about it in my social media moving forward.”

TAJCI    20:20 And I have a question. What about when people get addicted to the number of likes?

LARISSA    Oh gosh, measure life through love not likes. That’s what I’d say. I mean I think it’s easy to get caught up in. And I think it’s also hard to say, “Don’t think about that,” because the younger generation, I know that my little sisters and her friends will delete photos if they don’t get the amount of likes that they have or the likes that they want. So I think that it’s if you like a photo and you’re sharing it because of your heart you’re not going to be concerned about the number of people that like it.

TAJCI    It’s a lonely world.

LARISSA    It is.

TAJCI    20:53 And so would you say that physical friendships are still as important as social media?

LARISSA    Oh, 1000%. I think that you can use social media to meet friends but social media is not a way to keep them.

TAJCI    Yes.

LARISSA    And it’s the one-on-one time, especially when you work in the arts and the industry it’s, you know, taking that time to call your friend. Taking that time to have coffee, whether that’s 30 minutes once a week or 30 minutes every two months. That’s what it’s about. It’s about the face-to-face time and really creating that real human connection.

TAJCI    And speaking of friends, tell me about the friend that’s going to do a song.

LARISSA    My best friend, Julia Cole, she is going to sing Half The Story tonight. We met the first week of freshman year, people told me that I should meet her. And I went up and knocked on her door and said, “Hey, I’m Lars. I heard we should meet,” and we’ve been best friends ever since. So I’m really looking forward to it guys, she’s amazing. She wrote this song, Half The Story.

TAJCI    Thank you so much for being here.

LARISSA    Thank you.

JULIA    (20:52 Song)

From high school to the working world,

Your tailor-made American girl,

She learned, she learned,

Never let ‘em see you sweat.


She wipes her tears, and keeps her calm,

And rocks high heels like nothing’s wrong,

But it hurts, it hurts,

A broken heart to be that strong.


It looks like she’s doing just fine.

Photographs at after parties, hotel lobbies, living on cloud nine,

Makes it seem like she’s got all she’d ever need,

But sometimes everything you see is only half the story.

Half the story.


She hides behind a camera lens,

Poses n’ smiles n’ hugs her friends,

Can’t show, can’t show

What’s really going on below.


It looks like she’s doing just fine.

Photographs at after parties, hotel lobbies, living on cloud nine,

Makes it seem like she’s got all she’d ever need,

But sometimes everything you see is only half the story.


“Flawless” lacks personality

Scars story-tell your history

But for her it’s just too much

She bottles it up, bottles it up.

Bottles it up.


It looks like she’s doing just fine.

Photographs of after parties no one sees her in the bathroom crying.

Makes it seem like she’s got all she’d ever need,

But sometimes everything you see is only half the story.

Half the story.

TAJCI    Join the waking up revolution by showing up as a whole person on your social media. Go to Half The Story on Instagram and like it. And also share your half the story next time you post your glam shots. And join us at to share this episode on social media and populate the social media with some good stuff. Also you can support us by logging on to and pledge a monthly contribution. You’ll receive perks and backstage footage and all kinds of good stuff. Till next time. Thank you so much for watching.

OLGA    I’m Olga Alexeeva. I’m the artist and owner of O’Gallery. This episode was filmed at my studio at Marathon Village, Nashville. Please visit us at Thank you.