“I’m a Natural Exhibitionist”: A Quick Cig at Church With Writer Rayne Fisher-Quann

rayne fisher-quann


In this week’s installment of Smoke Break, we lit one up with writer Rayne Fisher-Quann, aka the internet princess—which is also the name of her cult Substack in which the 22-year-old critic talks geopolitics, grief, and girlhood with her tens of thousands of dedicated subscribers. After moving to the city last year, she’s stormed the downtown lit scene even while taking a break from blogging to hammer away at Complex Female Characterher upcoming essay collection with Knopf. Case in point: last week’s Secrets Reading, where she invited NYC’s buzziest writers (Terry Nguyen, Eliza McLamb, P.E. Moskowitz, Marlowe Granados, Mackenzie Thomas, and Emmeline Clein) to swap and read each other’s anonymized secrets in a gaudy Lutheran church on 65th Street. Just four minutes after posting the flyer, all 400-plus tickets to the Substack-sponsored event were sold out, so we pulled Fisher-Quann from a snaking line of fans at the afterparty to find out why she’s not just the internet’s, but the people’s, princess.


MEKALA RAJAGOPAL: How are you feeling?

RAYNE FISHER-QUANN: I am out of breath and I’m frazzled and very sweaty.

RAJAGOPAL: It’s so hot in there. What are you smoking? 

FISHER-QUANN: These are actually herbal cigarettes. They have no nicotine in them.

RAJAGOPAL: What is in them?

FISHER-QUANN: It’s cloves and marshmallow root, and it’s kind of ridiculous. They’re patently non-addictive, but I managed to become addicted to them. I think I’m just addicted to going outside and taking deep breaths. Do you want to try? 

RAJAGOPAL: It’s the oral fixation also.


RAJAGOPAL: They don’t make your breath stink like normal cigarettes. It’s just a social tool.

FISHER-QUANN: And I’m totally viceless. I don’t drink or anything.

RAJAGOPAL: You’re not drinking tonight?

FISHER-QUANN: No, I’m stone cold sober at this event.

RAJAGOPAL: So where are we at?

FISHER-QUANN: We are at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on the Upper West Side right across from Central Park. I’m feeling very lucky that all of these obvious Brooklynites came all the way uptown.

RAJAGOPAL: It’s cute.

FISHER-QUANN: The church is just the most beautiful church I’ve ever seen. [Cars honking] There’s been a lot of honking in the middle of our religious sermon.

RAJAGOPAL: I can’t imagine that happening while someone is delivering an actual sermon.

FISHER-QUANN: Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking. I’m Catholic, so I don’t know if Lutherans do Midnight Mass, but I feel like you’d hear a lot of honking.

ATTENDEE 1: Rayne, that was awesome. It was really wonderful and I’m very happy to be associated with you.

FISHER-QUANN: Thank you so much for coming and for all of your help. 

ATTENDEE 2: Congratulations. That went really well. I was the bouncer.

FISHER-QUANN: Thank you. I know. There was a seedy element you had to keep out. [Laughs] So lovely to see you guys. Sorry, I’m doing an interview. I’m not supposed to tell people that, but—

RAJAGOPAL: No, it’s kind of funny. I had to extricate you from a long, long line of meet and greets.

FISHER-QUANN: My manager’s doing an amazing job right now.

RAJAGOPAL: Shooing people away.

FISHER-QUANN: Yeah, it’s amazing. I was just crying, talking to people. I already cry every time I’m in a church. It’s just a very long, complicated relationship with the church, but I think I got to have the best part of it just now. So much of what I do is online and it just felt really…

RAJAGOPAL: Translated.

FISHER-QUANN: Yeah. I don’t want to sound like I have my head up my own ass, but when someone comes up to me and says that my work means something to them, that’s actually what it’s all about. And I don’t get to have that all the time. I literally was just sobbing in there talking to somebody. It’s been a very special night.

RAJAGOPAL: What did you do before coming here today?

FISHER-QUANN: My childhood best friend came here from L.A. and she was at my apartment. Other than that, I was running around. I picked up this chainmail. I got a blowout. I was taking deep breaths and I was practicing. I was actually finishing up my written speech right until minutes before the event. What did you do today?

RAJAGOPAL: I just went to work and got some onigiris in Chinatown.

FISHER-QUANN: I moved to New York pretty recently so I’ve actually never gotten onigiri here. But I used to live on the West Coast where sushi was what it was all about.

RAJAGOPAL: There’s a lot of little fun snacks to grab.

FISHER-QUANN: Also, everyone is so hot. Have you seen this? Every single person in this church is the hottest and best-dressed person I’ve ever seen. 

RAJAGOPAL: Are there any crushes here?

FISHER-QUANN: Well, I ran into someone that I matched with on Hinge. This girl came up to me and was like, “Hi, I love your writing.” And I was like, “Wait, you look so familiar.” And she was like, “We matched on Hinge eight months ago.” She was very beautiful, so I guess that was a win for me.

RAJAGOPAL: Are you going to message her?

FISHER-QUANN: I now have a boyfriend.


FISHER-QUANN: I know. Kind of a Pride Month loss.

RAJAGOPAL: Big Ls for pride month.

FISHER-QUANN: Huge. Sorry everyone.

RAJAGOPAL: But speaking of chainmail, tell me about this look.

FISHER-QUANN: This dress is Ella Mae. She’s an indie L.A. designer that I love who was kind enough to dress me for the event. The shoes are Miu Miu, the bag is Miu Miu. They also amazingly lent this to me.

RAJAGOPAL: I need this bag. Are you part of the Miu Miu book club?

FISHER-QUANN: They sent me a book that I need to read. Oh, this chain is Dilara Findikoglu, and this chainmail was lent to me by my friend Aria. She got it on Etsy.

RAJAGOPAL: Etsy has the most fab jewelry. Let’s sit down.

FISHER-QUANN: Oh, that would be amazing.

RAJAGOPAL: I love sitting down.

FISHER-QUANN: I’m obsessed with sitting down.

rayne fisher-quann

RAJAGOPAL: Sitting down is the fucking best. Also, love that there’s an ice cream truck at the let out.

FISHER-QUANN: I’ve literally, for weeks, been saying that I want to get a twist ice cream cone from the ice cream truck. My boyfriend just got one for me.

RAJAGOPAL: I’m more of a Spongebob popsicle kind of girl, or a Powerpuff Girl.

FISHER-QUANN: Their eyes were always fucked up.

RAJAGOPAL: Their weird beady eyes. 

FISHER-QUANN: It’s actually really dark. Thank you for coming, by the way.

RAJAGOPAL: Of course. I mean, I’m privileged to be here. It was sold out in four minutes. Let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about how readings are the hottest gatherings in New York.

FISHER-QUANN: It’s a good time to be a writer. Readings are obviously such a social event right now, and I go to so many readings. I’m sure you go to readings, and a lot of them kind of suck. Which maybe I’m not supposed to say, because some of them are so amazing. But it was really important to me that I did a reading that celebrates original work and it isn’t just a social scene. And it can be kind of hard to strike that balance. I feel so lucky that so many people came. I think when you do an event, everyone has that fear of, “No one’s going to buy these tickets.”

RAJAGOPAL: Did you feel like that? Oh my gosh.

FISHER-QUANN: I mean, every time I do. So to see everybody streaming into the church was very special.

RAJAGOPAL: I think everyone’s currently guessing which secret was whose, which is silly. It defeats the purpose, but it was naturally going to happen.

FISHER-QUANN: Of course. It’s nice that people were engaged like that. If someone really tried, they could totally figure out who each of these is. I’m sure anybody could figure out which one mine was, but I’m hoping people keep it to themselves. I think everyone here can keep a secret.

RAJAGOPAL: I hope so. Do you have a diary?

FISHER-QUANN: I don’t, actually. I’m going to give this back to my boyfriend because it’s melting. I don’t know if there’s something seriously wrong with me, but it’s much easier for me to write when I know it’s going to be public. Every time I try to write in a diary, it feels like I’m putting on a show just for myself. I feel like I’m performing a facade of privacy or authenticity. I’m still writing it for the idea that someone else could read it. There’s something that feels more real to me about writing for a bold-faced performance.

RAJAGOPAL: More honest?

FISHER-QUANN: Yeah. Maybe I’m a bit of a natural exhibitionist. I don’t feel inhibited when I’m writing something public. Otherwise it feels pointless. Do you?

RAJAGOPAL: I keep a notes app diary.

FISHER-QUANN: Oh, I am really active on my notes app right before I fall asleep. I always wake up in the morning and I’ve written all these things that I don’t remember, and sometimes they’re really good and sometimes it’s the craziest bullshit ever.

RAJAGOPAL: Sometimes they are good. In the vein of secrets, has anyone ever spread a weird rumor about you?

FISHER-QUANN: Definitely. Okay, this is the big one. I said during the show that I’m a late-in-life virgin. I was 20, which is actually not that late. But in high school, I was super sexually repressed. I was very anxious. I didn’t even really kiss anybody. It’s hard being a beautiful woman while you have a lot of weird sexual issues. But in high school, I was seen as this crazy slut. I think it’s because I dressed kind of slutty. My teachers talked to me about it.


FISHER-QUANN: All of these girls would say that I was trying to sleep with their boyfriends. And I was like, “I’m not even fucking.” I feel like I could deal with being called a slut if I was actually having amazing sex. But I was scratching my skin in a high school bedroom with anxiety every day like a female incel. That was a pretty crazy rumor.

RAJAGOPAL: Same. I was like the first person to go braless before not wearing a bra was a thing, so everyone’s looking at you like you’re fucking insane.

FISHER-QUANN: I was the same. I either wore a crazy push-up bra or no bra and I didn’t shave my armpits. I lived in Central Toronto, but I went to school in the suburbs and everybody thought I was this crazy feminist hedonist.

RAJAGOPAL: That could be like, a fun alter ego.

FISHER-QUANN: Totally. It’s fun to almost lean into this character. I’ve always enjoyed playing with this caricature of what people might assume about me. I know a lot of women do that. It’s a way to glean back a little bit of autonomy. People believe some crazy stuff, so sometimes you have to have fun with it.

ATTENDEE 3: I loved your show so much. Could you write something in my notebook?

FISHER-QUANN: Of course. I’ll write here. I don’t want to mess up a good page. What’s your name?


FISHER-QUANN: That’s my grandma’s name. And my middle name.

ATTENDEE 3: A lot of people say that. I asked Mackenzie and she drew a dinosaur. What are you writing?

FISHER-QUANN: I’m saying your skirt is totally fabulous. I’m going to draw a picture of you.

ATTENDEE 3: I’ll hold still.

FISHER-QUANN: I am totally messing up your face shape in a really crazy way.

RAJAGOPAL: It’s like when you get a caricature and they exaggerate your features. 

ATTENDEE 3: Thank you so much. Bye.

ATTENDEE 4: Hi, Rayne. You retweeted my tweet yesterday about this event and it shook my whole body.

FISHER-QUANN: Well, your tweet was really funny.

ATTENDEE 4: Do you want some weed?

FISHER-QUANN: No, thank you though! [Laughs]

ATTENDEE 5: Sorry, we just want to say thank you for the tickets. We’re three of the writers you selected.

FISHER-QUANN: Oh, of course. Wait, hi. Thank you so much for coming.

[Recording pauses]

FISHER-QUANN: Those three people I was just speaking to were from a writer program I made because the tickets sold out so fast. I started a forum where writers could submit for a set amount of slots that I put aside, and I read through all these submissions.

RAJAGOPAL: Oh, they submitted clips?

FISHER-QUANN: Yeah, and their Substacks and stuff. I picked 10 writers who I thought would really like each other. A lot of them were new to this city, and I really wanted to help build community. They all met up before coming. I am just so happy that it worked.

RAJAGOPAL: I really love that idea. I want you to get back to your meet-and-greet, so let’s just describe the vibe in here in one sentence.

FISHER-QUANN: One sentence… It’s an earnest assortment of very cool, amazing women. Sorry, I’m sounding like Hillary Clinton. I mean, everybody’s just fucking cool and excited about literature, which is so special.

RAJAGOPAL: And lots of young people that are excited to hear some goss.

FISHER-QUANN: Yeah. We’re at church with our fans and we’re gossiping. It’s very Southern Baptist.

RAJAGOPAL: So true. Let’s go back inside. Wait, I’m going to get a popsicle.