You’ve probably seen Julia Allison before. The 28-year-old TV commentator and media personality has been featured on MSNBC dissecting the latest viral video... or you may have caught her hawking the Sony VAIO in TV commercials alongside Peyton Manning and Justin Timberlake. And if you’re into media gossip, you’ll definitely know her as the girl Gawker.com loves to hate. She has achieved a certain kind of micro-fame in the world of Web 2.0 that may be crossing over into the mainstream, but when we sat down to speak with her we wanted to know how it happened... and more importantly, why. The short answer: because she wanted it. Plus, no one else was looking out for her, least of all media companies.
“They weren’t going to ensure that I had a job... or even that I had an audience. I looked to the Internet as a distribution channel, and also looked to the Internet to allow me to cut out the middle men — the people who were running the magazines and who also took in the ad dollars,” she explained. Recognition was a commodity as far as she was concerned, and she wanted to be paid more than $50 per column for it. Why not become your own publication, talent and publicity machine — all rolled into one?
I’ve met Allison before but it’s worth noting that she is smaller in person, and less intimidating, than you would expect for someone who spends so much time in the public eye. But she undeniably has what could be called "presence." I overheard another guest talking about her when she was in the studio. He wondered who she was and speculated to his colleague, "She must be a TV person."
After she graduated from Georgetown in 2004, Allison started working on Capitol Hill because she was interested in politics and wanted to make a difference. She soon became disillusioned by the political process and decided the best way she could have an impact on people’s lives was to become a journalist. So she moved to New York and managed to land herself a gig writing a dating column for free subway newspaper AM New York. Again, she became disillusioned, this time because AM New York paid horribly and she came to the shocking realization that a) journalists make lousy money, and b) it’s a profession with very little security. She decided, rightly we might add, that if she could become somewhat well-known, she would be better able to support herself... and then some.
So she decided to start living her life online, and doing what she could to get noticed. Allison has many attention-getting stunts to her name, including a now-infamous appearance at media mogul Nick Denton’s 2006 Halloween party wearing a “condom dress” and jointly blogging about her relationship with new media millionaire Jakob Lodwick on the Web site JakobandJulia.com. As their relationship went downhill, and eventually ended, Allison realized that airing personal drama in the public sphere has a real drawback. The final post from her on the shuttered JakobandJulia site reads: “It’s always humbling to realize you’ve made an enormous mistake, but I know that, at the very least, my public relationship struggles in the last seven months made others feel less alone. They certainly taught me quite a lesson … just not the lesson I thought I would learn. Good luck to you all.”