GREENSBORO — At N.C. A&T, the Chancellor’s Town Hall was the hottest ticket in town.
A&T students snapped up tickets in less than four hours last month when the university announced the event.
Tuesday’s night gathering — billed simply as a panel discussion on women’s issues — did not seem to disappoint the crowd that filled the 900-seat Harrison Auditorium.
For nearly an hour, actress Gabrielle Union, political strategist Angela Rye and journalist Lisa Ling covered a range of serious topics, encouraged the audience to lift themselves and each other up and then took questions for another 20 minutes. The talk was moderated by Danya Bacchus, an A&T graduate who works as a TV journalist on the West Coast.
Most of those who attended Tuesday’s event were women, and they cheered when Ling was introduced, screamed as Rye emerged from behind the curtain and shrieked as Union — currently the star of the award-winning TV drama “Being Mary Jane” on BET — came out on stage. Afterward, A&T students lined up from the stage to the lobby to get their pictures taken with the three panelists.
The speakers didn’t shy away from giving their takes on a number of critical issues facing women today. They covered topics that included self-worth, gender double standards in the workplace, the pay gap between men and women, sexual assault and how women are portrayed on TV reality shows.
Several times, the discussion started with or circled back around to social media, one of the major influences on young women today who too often feel pressure to measure themselves against the edited versions of other people’s lives they see on Instagram, Snapchat and other sites.
Ling noted that what people post to their social media feeds “is the life you want people to believe that you live. I’ll be honest — I don’t post bad pictures of myself on my social media.”
No one, she added, knows the reality behind these seemingly perfect pictures.
Rye, unfiltered on CNN (where she’s a political commentator) and Twitter, said she doesn’t struggle with comparisons.
“I think I err on the side of sharing too much,” Rye said. “I’m learning now that I don’t need to necessarily share as much.”
Union said she struggled with her self-worth while she was in college, when she spent her student loan money not on books or tuition but at the mall trying to keep up with her classmates.
Social media can increase those securities, she added, so she reminded the audience of something.
“First and foremost,” Union said of social media, “nothing that you see is real. … There are all sorts of things you can do to doctor photos. …
“What you think you’re comparing yourself to doesn’t actually exist,” she said. “What’s making you insecure, depressed (and) anxious is a farce.”
The cars and homes that people post in their social media photos? They’re usually rented, Union said. The money that people wave around? No one who makes serious money deals in cash, she added.
The audience gasped at what Union said next: “No one’s going to Snapchat their breakdown.”
Bacchus wondered: Maybe that’s something people need to share?
Union told the crowd that something Tuesday upset her — she didn’t say exactly what — and she worked through her anxiety by working out on a treadmill. She posted something on Snapchat about her trip to the gym, but admitted she wasn’t completely honest because she didn’t show her fans that she was crying.
“Maybe I should have shown my full breakdown on the treadmill today,” Union said. “Because that would be real.”
Contact John Newsom at (336) 373-7312 and follow @JohnNewsomNR on Twitter.