Rolling Out

Why Tony Weaver Jr. is teaching everyone to embrace being a weirdo in new book

Tony Weaver Jr. believes that it’s time to take control of your own self-image

Dealing with trying to figure out how he would fit in made Tony Weaver Jr. reach one of the lowest points in his life. As he began to look at himself more as a liability than an asset in life, the one thing that gave Weaver a better perspective was his community. From all the times that he was called a weirdo, he started to embrace himself and who he was as a person, and that’s why he hopes to help others in his situation do the same in his book, Weirdo.

What was your inspiration for writing this book?

Most people, when they see how I look and how I dress, they do not assume that I am from Atlanta. They look at me and they’re, like, “I don’t even know if that guy has any Black friends. I don’t know if he hangs out with any other Black people.” That kind of stigma and that kind of flash judgment is one of the things that I talk about in Weirdo. I think growing up in Atlanta, one of the amazing things was there was never a question of whether I could be a doctor and entrepreneur or a lawyer, because in Atlanta, Black excellence is real. That’s who we are.

However, for young people, sometimes there becomes this monolithic idea of what it means to be yourself, even in the Black community. They say Black people don’t play video games — even though a Black man invented the video game cartridge. They say Black people don’t listen to rock music; we invented rock music. I grew up feeling like the weird kid and outcasted in a lot of ways, and Weirdo kind of covers my journey of overcoming that and learning to love who I am.

Why should people embrace being a weirdo?

In Weirdo, one of the core things that I discuss is the idea of taking control of your own self-image. Who you are is not what other people say about you; who you are is what you choose to say about yourself. The place where it gets dangerous sometimes is that the voices of other people — and those outside forces — can get so loud that sometimes we let them overshadow the things that we personally feel about ourselves. We always have to keep that personal narrative in our mind’s eye. I think that, in Weirdo, we talk about a lot of practical solutions for bullying. Very often, I think, when I was growing up, the big things were, like, “This kid is bullying me.” “Well, ignore it.” “This kid is bullying me.” “Well, why are they bullying you? Why are you making yourself a target?” These are the things that we say to kids sometimes.

When someone completely outside of you makes it their mission to attempt to denigrate you or make you feel bad, we blame it on the kid. “Well, you need to have thicker skin. Why are you letting this bother you in the first place? Have you thought about why they’re bullying instead of addressing the bully in the first place?” The sad reality is, in the real world, that’s what happens — not just in school. They’re grown adults who are bullies; some make a living off of it. We can’t control other people. In Weirdo, what we say is guard your garden. Understand the things that make you happy and the things that allow you to grow, find resonance with those things and protect those things.

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