The Bearded Iris

A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

And then I whipped out my lady-balls at BlogHer ’13

I’m back from BlogHer ’13 in Chicago and have no less than 372 stories I could share. Some of those stories are funny. Some are bittersweet. Some are so incredibly filthy they cannot be repeated… like… ever. But trust me when I tell you that I can now die a happy woman knowing I made a table full of very funny women laugh this hard even once:

Kim Bongiorno and Kerry Rossow laughing at BlogHer13

Kim @LetMeStart and Kerry @HouseTalkN

I’ve struggled all week with how to write a good BlogHer conference wrap up. There were so many moments I’d love to share, but I’m terrified of leaving anyone out. So instead, I’m going to pick one story to share, and only one.

It’s the story of how a series of awkward mishaps helped me reconnect with my “inner Iris” and change my fate. It’s the story of my BlogHer ’13 Voice of the Year Keynote and Reception experience.

But first, some back story…

Last year I was chosen as one of the 100 BlogHer Voices of the Year. I actually hadn’t planned to attend BlogHer ’12 in NYC for financial reasons, but when I found out I was going to be publicly honored for my writing, I bought a fancy dress and  booked a trip.

Know this: the BlogHer VOTY Keynote is the Academy Awards of the blogosphere. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew it was going to be awesome.

I was a bundle of nerves the entire day. I raced back to my hotel, changed into my new dress, touched up my hair and makeup, and booked it back to the ballroom where my friend Nora had saved me a seat so we could watch the 12 select keynote readers share their winning posts on stage. It was absolutely magical. One of my other friends really had to pee but didn’t want to leave the room and possibly miss the moment when the rest of the honorees were called on stage.

And then, the keynote readings were over. “OMG. OMG. THIS IS IT!” I thought to myself, throat parched, heart beating nearly out of my chest. I was about to be called on stage in front of 5,000 peers with the other winning writers!

It’s coming!


Do I look OK?

Is there any food in my teeth?


And then…

Instead of calling us up there, or even having us stand in the audience for a quick round of applause, this slide was displayed:

blogher12 voty honor


That’s it?

Do you see my name?

Yeah. Me neither. But supposedly it was on that slide along with the other 99 honorees’ names.

Not gonna lie, I was crushed. And I felt like a fool.

Yes, I know I’m an asshole for saying that out loud because everyone knows the only appropriate response in this situation is “I’m just so grateful to be chosen!”

I am grateful. If I could write “VOTY Honoree” in scratch-n-sniff rainbow glitter on my LinkedIn profile, I totally would.

I just felt like I had been duped into a very expensive trip when I could have felt equally honored at home with my face in a bag of Lays® and my boobs on my lap.

But God bless the BlogHer event coordinators! They really heard all the feedback  and knocked themselves out to make this year’s Voice of the Year Keynote and Reception a much better experience for everyone!

I was fortunate enough to be selected again, for which I am truly humbled.

The official announcement email got us all really pumped:

All honorees will have assigned tables at the front of the Voices of the Year Community Keynote on Friday at BlogHer ’13, and you’ll all be invited to join us on stage along-side the 12 Voices of the Year Community Keynote readers to take a bow and take a group photo. Directly after the keynote, there will be a reception in honor of all 100 Voices of the Year. We can’t wait to see you there!

SWEET! This is going to be AH-MAY-ZING, I thought…

But what’s that they say about the best laid plans?

There were no tables. There weren’t even specially reserved rows up front for the 100 honorees. It was open theater-style seating.

That’s okay. These things happen. I’m sure that was as much of a surprise to the BlogHer event coordinators as it was to us.

At least I was going to get called on stage afterward in front of my peers for a bow and a photo with our celebrity emcee, Queen Latifah!

Only, Queen Latifah, who was 45 minutes late and admitted she stopped for Lou Malnati’s pizza on the way, must have forgotten in her deep-dish-delirium that she was supposed to call us up on stage at the end and closed the show with a rousing “GOODNIGHT EVERYBODY! THANK YOU FOR COMING.”

Oh yes she did.

The majority of the audience got up and headed for the exits as my jaw hit the floor.

BlogHer co-founder Elisa Camahort Page kindly tried to salvage the moment by calling the VOTY honorees up for a photo, but getting up on that tiny stage against the flow of traffic was like being in a Beijing subway station during rush hour.

And then trying to get 100 bloggers arranged for a photo? Herding a pack of French feral cats would have been easier. (Mad props to Erin & Ellen, Lisa, Sandra, Lois, Janie, and Julie for their speed, agility, and aim with the kidney punches. I’m proud of you, ladies!)

Not pictured...Leslie Marinelli and about 80 other bloggers.

Not pictured: 90% of the VOTY Honorees.


Not to be outdone, I got my own great shot:


My view of Queen Latifah at BlogHer 13

Don’t hate.

Hey. No biggie. I shook it off and headed for the reception where I had heard there were life-sized posters honoring each of the 100 VOTY winners! I couldn’t wait to get my photo taken next to mine!

My friend Jennie and I walked around looking for our posters together. We found Jennie’s right away:


Is that awesome, or what?! Way to go Jennie!!

Oh look, here’s my friend Kim Forde’s! She couldn’t be there… just had a baby.


So exciting! It’s like being in a gallery of awesomeness. BlogHer really hooked us up this year. Everywhere I looked, radiant bloggers were posing for pictures next to their posters. Here’s my girl Kim:

BlogHer13 #VOTY Kim Bongiorno @LetMeStart

I was chomping at the bit to find mine.

The posters were double sided and spread throughout the ballroom and hallway, so it took a while to wind our way through all 100 of them. But no matter how hard we looked, we couldn’t find one with my name on it.

Really? Would mine be the one they forgot? Oh snap.

Finally, “Oh no, do you think it’s on the back of that one in the corner?” Jennie asked with trepidation.

“No. No way. Even I don’t have luck that bad.”

Holding our breath, we approached the very last one, over in a dark corner, up against a pile of storage trunks…


I took a deep breath and cautiously walked around the back…


Oh crap.

It’s mine.

In the dark.

Next to the conference debris.

<Sad trombone>

Dammit. Not again. I can’t. I just can’t do this emotional roller-coaster again.

For a split second, my mind started to cross over to the dark side: Goddammit. Why me? Of all the 100 VOTY posters, why is mine the one in the very worst possible spot? I am such a loser. I wrote about my gecko’s penis! Of course I’m in the dark corner. I’m an abomination. I don’t belong here. 

And then…

…something clicked.

I had a choice.

I could take it personally, sulk, and feel bad about myself; or I could give people the benefit of the doubt and change my fate.

Didn’t I just hear the inspiring Kelly Wickham encourage us to stand up for ourselves, demand what we want, and say “That is unacceptable“?

And didn’t I also tell a conference room full of bloggers earlier that day during my session that being an anonymous blogger when I first started gave me the courage to do things I wasn’t normally brave enough to do?

I’m not anonymous anymore, but what would that brazen Iris Beard do in this situation?

She would say, “That is unacceptable.” Then she would Sheryl-Sandberg-Lean-In to that motherfucker and move it to a better spot.

And so we did (Iris and I).

Location location location

And Lady Jennie got it all on camera. (Thank you, Jennie!)

Leslie Marinelli BlogHer Humor Voice of the Year Honoree 2013

There. That’s better. You know what they say: location, location, location.

Now if I could just apply that same chutzpah elsewhere in my life, there’d be no stopping me.

Thank you BlogHer. Thank you for choosing my piece; thank you for wanting to make this a special night for us; and thank you for inadvertently giving me the opportunity to “Lean-In,” reconnect with my inner Iris, and publicly whip out my lady-balls. I needed that.

The VOTY program is incredibly important to bloggers. It is the ONLY opportunity we have to be validated and acknowledged publicly for our work without begging for votes or page views. It always bugs me when someone complains without offering a potential solution, so I have an idea. How about bringing on one more person to serve as a dedicated VOTY coordinator who can take some weight off the BlogHer Event Staff? This person would tend to all the little details like making sure people get their blog badges, fiddling with the links in the announcement piece, ordering pizza for the emcee to nibble on backstage, coordinating smaller group photos by category, positioning posters, etc.

I know just the person who would rock the shit out of that job…

My BlogHer '13 VOTY Reception Experience on Make A Gif

(You like that? It’s my first GIF! Special thanks to JC Little, The Animated Woman,
and DJ Paris of Thoughts from Paris for encouraging me to make it. I feel fancy.)


  1. Oh good for you Iris! You remember what Johnny Castle said, right? You know, its a small world. An Aussie blogger friend of mine was raving about meeting you on her visit to Blogher. Michelle Bourke from Farmer’s Wifey? If I knew she was going to see you I would’ve asked her to give you an extra squeezy hug from me. You’re awesome. So happy for your success Lesley.

    Anne xx

    • Hey Anne! It really IS a small world, because when I showed up at the VOTY keynote, expecting to see a table of my fellow humor VOTY winners to sit with and then wandered around like a lost child looking for a friendly face, I ended up sitting down between two strangers. Luckily for me, one of those strangers just so happened to be Michelle of Farmer’s Wifey and I recognized her friendly face from earlier that day and within seconds we were chatting away like long lost sisters. Is that an Australian thing? Because I swear, between you, Imbi (@TheNDM), my friends Mike & Katrina, Michelle B., and Michelle @TheyCallMeMummy, y’all are some of the kindest, friendliest, warmest, most wonderful people I’ve ever known, online or IRL. BIG SQUEEZY INTERCONTINENTAL HUGS ALL AROUND!!! XOXO

      • Well, you’d be right in saying that us Aussies are a friendly bunch but there’s fierce rivalry between the States and Michelle, a fellow Queenslander like myself, are the friendliest of them all! A big intercontinential squeezy hug right back at ya!


  2. Holy shitballs do I wanna make my own GIF! And you’re right, you know. It’s all in how you choose to look at a situation (and lift a big ass board to move it to the center of the room). I have to admit I was a bit crestfallen that there wasn’t designated seating and that Latifah didn’t ask the honorees onstage. But then I had to check myself with a swift “YOU HAVE NO PLACE TO COMPLAIN, BITCH. YOU ARE ON. THE. STAGE.”

  3. THIS is why I love you! You rock lady!

  4. This was perfect. So funny! And thank you for making me feel like less of a dork when I sat through the whole VOTY waiting for my name, only to feel that sucker punch when the “Goodnight everybody” happened. It’s only because BlogHer VOTY means something that we care.

  5. That’s the best! I would have done the same.

  6. Leslie,
    Thank you for this so much. I was a VOTY last year (one of the 100), and I, too, was so excited for the reception, the honor, the ability to meet other VOTYs. Since the reception was picked over awful food, and we were not honored on stage and we could not even meet each other (except for when we took pics by the signage which included in teeny, tiny print our names and the names of our pieces), the whole thing was a bit of a letdown, and I admit I cried in the car on the way back to NJ. I also wrote to BlogHer about it and said how to make it a better experience. While yours was far from perfect, it was sooo much better than what they did for VOTY’s who were not readers this year. So congrats on that, and on “leaning” in to find a better spot for your Gekko piece. I would have done the same. Hope to meet you in the future (maybe next year’s conference).

  7. ROCK ON!!!
    No one puts the Bearded Iris in the corner

  8. Wowzers! I have never been more proud of you. You are just that AWESOME. Well done for pulling on your big girl pants, picking that poster up and moving it to where everyone would see it. NO ONE PUTS LESLIE IN THE CORNER!

  9. Thanks for writing this, Leslie. It only validated my decision not to attend BlogHer this year. I knew I didn’t have the money or the time off work or the patience, really, to fly out to Chicago and spend three days trying to ignore my loathing of large crowds and the resulting social anxiety, but I admit that when I heard all VOTY honorees would be recognized with VIP seating and a trip up on stage, I felt sad – for the briefest of moments – that I wasn’t going to be there. And considered – again, for the briefest of moments – trying to find a way to go. And reading this, I’m glad I trusted my gut.

    I’m so sorry you got stuck in a corner, so to speak, and I applaud your chutzpah in moving your storyboard. I had no idea they were even doing those poster boards – and I think many of the honorees who couldn’t be there would have appreciated being notified so that they could have had the option of of requesting either the poster to be shipped to them (at their cost, of course) or at the very least an official photo of it. I’m grateful to Katie Sluiter for taking a nice picture of mine to send to me. So, that would be my suggestion to the VOTY powers that be – have someone be in charge of communicating with all the winners exactly how they’ll be recognized and what that means for them.

    After all, I never even got an official notification that I *was* a winner.

  10. Jennifer Bilbro (@Jennifer_Bilbro)

    August 4, 2013 at 11:30 am

    I would have totally helped you move it! Nobody puts baby in the corner!!!

  11. Hellz yeah! Thanks for reminding us “quieter types” that it’s not only okay, but good to show our balls when we need to!

  12. Even though I’m not an anonymous blogger, I went to your session at BlogHer13. It was my first exposure to you and I was so impressed. I can’t believe they tried to hide you in a corner. I’m so glad you moved your blog board to a place where you’d be seen and given the recognition you so richly deserve! :-)

  13. I am fist pumping the air so hard right now. Fuck yeah.

    “You have a choice.”

    Damn skippy, my friend.

  14. Dawn@LightenUp!

    August 4, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    Congratulations, lady! I am so proud of you, both for your two wins and for having the ‘nads to fix such a disappointing situation. Things like this have happened to me – both years ago and recently – and these days, I think I’d have done the very same thing.
    If it’s any comfort, BlogHer staff members have broken my heart twice in the past few months for various reasons. (But luckily, I recently also received GREAT professional news – that cheered me up immensely – from one Leslie Marinelli 😉 )
    Seems like BH is a young company that will grow and improve. In my day jobs, I’ve helped put together several corporate conferences with award ceremonies, and honorees should never be brushed aside that way. People pay a lot of money to attend – and they’re proud of their accomplishments – as well they should be – and should be honored as the winners they are. Good for you, Inner Iris!!

  15. So bummed I miss this epic lady-ball moment. In fact, I’m pretty bummed I didn’t have any hang out time with you pretty much at all. Next conference I’m blowing EVERYBODY off and sticking to you like gorilla glue!!

  16. *Standing up and slow clapping*
    In the past, I’ve only talked about humping your leg, but honest-to-Cindy-Brady’s-ponytails, I will absolutely do it the next time I see you because of this post.
    I love your Lady Balls. I love your writing. I love your attitude. But most of all (deep breath for non-snarky moment) I do love you, Leslie Marinelli. You are a peach. And I’m not just saying that because you’re in Georgia.

  17. This post only confirms everything I said to you that weekend as I tried not to act like a bumbling moron in your great presence. In the immortal words of Macklemore, you Rocked. That. Motherfucker. I’m so glad that you stuck up for yourself, did the bold move, and owned that moment that you deserved. Brava, Lady. Brava. Ditto goes for your Lady Balls.

  18. Those are not only lady balls, they are AMAZEBALLS. good for you! Hope you brought that sucker home. It should be displayed prominently in your yard.

  19. Congrats on being a VOTY honoree! Wish I had been there to watch you whip out your lady-balls!

  20. Bahahahahaha you are so much awesome in one kick ass package. If I was there I would totally have been your troubadour announcing your arrival with some song. Although – I can’t sing worth a damn. So, it’s probably better I was not there…

  21. First of all, I was so happy when I saw the posters with the full winning essays in the reception — this was so much BETTER than what we did last year. You all deserve the recognition and the honor for your wonderful writing. Good for you for moving your poster into the light!

  22. I wandered like a lost child too looking for the “reserved seating”. Then I skipped the reception and went to the movie screening. I made it for the last ten minutes of the reception, though… and found my board all the way in the back in a dark corner next to a trash can. I could’ve used some of your lady balls at that point! You’re kind of my hero now.

  23. Wow. I read this and my heart breaks. Not in that, “the feral kitty population is exploding” kind of way. My heart breaks because I live that life.

    Ok, so no one has ever honored me publicly for anything. But if they did, it would totally be like that.

    And I would feel like absolute shite when my name was displayed so small.

    I’m not one to cry, but I think if the following year I found my story in the back I would have wept. Of course, you were surrounded by friends, so that helps. Even in the alternate universe where I am a VOTY honoree, I’m still Eeyore.

    I wouldn’t have even thought to move the damn poster myself.

    Also, I know you didn’t mean it that way, but good for you calling out Queen Latifah. I was surprised at the number of people on Twitter that probably never saw her in a movie or, better yet, know a song of hers that were tripping over themselves to kiss ass. Queen Latifah isn’t as awesome as some of the bloggers I know that attended.

  24. They should hire you for way more than VOTY wrangler; you’d rock the shit out of anything. And while you should know that I admire the hell out of you AND Lady Jenny for your writing, I have to say that you both look fabulous. (I know, I know, it’s shallow, but there you go. Complimented. Deal with it.)

  25. Ha ha, you’re a funny lady, so now I guess I’ve gotta go read about gecko penis. Wasn’t really how I thought I would be starting my day, but I’m not one to wanna miss out.

  26. We connected briefly last year, (at the BanShe [did I make that name up?] party – I think?) and I have to admit something. I felt slightly shy. And I’m not shy. And I also felt like a lame slacker since I never made the time to follow through on the inthepowderroom “store/product” stuff because I was kind of confused and didn’t truly grasp the concept, and that was also not me. Awful. I still feel like a crapola for it. And look here – you’ve shown how normal and real you are. And I want to hug you. Would that be weird? Sigh.

    I’m so glad you whipped out your ballsy self and moved your poster. That rocks. And I had no idea about what happened last year except I was SO excited to know some friends who were picked for VOTY and I sat there excited only to never hear them called or see them on stage reading. I was confused and felt like I didn’t know and must not have known, it was my first BlogHer. But now I see. I get it. I’m sorry it was a bit rough again this year, but yay for being recognized, all the same.

    And if I ever see you IRL again? I WILL hug you. 😉

  27. You rock so hard. Yes, that is an indirect reference to your lady-balls.

    Congrats on the VOTY and for taking your well-deserved recognition into your own hands. Sometimes a girl’s gotta be her own advocate.

    As I was reading this, I wondered who the details-person was who dropped the ball on this one. I think you’re perfect for the job in ’14!!

  28. You carry that sign to a better place, girl.

    If this had happened to me, it’d be my mother’s voice in my head to go on and move that sign. She and my aunt, no question, would scoot that over to a better place. Women who know how to get it done, well they do.

    Thanks for such a funny write-up!

  29. I just stumbled upon your blog. In a strange coincidence I follow the blogger on the other side of your sign, Lauren Gallagher. She took a picture next to it as well and it looks like it’s after you repositioned it. If you want to find out the ultimate destination of your sign, here ya go:

  30. I am crying tears of joy AND disappointment right now. Why in the world would your post be in the back corner of ANYTHING when you’re obviously one of the most awesome bloggers in the universe?! I’m SO GLAD that you decided to move it! Also super happy that it was caught on film. I heart your bearded face.

    You are awesome.

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