GlamourPuss, M.D. Brings Sex Ed and Vulnerability to YouTube
Olivia Richman was raised in a very large Cuban family. She has 32 second cousins, and they all grew up living within a few blocks from each other in Bergen County, New Jersey.
Olivia’s mother is a doctor, and she was always very interested in medicine. Eventually she went to medical school after graduating college at George Washington University in DC.
“Something that really struck me when I was in medical school and even in college, was how my younger cousins were constantly asking me questions about their sexual health,” Olivia said. “What birth controls they should be using, what do they do when the condom breaks? How do they know if they have HPV? What’s a pap smear?”
Despite her cousins being educated in good school districts, her cousins seemed to lack what Olivia felt should be baseline knowledge.
“I had to teach my cousin how to put in a tampon, because they don’t teach that at school, apparently,” Olivia added. The whole thing was deeply concerning. These crucial topic areas were clearly not being taught in school, and Olivia recalled thinking: what about the kids who don’t have an older cousin, or an older sibling, or a parent or friend they feel comfortable talking to? What about the kids with no access to mentors who are educated on these subjects? What are they supposed to do?
That’s how the idea for GlamourPuss, M.D. came about. Olivia knew she wanted to create a YouTube channel, because that’s the number one platform used by Millennials and Generation Z. She also loves being on camera and entertaining. “That’s super fun for me,” she said, adding that she also liked how YouTube creates a very personal feel. “I wanted to be relatable. I wanted whoever was watching to be like, ‘oh wow, this is super comfortable to talk about. This isn’t a weird topic to discuss at all. It’s actually fun and entertaining!”
So that’s what she created, just about two years ago, as a third-year med student. Today, GlamourPuss, M.D. has over one thousand subscribers, and 94 videos. Her most popular video, “External Female Anatomy – What does it look like down there??” has over 52,000 views.
Olivia’s YouTube persona is warm, friendly, knowledgeable and extremely relatable and goofy. She tackles a range of taboo topics in her videos, many of which relate back to sexual health. She talks about STIs, living with herpes and HIV, and her main message is not to be ashamed. “With STIs, it’s really just bacteria or a virus,” Olivia told me, matter-of-factly. “There’s nothing dirty or disgusting about it. I really want to de-stigmatize these kinds of things.”
GlamourPuss, M.D. features videos about periods, how to put in a tampon, masturbating, online dating, sex toys, and she often interviews guests about these topics, too. Recently, influencer Jeff Perla came on GlamourPuss, M.D. to speak about his coming out process, dating, and sex life.
She also has videos addressing topics around sexual consent, harassment, assault, and rape. She got a rape kit from one of the ERs she was working at, and went through the contents on video. “I had no idea what was inside a rape kit,” Olivia admitted. “It was my first time ever opening one. But, if you’re assaulted, and have the option of going to the ER and getting a rape kit performed on you, it must be really daunting and terrifying, not knowing what’s going to happen, who’s going to poke and prod you with what. So that’s why I wanted to make that video.”
What started out as a YouTube channel devoted to sexual health has expanded to include aspects of Olivia’s own life, most notably, her failures.
“I talk about dating, my relationships, my confidence, and med school. I expose myself and I’m like, ‘I failed. I failed on these medical school exams,’ which no medical school student wants to talk about.”
In one recent video, Olivia talks about how getting rejected at age 16 caused her to believe she always had something to prove to men she was interested in, that she was at the mercy of a guy’s choice, and that he would probably choose “another girl.” Talking to camera as she walks down the street, she opens up about being fearful of communicating her needs while dating. She talks about being empowered by this realization, to the point that recently she was able to tell a guy that she liked him, and when he informed her that he is dating someone else, she was able to accept it without internalizing it. She even invited him to appear on her channel. Her openness and sincerity is captivating. It feels like you’re listening to your best friend talk, and you root for her.
Olivia is deliberate in displaying her failures, insecurities, and struggles as a way to combat the unreal expectations about life that so many of us – but especially teens – are left with from spending time online. “I want to show people that the perfection they see so often on social media is not a reality. We all have ups and downs in life, we have insecurities, we have failures. And we don’t talk about it, which is silly. We’re all terrified of being vulnerable, when really, being vulnerable and sharing with other people is what makes people feel more connected to you.”
It’s so true. While we so often see other people’s wedding photos, baby pics, and updates on impressive achievements, we don’t often see a complete picture of their journeys. Olivia calls the missing pieces the breakdowns. “In order to have a breakthrough in life, you have to have breakdowns. If you’re not having breakdowns in life, there’s no growth or expansion.”
During our interview, I told Olivia about a #WeNeedAButton experience I had a couple of years ago when I went to urgent care in New Orleans, afraid I had contracted an STI. I told her about how I could hear the doctor and nurses laughing about me, making me feel uncomfortable and ashamed. As a visible queer who doesn’t shave her legs, it became painfully obvious that I wasn’t the typical clientele at this place. The story ended with me going to a Planned Parenthood where I received much more empathetic care, and I wanted to know what Olivia’s thoughts were on bedside manner and how med school shaped those views.
Her reply to me was that doctors are human beings. “You can’t teach empathy in medical school,” she told me.
“There’s no class for empathy in medical school or even sympathy or relatedness. You have people that I went to medical school with were extremely liberal, but also those who were extremely conservative. You’re going to have conservative people being doctors, and you’re going to have doctors who grew up in super small towns who never met anyone queer, or bi. You’re going to have people from all walks of life being doctors. And just because they’re a doctor doesn’t mean that they have life experiences.”
While that thought is a bit depressing, it’s comforting to know that Olivia is two board exams away from being able to start her residency, that someone as compassionate as she is will be working in the field of medicine. She hopes to specialize in adolescent medicine after completing her residency, which begins in July 2020.
In the meantime, GlamourPuss, M.D. is on hiatus so Olivia can study, but be on the lookout for a new video in November (spoiler: it’s going to be about anal sex!). If you happen to run out of videos to watch before then, check out her TEDx Talk she gave in Culver City this February. She’s due to give another in December.