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‘Cultish’ Author Amanda Montell Responds To the Youth Questionnaire

By Alyssa Shapiro

Since leaving her job as an editor at Byrdie, Amanda Montell has authored two books: Wordslut, in which she broke down the evolution of language in relation to feminism, and Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism, out today.

“Cultish is a juicy, incisive analysis of the social science of cult influence: how cultish groups from Jonestown and Scientology to SoulCycle and social media gurus use language as the ultimate form of power,” says Montell. “The book was inspired in part by my dad, who spent his teenage years in a notorious cult called Synanon, but escaped, survived, and planted my fascination with cults of all stripes."

For more on Montell, check out her Beautiful People feature, find her book here, and read on for her answers to the Youth Questionnaire.

Question 04: When were you recently perfectly content?

Perfect contentment is so elusive in these pandemic times, but the other weekend, my best friend and I took a spontaneous 24-hour trip to a tiny mountain town south of LA and went horseback riding on this beautiful little ranch. At one point, my horse got spooked and broke into a gallop—I almost fell off, but didn’t. It was like a visceral jolt into the present and put me in an oddly blissed-out mood. I highly recommend getting almost bucked off a horse. Chicken soup for the soul right there.

Question 05:  What do you dream of?

Owning a tiny house in the woods and hosting creative retreats for women and nonbinary writers. It’s my five-year plan.

Question 08: What is your coolest trick?

I can do a pretty decent Irish accent.

Question 09: What is your favorite memory in nature?

I encountered a black bear while tripping on shrooms in the High Sierra mountains once. I was with my boyfriend and my dog. The bear just turned around and ran away. It was terrifying and majestic.

Question 10: Describe your relationship with your ego.

Sort of toxic, honestly. I’m trying to get rid of it altogether. Thus, the shrooms.

Question 13: What is your most useful affirmation?

I am loved and loving. In this moment, everything is exactly as it needs to be.