Tracy Nguyen—The New York Times/Redux

Ryan O'Connell

Ryan-O'Connell-TIME-100-Next Tracy Nguyen—The New York Times/Redux 

Ryan O’Connell is a lot of things: He’s a writer. He’s an actor. He’s a fashion plate, a provocateur and part of the rare Hollywood couple that seems to genuinely like each other. He’s a wellspring of cultural commentary (a recent Twitter favorite: “feel lucky to be alive in a time where ppl can b psycho on so many different mediums”). He also has a disability, a fact that he writes about in a way that is both mundane and revolutionary. It’s a fact of life, one that pops up often in his book I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves, but it doesn’t keep him from living a modern young adulthood filled with sexual obsession, toxic friendships and the terrible roller coaster of searching for requited affection. Nobody writes about love and sex with more self-awareness or LOLs. Through his book and now his Emmy-nominated series Special, in which he stars as a loose version of himself, he joins a pantheon of creator/actors (from Ellen DeGeneres to Donald Glover) who deftly explore traditionally marginalized identities. Ryan’s activism is hilarious, seductive and totally original in that he’s hell-bent on showing us that cerebral palsy defines him, but only as much as anxiety, loneliness, horniness and ambition. “Perhaps the best lesson I could have ever taught myself,” he writes in I’m Special, “would eventually be the one thing that released me from my neuroses and let me be truly happy.”

Dunham is a director, writer and actor

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