In the span of just three-and-a-half-months, Los Angeles-based actor and director Gabrielle Stone found out her husband was having an affair, filed for divorce, fell in love with someone new, had her heart broken again, and went on a month-long solo trip to Europe. Now, five years later, the 33-year-old has two books about the experience, Eat, Pray, #FML and The Ridiculous Misadventures of a Single Girl, as well as a viral TikTok account where she shares her thoughts on heartbreak, healing, and moving on (she’s found “real, safe, healthy love”) with her 1.1 million followers. Below, in this as-told-to, Stone tells us what it’s like to be a source of inspiration to millions of people going through divorce.
I always say that my book Eat, Pray, #FML happened to me. I was not a writer when my life blew up in 2017. I was married for almost two years, and then I found out that my husband had been having an affair with a 19-year-old for six months. I left and filed for divorce and I met a guy shortly after that. We fell madly in love and had a whirlwind romance. He convinced me to join him on a month-long trip to Italy, but 48 hours before we were supposed to leave, he told me he needed to go by himself. I was absolutely devastated. I decided to travel around Europe alone, so I grabbed a backpack, left for a month, and wrote about it.
Everything from finding out about the cheating to getting my heart broken again happened so fast, and I knew that whatever was going to come from this trip was going to be really powerful, not only in my life, but something I could share with other people around the world because heartbreak and grief are universal. Before I left for Europe, I hadn’t spoken about the divorce publicly yet — only my close friends and family knew — and I was like, “Look, if I’m going to go on this life-changing journey I might as well start with a clean slate.” So I took a picture standing at LAX with my backpack on and I posted it on Instagram. It was a really vulnerable caption where I said, “This is what I’ve been going through. I was cheated on, I filed for divorce, I’m no longer with my husband,” and opened up about how I was going on this trip to really find myself. There was an outpouring of support in the two hours before I got on that plane. So many people said, “Please keep sharing your story. This gave me hope. I feel inspired by this.”
I was planning on disconnecting from social media during my travels, but that was really the turning point where I saw how much it was going to help people if I showed up in an honest, authentic, and vulnerable way. Social media can be so toxic because we think everyone’s life is perfect, which is just not the case. Because of that moment, I ended up being very open online about what I was going through during the whole trip. There were certain days when the posts were really fun because I was out and partying, and there were certain days when I was sitting and writing for six hours, crying and trying to figure out how to heal my heart.
After my book was published in 2019, I wasn’t interested in getting on another social media platform. TikTok was known for being an app where kids danced, and I didn’t think I needed to be on there. But then lockdown hit in 2020 and everybody was so bored. I downloaded the app for entertainment and to see if I could make a return on book sales. My friend, who’s also an author, had a lot of success there — when her videos went viral she saw the numbers translate into book sales. So I gave it a shot.
Early on, I had only 400 followers and put together a video of my story using photos from my Europe trip. I posted it at 11 p.m. and went to bed. When I woke up the next morning, it had gone viral — into the millions. Because I self-published my book, I can see the back-end of my day-to-day sales. You see that whenever the videos go viral, your numbers shoot up because there’s a direct product that the video is sending people to buy.
In November 2021, I posted a TikTok where I’m dancing and telling the story of how I named my ex-husband’s character in my book. I had seen the trending dance to “Do It to It” and thought I could make something funny out of it. I put my sweatpants on, had no makeup on, went out into my backyard, and shot that video in about five minutes. I posted it and went about my Sunday, forgetting about it. The video absolutely skyrocketed — it got picked up internationally and was on the cover of the Daily Mail. My book sales from November were astronomical because of that video, which now has nearly 65 million views.
It’s wild that my experience, the worst year of my life, is now able to reach and heal all of these people. I get messages every day from people around the world saying that my story saved them from an abusive relationship or gave them the strength to leave their marriage. I now have a podcast, FML Talk, and that’s created a community of my readers who stay on my page for the self-love inspiration and the authenticity. It’s been incredible to see so many women be able to heal through it.
When I realized I was going to get a divorce at 28, I felt guilt, I felt shame, I felt embarrassment, and those are all things that society places onto us. For me, writing books and sharing my story on social media became my power. I don’t want anyone that’s going through a divorce to feel like they’ve failed. There’s so much life to live after divorce — I’ve had the best years of my life post-divorce. Why, just because you tried your best to make something work and the circumstances changed, should you feel like you’ve somehow failed?
The man who I divorced was not the man who I married. I would’ve stayed so much longer trying to make it work if he hadn’t done something so drastic to make me feel like I had an out. And people shouldn’t feel like they have to have an out to say, “I’m not happy, and this isn’t serving me anymore.” The reason we feel like that is because of the stigma around divorce.
The more people can open up and be like, “No, I wear that sh*t like a badge now,” the better. Divorce really is just a tragic end to a beautiful new beginning.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.