Late last week, Virginia Montanez--the Pittsburgh-based social media pioneer otherwise known as PittGirl and on Twitter as @JanePitt--announced that she is ending her column in Pittsburgh Magazine and ending regular updates to her blog.
I won't lie--this makes me a little sad, although it's hardly unexpected.
Those of you not from Pittsburgh may not understand the Book of Virginia. She started out as a sort of anonymous thorn in the side of the mayor's office, back when it was held by the unfortunate Luke Ravenstahl. When Virginia's anonymity was breached, she lost her job over it, and in short order catapulted to Pittsburgh stardom She used her blog and social media presence to be funny and witty and made us make a better city and feel uncomfortable about watching movies with Joe Manganiello while with our grandparents.
Since then, in addition to being a creatively awesome person, she's been a tireless advocate for the Haitian and Syrian refugees and other charities. She was an unrelentlessness fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates even for those many, many seasons in which it was completely justifiable to deny their existence. She's organized the Make Room For Kids program every year. She writes Pittsburgh-based Christmas guides and researches fascinating and curious details about the history of the city. She's been such an icon to the city for so long she even had a day declared for her by the new, non-sucky mayor, Bill Peduto. And through all this, she's been in tune with all of the cultural touchstones in Pittsburgh and somehow been consistently and wickedly funny doing it.
Many years ago, Virginia was kind enough to include me as one of her top Twitter followers. I was taken aback, flattered, and (admittedly) a little embarrassed, because I was mostly sending out tweets about 1) me eating food and 2) me being a total idiot. It's not a secret that her encouragement is a large reason as to why I'm still actively writing today. I was finally able to meet her about five years ago at a local podcasting conference Looking back on that weekend, I wrote in my blog that she was "singularly sweet and strikingly awesome," an assessment I am happy to say still applies.
She's taking a break, and her reasons are valid. But she doesn't owe anyone an explanation; she's done far more good in this world than most of us would in our lifetimes. (And Pittsburghers are awesome, but can be a salty lot, and sometimes you gotta flush that salt out.)
You can forget about football stars or actors or reality TV singers; Virginia Montanez is the quintessential Pittsburgh Badass. Hell, forget the superlatives; she's just a badass.
And regardless of whether it is temporary or not, she will be missed.