Hannah Hart, Digital Personality and Reckless Optimist

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When Hannah Hart uploaded the first episode of My Drunk Kitchen in 2011 (endearingly titled "Butter Yo Shit," about how to make a grilled cheese sans cheese), the YouTube landscape looked very different. Of course, there were some of the same viral hits we still enjoy today, but the idea of a YouTube celebrity was a new phenomenon achieved by a select few (think Tyler Oakley, Jenna Marbles, basically this entire list). Fast forward nearly five years, YouTube is now arguably one of the most accessible platforms for both creators and viewers, and YouTube stars have gone on to write books, star in movies, fund organizations, and became social-cultural influencers for a new generation of young people. At the age of 29, Hart has accomplished all of these feats, while continuing to remain humble, hilarious, and hungry while drinking.

We had the pleasure of chatting with the Out100 honoree offline about her upcoming projects. Between shooting her new comedy, Dirty 30 (2016), with fellow YouTube gals Grace Helbig and Mamrie Hart, to finishing the upcoming reboot of Sid and Marty Krofft’s ’70s cult show Electra Woman and Dyna Girl (2016), Hart still manages to finds time to volunteer and make videos.

Out: Tell me about Dirty 30. Is it a direct sequel to Camp Takota or another film with the same cast?

Hannah Hart: It’s just another film made with Grace Helbig and Mamrie Hart. We had so much fun filming Camp Takota together and we had the ability to film something else together, so we thought, Let’s do it! 

Who’s turning 30?

Mamrie's character Kate is turning 30 and gets a letter that she wrote when she was 16. It shows her that her life is not what she thought it’d be at 30. So her friends decide to throw her a house party. Basically it’s a house party movie with a heart of gold.

I know you didn’t work with a huge studio for Camp Takota, but for Dirty 30 you teamed up with Lionsgate. Did this switch affect the creative process at all?

Not really, actually. Lionsgate came through and wanted to make it and we were like, Great! We’re really fortunate because that’s not usually the case. It worked out and all came together. But we’ll see…let’s wait until we’re done filming it. 

Important question: What was your favorite snack on set?

Definitely the cheese. Mamrie is vegan and we have a wonderful crew that respects and honors that. But I am not vegan. So I was all like, Hey, I’m sorry, but can I just get some cheese?

Thoughts on vegan cheese?

You know, I get it. I feel you. It’s cool. But it’s hard to beat the real thing. I can’t hate it though, it’s just not for me.

Your teaming up with Grace again on Electra Woman and Dyna Girl. You explained it to press as a comedy meets action flick meets Gilmore Girls...

Exactly! I’m super duper stoked about this project. It’s about a superhero world paralleling the Los Angeles fame, glitz and glamour kind of world. The plot follows two superheroes who move to L.A. to make it big and how they evolve in that process. I am a huge comic book genre person, so I am out of my mind excited that I got to make something like this. 

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I am imagine filming was totally opposite than making a YouTube video.

Ya! It’s a 50 crew production and everyone is working their butts of and getting this thing filmed. Just a little different than sitting in my house, getting drunk and cooking. 

It’s funny too…watching YouTube video you almost feel like you are with that person. But then you realize that when he or she is totally alone making this thing. It’s kind of awesome.

Definitely totally alone. Being a YouTuber is a unique experience because you are entirely in charge and you assume a lot of responsibility. I find that to be very freeing. 

How has your new foray into acting informed your expertise as a vlogger?

Acting is just another art form. It is another skill set, almost like learning another language or taking up carpentry. Then it just becomes about using another tool to spread your message. I am not the best at acting, but I really want to become better at it. It’s about reaching a broader audience, one that is not already a part of our online community. 

Intrinsically, I think any superhero, underdog story is queer-friendly in some way. Why do you think that is?

I totally agree! The superhero story has evolved into a story about a hero for the outsider. These heroes are fighting inside a system they think is flawed. It’s vigilante justice. The whole mutant saga is based on something that marks these people different, often on the outside. There is something special about them, something different. As a queer kid growing up, I didn’t really know why I liked superheroes so much. Now I think a part of it was that I liked seeing how they dealt with being an outsider. 

In 2013 you released a coming out video in a couple different parts. What moved you at the time to make that video? Coming out online is almost a modern rite of passage today, but a few years ago it wasn’t so common. How do you perceive the YouTube space as place for people to share their personal stories? 

I was thinking a lot about Anderson Cooper, to be honest. I remember when he said something along the lines of, My private life is my private life and it’s of no concern. But then he came out and it was like, Yay, a gay person! If you were suddenly a public figure, it would be a little confusing. You have to think, Who do I want to be not only as a person, but as a public person? I started coming out when I was 24, before that I came out to people on a need-to-know basis. But at 24 I moved to New York and decided to live as an out person. Then My Drunk Kitchen happened and I moved to L.A. and all of a sudden I had assumed this role as a public figure. I never wanted to feel like my sexuality was a secret, but it also wasn’t going to influence the content I hoped to create. You go to YouTube and I am very happy there is so much acceptable media for LGBT teens and queer youth in America, but being gay is not the center of the kind of media I want to create. 

What is the kind of media you want to create? 

I like to think of as all a part of practicing reckless optimism. I’m very proud of myself for having a slogan by the way. Basically it means accepting the reality of situations as they are, but still believing that something good will come of it.

It was funny, I was at the airport the other day with a friend of mine and her bag was lost. She was all like, Maybe I’ll practice reckless optimism and my bag will appear. I was like, No, that’s not reckless optimism. Your bag is gone! Reckless optimism is that you’re going to have a great day. It’s that you’re weekend won’t be ruined because of this and they’ll drop your bag off at your house. Blanket optimism can be perceived as such a naive thing and then I think we can really miss out on having positive lives. 

So reckless optimism is not the same thing as magical thinking.

Exactly! 

It must have been quite the journey to coin this term and way of thought and then actually believe it.

It’s kind of interesting. People kept asking me how I stayed such a positive person, and that helped me realize that I was practicing reckless optimism. They kept on saying, You’re so optimistic! And I kept saying, Not really. I’m pretty realistic. By nature I do struggle with staying positive and staying motivated, so what I share is not my innate nature. It’s not that I don’t feel everything—doubt, negative, anger—this is just how I guide myself through that, this is how I use it.

You still feel all the things.

Yes, this is what I do with my feelings, this is not an absence of feeling.

Speaking of feelings, communciation, and all that sweet stuff. I heard you've set up a successful volunteer organization.

Yep, we have a volunteer program at Harto called Have A Hart Day, which started in 2013 and is led and organized entirely by members of the community. It’s in 30-something cities and nine countries, where we have captains in each place who arrange monthly events for people to get together and volunteer. I always wanted to find a way to make a series to highlight this because I am so proud of them and what they do. So we partnered with Subaru to raise awareness of organizations that are doing good and launched a 10-episode series, in which we spotlight different volunteer efforts each month. We had our first episodes on kittens, which we followed up with one about homeless teens. The next one to go up is about building bikes with foster kids. But there’s more kittens and fluffy stuff to come! 

Is there one specific experience you've had volunteering that's always stuck with you?

There’ve been millions, but during the Together We Rise shoot I met this little boy Daniel. He must have been about five. We were going to build a bike together. I could see he was looking at the tools and really wanted to participate, but whenever I tried to talk to him he just completely shut down. After about five minutes of trying, I thought, Okay, I need to learn a little more about what’s going on.

I go to his foster mom and she says she’s only been with him for about a month. I told her, I think he wants to build the bike, but there’s something that is holding him back. Is there something I should know? Something I can do to make him feel more comfortable? She looks at me and goes, He doesn’t speak English. He speaks Spanish. I was like, Ohhhh. So I got my friend who was there and who speaks Spanish and she came over to help. She starts talking to him in Spanish and he lights up, grabs a wrench, starts building right away. How funny, right? This whole time I was like, This poor kid! I was there with a bleeding heart asking, What happened to him? But wait, he just speaks Spanish? Okay, got it!

Oh man, it's so weird when our mind takes us to the worst case scenario when in reality the issue is totally no big deal. Then we eventually snap back and can just laugh about it. Now a few quick fire questions. Do you cook when your not making videos?

I do! I think cooking is fun. The consequence of four years of making cooking videos is that my cooking skills have improved. 

What’s your go-to playlist while you cook?

Right now I am listening to a lot of Andrew Bird. But I am a big fan of Discover Weekly on Spotify…sometimes. They can knock it out of the park one week and then the next I’m like, Who do you think I am?

If you could team up with anyone creative to make something, who would it be?

I would love to work with Patrick Stewart, just in life. He’s such a funny guy. I loved Star Trek as a kid. I want that superhero universe. 

What’s your favorite drunky meal?

Anything that’s cheese and carbs. Hit me up with a grilled cheese sandwich. Some nachos. Just holding cheese in one hand and a piece of bread of in the other. Oh man, have you ever had cheesy rice? It’s leftover rice that you put cheese on and then microwave. It’s delicious! 

Sadly, I don’t own a microwave. 

I know, I don’t own a microwave by practice because I don’t believe in them. But the people who do… 

Favorite LGBT movie or book?

I have this day dream of one sweet day being able to get a lesbian romantic comedy off the ground, like Imagine Me and You. I’ve always wanted to make something like that. I just want some lighthearted, fluffy shit.

Just added it to my Netflix queue. What’s your spirit animal?

Probably an owl. I have a hard time falling asleep at night and I’m always like, What’s up guys!?

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