Hannah Hart Wants a More Unified LGBTQ+ Community: "We're All Queer"
Hannah Hart started her journey as a content creator seven years ago when she invented My Drunk Kitchen. The series involved getting drunk and attempting to cook, and the first episode, "Butter Yo Sh*t," went live in 2011. In the time since, Hannah's career has exploded; her channel has reached 2.5 million subscribers and more than 300 million views. She's moved into narrative storytelling with projects like Camp Takota (which was picked up by Netflix) and Electra Woman & Dyna Girl. She's written two books: 2014's My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating, Drinking, and Going With Your Gut and 2017's Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded. She even has a clothing collection on Amazon.
You may be tempted to say Hannah is special simply because she's an incredible entrepreneur who continues to grow, but her true triumph is the decision to remain authentic from very early on. Hannah came out publicly in 2012, and her commitment to openness and transparency has been a strong compass on her creative journey. In 2018, her identity blends beautifully into her career and other passions: she's on the board of directors for GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), she has a new podcast focused on mental health called Hannahlyze This, and she's developing a new digital series with none other than Ellen DeGeneres.
We hopped on the phone with Hannah in late May to discuss her incredible journey, and she unpacked all of the major triumphs along the way. Hannah was able to provide insight into her pivotal coming out and the personal emotional work that first launched her into the mental health space that factors so heavily into her work. And, of course, it wouldn't be a properly prideful conversation without a discussion about the current state of the LGBTQ+ community.
POPSUGAR: You started talking about your sexuality very early. There wasn't really a moment when you had to be like, "I'm coming out to the public," you know?
Hannah Hart: Exactly. Yeah. What had happened around that is that Anderson Cooper had come out, and it had been this whole to-do, and there was judgment for him on both sides. Obviously, the homophobic response, and then, from our own queer community, people being like, "I don't know why he didn't come out sooner." And I just felt like that's really unfair to people in the public eye. You don't know their history. You don't know their personal stories. You don't know what their families are like. And I guess, for me, I just wanted to just establish it. As my career in entertainment grew, I just wanted everyone to know right away. To be like, "Hey, FYI, I'm gay. OK, everybody? We good?"
PS: And that's so refreshing and rare! Were you reticent at all? Or did it feel more like a sense of, "Nope, this is what I'm doing and this is how it's going to be"?
HH: I had only recently, at that point in my life, started being comfortable coming out to coworkers and strangers. Not even just coming out, but living out. Just living as a gay person . . . I was nervous, but I also didn't really have a choice because if I was going to be forming an honest bond, an authentic relationship, I would need to be honest.
PS: Was YourHarto a place to just be more yourself and more grounded and to talk about things outside of the show?
HH: At the time, I think I started YourHarto because I was thinking of it as a place to do unedited videos, more like vlogging style or what vlogging was back then.
PS: I did watch that chapter one video, your coming-out video, and there was one part that really stuck out to me. You say at one point, "When you're raised with the belief that perfection's possible, it's really hard to let go of that." And I think that resonates with a lot of people in and outside of the LGBTQ+ community. Can you talk about your journey with that?
HH: Absolutely. It's an ongoing journey. A lot of times, if you're raised with that belief, you kind of jump to the other end of the spectrum when you let go of it. You're like, "Well, if perfection isn't possible, then I'm just going to be a disaster." Right? It's finding your personal balance of expectations. For me, I'm only motivated by competition with myself and by growth within myself. It's unfair for us to weigh our lives against anyone else's. It's important for us to weigh our lives against our own.
Am I doing more than I was doing last year, better than I was doing last year, or am I as grounded as I was last year? To just kind of think of things in that frame, that's how I fight against my perfectionism, because it sucks. It's really hard. I have absurdly high standards for myself, and then if I fail to meet them at 100 percent, I am so inclined to just be like, "Well, fine. I'll just do 20 percent then."
PS: I'm sensing that a lot of your journey was tumultuous, and the fact that you came from a conservative background didn't help, I'm sure. It does seem like you have a lot of perspective from your journey. Were you in therapy for that or did you just have a lot of really insightful friends help you through the process?
HH: Oh my god, therapy. [Laughs] Jesus, no. I cannot stress this enough: your friends are not your therapists. Seriously! Getting coffee with a friend is chit-chat; it's not clinical work. It's not the same thing, you know?
"I'm only motivated by competition with myself. It's unfair for us to weigh our lives against anyone else's. It's important for us to weigh our lives against our own."
It can be really, really helpful. I know so many people in my life that I'm just like, "Jesus, dude, if you could just go to therapy instead of just talking about the same sh*t over and over and over again, that would be great."
And to be honest, therapists are qualified professionals. And there are different forms of therapy. If you want someone to listen, then you can go to a talk therapist, whose specialty is in emotional reflection — just someone there to validate your feelings. If you've come from a trauma background or if you have a lot of unprocessed events in your life, then you might want to go to somebody that specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy, which is to help on the more clinical level of taking the distortions that your mind creates and putting them back into reality.
PS: Wow, you really seem to have submerged yourself into the mental health space. How did you get into this exploration of mental health?
HH: I really want to have a whole life. As I grew more grounded in myself and what I needed, and as I gained the time and the resources and the responsibility, it became very important to me to make sure I was taking care of myself. So many people make money or are in entertainment or do all these things, and yet they neglect themselves. And in my mind, I'm like, "Look, I've been given a public platform, and what better shot does someone have at taking care of themselves than me? And how lazy am I to not be happy? To not try and work on my life?"
PS: Right, and Hannahlyze This, your relatively new podcast, is a really concentrated effort at examining mental health. Can you tell me about it?
HH: Back in 2015, I came up with the idea to do the Hannahlyze This podcast. But then I realized that I didn't want to do it until after I had gotten a chance to establish where we were at. Buffering is the second book I wrote; it's the memoir that talks all about my family's journey in the mental health space — my journey in that space, my journey into the public eye — but mostly dealing with my life growing up. And it was really important to me that Buffering come out first. And then the response to Buffering really motivated me to get Hannahlyze This off the ground.
"I really want to have a whole life. As I grew more grounded in myself and what I needed, and as I gained the time and the resources and the responsibility, it became very important to me to make sure I was taking care of myself."
I've been really, really happy with the response. Nothing motivates me more than when people are like, "Hey. Thank you. I'm getting something out of this." Then I'm like, "Oh, awesome. What else? What else can I do?"
PS: You mentioned wanting to be authentic from the very beginning. How do you think that's helped you in your journey?
HH: When I first came out, I was really scared of the queer community. I was actually really scared of the word "queer." I was very self-hating in that way. I didn't even want to call myself a lesbian . . . as I got older, I realized none of this stuff is coming from me. And I'm missing out on my own acceptance and my own sense of self by rejecting the community because of the labels within it. Lately, I've been really thinking a lot about the word "queer" and how it had such a negative connotation for me growing up, but then, as I get older and as I see the younger generation, so many of them just identify as queer because they don't feel the need to put their gender label and sexuality label and all this stuff in the [different] buckets.
PS: I felt that, too. I mean, I've always been scared of the word "queer." I'm a gay man, but now it does feel like there's a lot of power in that word, and it's really cool to see how that's shifted.
HH: It's something that just occurred to me this year, and then I was so happy . . . this is something that I've been talking about. I'm like, "Yes. Millennials and under, I feel like society segregates us enough. Why are we segregating ourselves from each other?"
PS: It's true, and I think there's a lot of strife in the way the queer community is divided, in the way we push against one another.
HH: I don't need to know if somebody is bisexual, pansexual, asexual, whatever, but if they have had the experience of otherness and they are someone who finds attraction to someone outside of the heteronormative scope, I feel like the umbrella of queerness just envelops that. And if someone's like, "Oh, I'm queer actually," then it's like, "Oh, cool. Great. I don't need to know if you date boys, girls, or other. Fine by me. Oh, you're queer? Me too. Great. We're all queer. Great. Happy day."
PS: What's your personal history with Pride?
HH: Actually, I'm not a big crowd person. This is so terrible. But, honestly, going to a parade gives me the same kind of tightness in the chest that going to Ikea on a Saturday does. Yeah. It's just a lot of energy and a lot of people. The best Pride I ever attended was one where I just happened to have a friend who had an apartment that was near the strip near — I think it was in San Francisco — Market. I was able to watch Pride from inside their apartment.
PS: What year was that?
HH: 2010? I don't know — one of those years back in the day. But I have to say that in general, I usually avoid the parades, specifically, just for my own lameness. But I do, as I get older, want to celebrate Pride. I want to start celebrating Pride. I have never really celebrated Pride. It's kind of been the last thing on my journey of acceptance. To get to that point of feeling proud is feeling great and feeling worthy.
PS: I saw that you joined GLAAD's national board of directors. What has that been like?
HH: I'm the youngest member of the board at GLAAD, and GLAAD is an organization that does so much more than we know, and it's so active on the ground in communities and active on the ground in the entertainment space. I really want to modernize GLAAD's stance in the public eye. I want people, when they think of GLAAD, to know it as intimately as I do. Because the only reason I know it this well is because I'm on the board. And we've got a college ambassador program that touches so many hearts and minds in America.
PS: And you have a new partnership with Ellen DeGeneres! Are you trying to steer things in a new direction?
HH: I can't say too much about the show, but it's a concept that is very much in line with what I love about being alive, which is love. And I am really, really excited for this project that we're working on. Obviously, Ellen DeGeneres is an icon and just an incredible advocate and just such a big heart and such a giver. But also, let's be real, her digital team is great. Her socials are great.
I just feel really fortunate that they wanted to work with me. I'm kind of in shock about it because I'm such a big fan of what they're able to do.
PS: What do you do on days when you feel stuck or defeated or frustrated . . . or you're not where you want to be?
HH: It depends, because those feelings can crop up from different places. Sometimes I need to push myself through it and get myself out the door. Sometimes I need to tell myself to take a break and spend some time alone. I think that the thing that's always true is actively reminding myself that this feeling is temporary.
To be like, "Yeah. It's not forever. It's just for now." These are feelings, not facts.