“Why didn’t you just tell them you’re a journalist? You get to just swing your dick around!”
I had just waited an ungodly amount of time in line to meet Hannah Hart after a live event at MurMrr Theatre in Brooklyn. As I finally stepped up to the designated spot for a photo with the YouTube legend, I introduced myself as the GO Magazine writer who had interviewed her just days before. Hart, all smiles as she entered the second hour of meeting fans, couldn’t help but laugh at me. “You wouldn’t have had to wait in line! Luckily for you, I’m not tired yet.”
While Hart wasn’t completely exhausted, I was starting to lose it from a long day. But seeing her face overflow with enthusiasm for every person that stepped toward her immediately made me perk up. I had just spent a chunk of time watching Hart traipse around a small stage inside of a Jewish temple, discussing everything from her favorite holiday to her life growing up. This live show was a stop on her current tour promoting “My Drunk Kitchen Holidays!,” her newest book release.
Hart’s been creating content across the internet since 2011, beginning with a video that would eventually (and accidentally) rocket her to fame with the webseries “My Drunk Kitchen.” During the show, Hart would, as the title suggests, get drunk and cook something. In the first-ever posted episode, she was just trying to send something humorous to her friend, but posting it on YouTube meant strangers saw it, too. “That video became my entire career,” she (truthfully) joked while on-stage at her live event. “Basically, at its core, ‘My Drunk Kitchen’ is a show about intimacy, it’s a show about communication, and it’s a show about friendship.”
Hart has built her entire public personality around this appreciation of open conversation and understanding. Aside from her intoxicated (and intoxicating) cooking show, the content creator is known for her candidness around topics like mental health and her queer identity. In 2012, after almost a year of creating drunk kitchen content on YouTube, Hart decided to take a massive step: She posted a coming out video online. “It’s so ironic, because I’d love to say that [my coming out] video, which has had such a positive effect on people’s lives, that I anticipated it would at all,” Hart tells GO over the phone. “But I didn’t make it because I felt compelled to; I made it because my career in entertainment was growing and growing.”
Her real inspiration, she says, was seeing Anderson Cooper come out and get backlash from everyone, including from within the LGBTQ+ community. “It’s not like [you’d be] reporting from a war zone, like, ‘By the way, I’m gay!’ I thought that it just seems so alienating to me to have that happen.” Coming out was an easy decision, but Hart knew that she had to go into it with a concise mindset in order to be perceived the way she wanted. “For me, I wanted to come out — I wanted to stay where I was at my journey — just so everyone would know, ‘Hey, you’re helping support my career. Thanks for giving me a chance! FYI, I am a gay person, so hope that’s not an issue for you!’” Thankfully, Hart’s very public coming out had a positive impact on her and her audience. Despite not having watched it since, she points to her public coming out as one of the videos she’s most proud of, and says it was “just an incredibly healing experience.”
Being an out public figure has not been totally easy for the content creator, though. One of her biggest challanges, she tells GO, was having to learn how to best use her platform to serve the entire LGBTQ+ community, not just the faction she identifies with. “It is definitely something I learned to do over time,” she tells GO. “Being a part of the LGBTQIA community has also taught me more about how I want to choose my words, and how I want to be a good role model and a good representative of our community in so many public spaces.” She specifically points to the fact that, once she started talking about queer issues, people started asking her about the trans experience. As someone who identifies as cis, it made her uncomfortable, so she set out to learn how best to handle those situations. “I can only respond for my feelings as a queer person and my sympathy as a human being,” she tells GO. “I used to be like, ‘Oh, don’t ask me,’ but now I realize that my role as an ally and as a public figure for the queer community is to educate myself so that people can ask me. Because if they’re asking me, that’s me being able to share my platform with voices who otherwise might not get heard.”
And Hart has a big platform at her disposal — one that seems to constantly be growing. She’s put out two films (“Camp Takota,” “Dirty 30”) with friends Grace Helbig and Mamrie Hart, who were both featured in her NYC live show. Hart has also been featured as a judge on the Food Network — the same channel she hosted a show on in 2017. She even recently began hosting “A Decent Proposal,” in which she helps couples have the perfect engagement, on Ellen Digital Network.
In 2014, Hart published her first book “My Drunk Kitchen,” a collection of recipes (and what she calls “suggest-ipes”) to cook while under the influence, whether that be alcohol or just the joy of life. In 2016, she published her next book, “Buffering: Unshared Tales Of A Life Fully Loaded,” an extremely intimate tell-all about where she came from and what shaped her into who she is today. “It’s funny because, after writing a book like ‘Buffering,’ I was surprised that they would even expect that I would have more to give in that department right now. I certainly hope the next three years aren’t as busy as that entire 30 that led to that book.”
Books, it seems, are Hart’s newest passion. While YouTube has become an oversaturated market of voices, she’s tried to find a space that evoked the same feeling as the early days on the video-sharing platform. Her goal, she tells GO, was to find a place where she “could just have a direct conversation. You know, ‘Hey, here’s how I’m doing. Here’s the conclusion I’ve arrived to. What do you think of that conclusion? Leave your answer in the comments below!” It’s a surreal experience, she tells GO, but it’s one that stems out of a lifelong love of writing, so it feels right (or write, as pun-loving Hart would probably prefer).
But Hart has also expanded into another online field: podcasting. “I’m pretty new to podcasting — which is crazy,” she tells GO, “because, as an online content creator, I’m not supposed to be new to anything. I’m supposed to be the master of it all!” She shares the mic on her podcast, “Hannahlyze This,” with friend Hannah Gelb, and the pair focus their episodes on frank conversations about everything mental health, business-building, and art-making. “We’ve had incredible guests, and every single person from across the board has been very candid about the importance of mental wellness,” she tells GO. But what’s most important for Hart is making sure that listeners know mental wellness is more than just mental health; it also includes things like financial wellness and physical health. “Life is a rich pageant, and this all blends together [on the podcast].”
Hart does seem to truly have a passion for celebrating the richness of life. One aspect that she’s diligently incorporated into her work — I would argue, since the beginning — is a desire to give back, whether that be to her audience, to strangers, or to entire communities. She started “Have A Heart Day” in 2014 as a way to mobilize her fanbase to volunteer with her as she traveled across the country on tour; it’s still going strong. “[Giving back] is just more part of my personality than my platform,” she tells GO. “It’s just what I feel compelled to do. I’m really grateful for everything that I have — and when I have more, then I give because I can.”
Her interest in supporting people and organizations she feels strongly about doesn’t come from a place of needing to be a good person. Hart is motivated instead by her own thoughts and feelings, seeking to express them in an effort to raise awareness or make change. “It’s what I’m thinking about. It’s what I want to talk about. It’s what I want to share. It’s where I’m at,” she tells GO. “It’s interesting, because I’m considered one of the people who’s been the most vulnerable online, and people often ask me, ‘Do you ever have a hard time picking what you share and what not to?’ And I’m like, ‘No, not at all!’” She’s firm that she only shares and starts discussions about the subjects she actually cares about. There’s nothing performative about Hart, and her track record strongly supports that.
With “My Drunk Kitchen Holidays!” in-stores now, Hart is staring down the barrel of the inevitable growth of both her personal and professional life. She got engaged to long-term girlfriend Ella Mielniczenko, a founder of Buzzfeed Video, in 2018, and the pair are preparing for the rest of their happy lives together. During our initial conversation over the phone, Hart stressed to me just how much she had learned over the course of her career, growing from a young, shy 20-something, accidental YouTube celebrity, to an out and proud content creator in command of her own platform. And while her past two books gave her fans a glimpse into what it was like to be her, Hart says that her newest book is all about who she has become. “The first ‘My Drunk Kitchen’ cookbook was very much a testament to my 20s; it was about surviving. This is a testament to my 30s, and it’s about thriving in the ways that you can. It kind of feels like coming into one’s own.”
What Do You Think?