Hannah Hart on her new book, coming out and style icons

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It’s hard to remember a time when Hannah Hart was just that cute lesbian on YouTube, drinking wine and making puns and grilled cheese sandwiches. My Drunk Kitchen kicked off back in 2011. Since then, Hannah has taken her show on the road with Hello Harto: The Tour Show , co-produced and starred in the independent comedy Camp Takota, hosted The Streamy Awards, presented at the GLAAD Awards, organized thousands of volunteer opportunities at food banks and soup kitchens, become the subject of fan fiction and — what else? Oh, that’s right: She’s written a New York Times bestseller, My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating, Drinking, and Going with Your Gut.

The book, which hit shelves just over a month ago, is split into four parts: Kitchen Basics, Adultolescence, So This Is Love, and Family and the Holidays. Each section features recipes, advice, hilarious/adorable photos, and plenty of Hannah’s trademark self-deprecating wisdom. There’s even a section on coming out. I read My Drunk Kitchen in a single sitting. I loved it.

I caught up with Hannah this weekend to chat about her book, her rise to superstardom, and what it means to be a lesbian icon in the digital age.

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AfterEllen: I just went back and read the first interview I did with you. It was only three years ago, but your life has changed so much in that time.
Hannah Hart: I feel like I am living in a daydream. At the moment when we did our interview three years ago, I was still living in Brooklyn, working an office job, crossing my fingers, like, “Well, who knows…” It has been a lot of work to get where I am, but it has been the best kind of work.

AE: I mean this as a compliment, but I was kind of surprised when you emailed me about your book. I assumed I’d just get a blast from a publicist. You’re kind of an international superstar, man.
HH: Dude, of course I was going to email you. Please. That’s the great thing about YouTube: At the other end of it, it’s still me. So many people in the entertainment industry are stripped down to their talent. When you’re running a business like I am, you obviously have to bring other people into it and work as a team, but being famous sounds exhausting. I mean “famous” in the way that’s like, “Let me compromise myself and become as consumable as possible for the masses.” What’s the purpose of that? If you’re not going to be you, you’re kind of just giving it all away.

AE: That is some real truth, lady. So, let’s talk about your book. You wrote a book. Congratulations!
HH: Thank you!

AE: I’m sure you had loads of publishers fighting for you. Tell me about how this particular book came to be.
HH: When I first started My Drunk Kitchen, I always thought, “Hey, maybe one day this could become a book!” Remember in our first interview when I said my goal was to guest star on Glee and make out with Naya Rivera? Well, my real secret dream was to be able to write a book one day. In 2011, I partnered with a small agent to try to turn MDK into a book. It was a series of memoir-comedy essays called Recipes for Disaster, and then I moved to Los Angeles and it evolved into the incarnation of the book that it is today. I actually was very stubborn about compromising my original vision, but one thing I have learned is that other people have great ideas. It doesn’t take away from me writing a book, even if it’s not exactly what I thought it would be. Writing a book is fucking hard.

AE: So many people think writing a book is like sitting in the sunshine waiting for inspiration to strike, but in reality, you have to sit down wherever you are, whether or not you feel like it, and hit your damn word count.
HH: I kept waiting for this magical day when this cabin in the woods would appear and all of my projects would magically pause and I’d be drinking whiskey in the heartland and writing my masterpiece.

AE: And that day never comes.
HH: That day never comes! I sold the book in January 2013 and then I decided to go on a world tour and make a movie and do all this other crazy shit!

AE: Before I got your book, I’d read that it was half-cookbook, half-self-help book — but it reads like a really open-handed, open-hearted memoir to me. I definitely cried when I was reading it. I mean, yes, I loved the idea of melting chocolate chips onto potato chips, but more than that, I loved how much of yourself you put into this thing.
HH: Oh. Well, that’s perfect. That’s exactly what I wanted it to be. I was very stressed out during the time I was writing the book. I wanted to pour myself into it. The people who saw how exhausted and concerned I was during the process are now like, “Hey, this is really good! Did you write this?” And I’m like, “Yes, I wrote it; I wrote every word!” I didn’t realize until I moved to Hollywood that a lot of people don’t actually write their own books.

AE: Nope. Very, very few people in Hollywood write their own books. In some ways, this book feels like the best It Gets Better video I’ve ever seen, but in like book form.
HH: That was a conscious decision, but only because I can’t help it. The more I tried to distance myself from the writing, the worse it got. I’m not a natural writer, but people kept saying, you know, “Your show is good because your show is you.” Or, “Your brand aligns with your personal values.” So I wrote what was important to me, hoping that people would get something out of it. Let’s just say I wanted to give people something to chew on.

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AE: You and your puns! I think your fans will be very glad to see that this book is as full of puns as your show. There’s a two-page spread of sexy corn puns.
HH: [Laughs] Those corn puns were a last minute addition. I shot the book with Robin Roemer, who is a good friend of mine, and I ran her into the ground. We did all the food and prop styling ourselves. We were in her kitchen, we were in my kitchen. I’d do the food and she’d be shooting it and I’d be prepping the next thing and then we’d panic about washing the dishes because we needed a bowl again.

AE: The visual element adds so much. Y’all did a great job. So let’s talk about this other thing called: You have become a lesbian icon. When we did our first interview, right after you started your show, you told me that being out might hurt your career, but you didn’t care—and now you’re one of the most famous gay ladies on the internet, and a style icon to boot!
HH: It is so crazy to hear you say that. I think of my style as somewhere between Seth Rogen and Kanye West, but the lesbian version.

AE: Do you get any pushback these days about being gay? You’re so out, no compromises. Do people give you a hard time about it ever?
HH: I’ve actually been really blessed that the reception has been so positive. You get the occasional idiot, but mostly it has been great. I still go through the same stuff every lesbian everywhere goes through. The issues of of being a queer person in a heteronormative world, that stuff is all still the same; it doesn’t matter if you write books or make a YouTube show. If I’m driving through rural California with someone I’m dating, I’m like, “Um, maybe we shouldn’t hold hands when we get out of the car.” In terms of the entertainment industry, though, it’s all run by the gays anyway, so that’s fine.

AE: Yeah, but you were out before it was just a given that you could come out in Hollywood and have it be OK. Right, like you were out before DOMA was overturned, and when “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was still a thing, at the very beginning of your career.
HH: I wish I could bottle this enormous love and acceptance I have and give it to everyone who isn’t out or can’t come because it’s not safe or religiously acceptable. When I very first started working, I was like, “I guess I have to come out … someday?” But then I was like, “No, you know what, I’m coming out by making it a non-issue. Like, This is the truth, OK? OK.” And it was OK!

AE: I really like the section of your book about coming out because you really get that coming out is a lifelong process. It’s hardest to come out to yourself, but once you do, everything gets easier after that.
HH: I like step four, which is: Coming out to every person every time in every conversation. You’re always going to be coming out; it just doesn’t feel intense after a while because you’ve gone through the hard stuff.

AE: I like step five about coming out to God because it’s not big deal, man; he knew all along.
HH: I had to throw that in there. You and I both come from conservative Christian backgrounds, so you know how important it is just to let people know that you and God are all good.

AE: Do you get a lot of feedback from conservative people whose minds you’ve changed by being gay?
HH: One of my favorite kinds of feedback comes from Christians who were closeted and afraid of coming out, but once they did, they found these loving and accepting communities inside their churches. I’m able to talk to them about how I reconciled my faith with the modern world and they’re able to tell me about how they’ve done the same. There’s no way I’d be able to do what I do if it weren’t for people constantly giving back to me with their own stories.

You know, Heather, I knew who you were when I was in my own closet. Websites like AfterEllen that are so comfortable with being such ambassadors for the gay community, that helped me and inspired me. I love the communities we create on the internet where we can share our truths with each other.

AE: Welp, this is exactly the gay feelings fest I knew it would be. One last question: Lots of people who love your show don’t even cook, but what’s one recipe in this book everyone should try at least once?
HH: Pizza Cake! It’s a great beginner’s dish.

My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating, Drinking, and Going with Your Gut is for sale all over the place! Buy it!

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