Interview: Sarah Hartshorne
Women and the Masks that We Wear
Sarah Hartshorne was on Cycle 9 of America’s Top Model, and now she’s taking America by storm with her stand-up career. BanterGirl was so happy to chat with the wonderful Sarah about her modeling career, how she found comedy, and her work with body positivity.
How has being a model influenced your stand-up?
I wish I was one of those brilliant one-liner or political comedians, but all I really feel confident talking about onstage is myself. So, I talk about it a fair amount, and even though I "retired" two years ago, it's still an important part of my identity and how people know me. Also, acting and modeling are not at all the same, but my experience in both has made me more comfortable onstage. I always say that there's nothing an audience can throw at me that's worse than a bitchy casting director who's annoyed at working on a project with fat girls—his words.
Do you think it is easy to both be a feminist and a model?
I definitely do. It's hard because the objectification and commodification of women's bodies is inherently part of the business, but that's also part of all of our lives. Modeling just forces us to acknowledge and face that reality every day on a very personal level. In a lot of ways, I think modeling helped my growth as a feminist because it allowed me to be removed from my body in a certain way. It was my livelihood, so I could combat my negative thinking with cold, hard facts. It's actually much harder since I stopped to break out of the negative thought spirals, and I'm working much harder at appreciating and valuing my body. It's a process for everyone.
Being in the fashion world also forced me to confront my biases for and against attractive women. For example, I nearly ruptured my brain rolling my eyes so hard when I heard Emily Ratajkowski, the model from Blurred Lines, was on a podcast talking about feminism. Even though I probably would have taken that job—if it paid enough, which music video shoots rarely do—and I've definitely done nude shoots. But, she had some very interesting, pointed things to say and she is, I think, using her platform for good.
What first drew you to comedy?
It’s hard to say, I was so young when I discovered it. Part of it was that my cousin, whom I'm very close to, was a musical and singing prodigy, so the only thing I could do when we staged musical productions was be the emcee. I couldn't sing or dance, but I watched The Carol Burnett Show as a tall, gangly, awkward kid, and I figured I could at least do that. Also, seniors at my high school do a yearlong independent project on whatever they want, and I couldn't figure out what I wanted to do until a teacher I didn't even like that much said, "Oh, I always figured you would do comedy. You're always joking around and doing characters." So, for a year I got to make sketches and watch stand up for school credit, and it was honestly the most fun I've ever had.
You are working on the documentary Straight/Curve. What is the craziest thing about producing a documentary?
I'm just an associate producer, so you'd have to ask the amazing women that are really the driving force. Follow @straightcurvefilm on Instagram for awesome, body positive updates on the film! But, I will say that the unpredictability is very different from what I'm used to. Obviously, any project can change and production is a crazy business, but this film is completely different than the one we set out to make, and it's been so amazing to see all the turns it's taken. It's bigger and better than I could have imagined, all due to the amazing crew and subjects.
Considering your work with Project UROK, what is your advice for young people dealing with mental illness?
Talk to someone. Don't worry about getting in trouble. Find someone you can trust, or go online and find resources to help yourself. Now is the time to learn how to be your own activist. You deserve health, happiness, and support.
What should we be looking out for from you in 2017?
I don't know! I'm at an interesting crossroads. Straight/Curve is finishing up, Project UROK got acquired by the Child Mind Institute, an amazing treatment and research nonprofit, so I'm really hoping to use this time to hone my skills and focus on some of my own creative work. I hope good things!