In March 2011, I was sitting on a friend’s couch in Ireland – waiting for her to come home from university as I was her houseguest, and I was watching YouTube videos to pass the time. In the ‘Recommended For You’ panel on the side was a video called “My Drunk Kitchen“. On the spur of the moment – call it a gut instinct- I watched it, I loved it, I laughed and I subscribed. Memories of the rest of my Gap Year in England are signposted in a way by memories of subsequent My Drunk Kitchen videos – showing them to my friends, rewatching my favourites and feeling this instinct in my gut that told me this was going somewhere. MDK and the other content created by @MyHarto (or Hannah Hart as she is commonly known in day to day life)quickly became some of the videos I most anticipated viewing each week.
In the 5 odd years since then, I have remained an ardent supporter of Hannah Hart’s work in whatever form it has come from Contiki sponsored trips, to movies, to live comedy shows; so naturally when she announced the release of her long anticipated second book Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded, I preordered it the very same day. When it actually arrived at my house a few weeks ago I was incredibly excited but had to be “responsible” and “honour my commitments” and finish all my uni work before I could trust myself to begin reading Buffering.
Well, as it turns out it was for the best that I waited because I sat down this morning to read it and didn’t get up again until I’d read the final page – including the acknowledgements which I almost always skip. 5 hours later with frequent breaks to compose myself and process what I had just read, and I’m almost at a loss for words. Almost.
Hart has always proven herself to be compassionate, insightful and considered in her communication with her audience. While one video may feature her drunkenly mopping her kitchen floor (my personal favourite America Strudel Parts 1 & 2); the next may be a Q&A during which she gives sincere and meaningul responses to each question she is presented with. My interaction with YouTube really took off upon discovering @MyHarto but Hannah has remained my go to, feel good, have a laugh but also have some real talk channel, whatever the vibe I’m looking for.
Hart’s writing style is much the same; she admits to being more candid than ever before while touching on topics that range from the entertaining experience of learning how to “do” comedy with her friends; to deeply personal, moving, and at times devastating accounts of her childhood and her relationships with her family. When we talk about prominent figures, I think it is all too easy to forget that these individuals have personal lives just as complex and nuanced as our own. Reading about events occurring in Hart’s life as recently as 2015 and reflecting on the content she was producing around the same time was jarring for me, as I had to realise that life – even the lives of the rich and famous – isn’t so easily compartmentalised, and the woman you love to watch drunkenly cooking, who has such a quick wit, constant smile and easy laugh; can have a past and personal life that is just as difficult to navigate and filled with memories fraught with strong emotion as any other. In the digital age, we understand that everyone’s online presence is carefully curated to show only the best, yet somehow we accept this curated reality as the full story. And when it is revealed, we are perplexed by the preference – as Hart has expressed in the past – to keep some things out of sight.
I feel like I’m circling a point here without really hitting on it and this is 1) because you should really read the book and see for yourself and 2) because I feel uncomfortable writing up examples of anecdotes. Sure, a book has now been published detailing this same information but it feels different to pass it on – almost like gossip? I really think that speaks deeply to the power of Hannah Hart. As of today she has 2.5 million subscribers on YouTube – disregarding all other social media platforms – and yet I still feel like to divulge the secrets of Buffering would be a betrayal, like gossiping about a secret entrusted to you by a close friend.
Upon finishing the book, I realised that my view of Hannah Hart has changed, probably forever. Buffering doesn’t pull its punches (and when it does, Hart doesn’t apologise but explains her reasons) as this uncanny life is laid bare and explained. No longer hiding behind a camera, Buffering is Hart sharing her life, and sharing herself in a way she has never done before. I feel a new degree of understanding, and of respect for someone who has worked hard to become a version of herself I imagine she never would have envisioned was possible. Not only is she compassionate, generous of spirit and recklessly optimistic – but she remains all of these things publicly while simultaneously privately negotiating the turmoil of her messy, complicated, and at times heartbreaking past and the implications for her present and future. She is a force of positivity, awareness and the desire to grow and this should be the take away message from her writing. Today, she speaks of her optimism, her love, her passion and the drive to make people happy that she identifies as motivating her as early as elementary school. She writes with an understanding of the privilege she holds; of the uphill struggle to get there; of no longer being ashamed of recognising when she falls short and details learning to be proud of her successes.
Hannah Hart has proven to me once again why I felt immediately at home with her 5 years ago as I sat on the couch a 19 year old watching a drunk ‘adult’ making grilled cheese/toast. Today, I am 24 years old and the same age she was when creating those first videos. Today I remembered why I loved her so much to begin with – and why, even as I find myself become more and more isolated in the older age range of her fanbase, I keep watching for one more episode.