I graduated from state school—Mizzou, the University of Missouri—then stayed for a year to serve, bartend, and make money. I was in the midst of a really bad breakup, so I was just fucking around. I had a summer to just do nothing but make money. After, I backpacked in Asia for a month with my best friend who had been teaching in China. I spent all the money I had except for $1,000. Three days after getting back, I moved to New York without a job.
I’ve loved New York since I was a little kid. I grew up coming here. My favorite person in the whole world, my great-aunt Ruth, lived here her whole life. She just passed away at 102. She was born during the last pandemic and almost made it through. I think her body was just like, “We’ve got to go. You’re so old.”
You can’t feel your feet, your knees, your arms, but you worked ... It’s weird that you miss it when you leave.
I’ve kind of modeled my whole life after her ethos of living. She had the most amazing life. She was married three times, and used to host these crazy parties with all her friends from Harlem. She only retired at 96. She booked talent for cruise ships. She used to buy weed from Dizzy Gillespie, and I have a poster hanging in my room that says, “To Ruth. A friend. Eternal love, Dizz.” It’s my most prized possession. It’s signed from him. If there was a fire in my house, I would grab that first.
I had lined up an internship at this off-Broadway theater called Rattlestick, which still exists. They eventually hired me on a contract, part-time basis but because theater doesn’t pay anything—like nothing, negative money—I got a bartending job at Webster Hall. This is actually the first time in my life, maybe starting last year, that I only have one job. I’ve always hustled and had a bartending side gig.
It’s a different level of hard work, and there’s something very satisfying about going to a place, working your ass off for seven, eight, nine hours, and then you get to leave it. It’s something that I miss even now. The mental weight of it isn’t there: even if you are pissed at your manager or someone’s stiffed you on a big tab, you can leave it at work. The separation between your personal life and your work life is very concrete. It teaches you.
I would work a double shift which, especially at Webster Hall, was the craziest, most fun and exhausting experience. I would work a show, like Nine Inch Nails, Patti Smith, Metallica, or Good Charlotte and I’m serving drinks to people three-deep. You don’t stop moving for six hours. You get a 30-minute break to eat dinner, you work until 4 AM, and then you leave at 6 AM. You’re exhausted. You can’t feel your feet, your knees, your arms, but you worked. There’s something about it. It’s weird that you miss it when you leave.
My knees can’t take it anymore. Oh my god. I would just crumble into a pile of dust. Speed bartending is a whole different beast. Some people hear I bartend and they’re like, “Oh. Can you make this, this, and this?” Maybe, but I can make you 10 Vodka Red Bulls in probably 15 seconds. I can pour you Vodka Red Bull all day long. I actually know a trick where it looks like magic. It’s called the Red Bull trick. I’d be totally over serving a group of 10 white frat bros at 2 AM, so I'd go, “Watch this” and then do it with both hands. They’d be like, “Oh my god. Take all my 20s.” Great, thank you, you just paid my rent.
Webster Hall was so cool because you knew that everyone there was having an experience. Even now when I tell people I worked there, they always tell me their favorite shows and memories. If you saw a surly blonde behind the bar, that was probably me.
Working in bartending, you develop skills that might not translate directly to being good at an “editor job,” but those skills are hugely valuable.
I also have a lot of harsh memories from that place, but it makes you very tough, like a tough broad. And now I know exactly what I can take physically and emotionally. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I haven’t been back in the building, but I walk by it every so often, and I’m like, “Man, the stories,” which is why you really want to do anything, right? You want to do it for the story, and that place is just full of them.
I always feel bad when people ask me how I got to where I am, especially younger people who want to break into editorial. I’m like, “My story is the exception, not the rule.” Working in bartending, you develop skills that might not translate directly to being good at an “editor job,” but those skills are hugely valuable: it’s time management, being able to juggle multiple projects, thinking on your feet, being down for anything. Even though I didn’t have a linear path to where I am now, I feel like the jobs that I had, the things that I learned, and the problems I had to solve all gave me an amalgamation of skills that serve me in a more formal editorial role.
When I got to Coveteur, I started pitching stories about tattoos and piercings and some of the more alternative parts of fashion and beauty. Cannabis was kind of rolled up in that. It was also around the time that CBD became a part of the larger beauty conversation. I was curious because my body was still being ravaged by bartending, and so anything that purported to help with muscle aches and not smell like Bengay sounded good to me. But the way I approach beauty in general is to ask a lot of questions. “How does this work? Speak to me like a chemist, like a biology nerd. I want to know what’s actually happening.”
Something that’s so central to being a beauty editor in general is you have to sift through a lot of crap. You have to be so discerning, and you have to really fine-tune your bullshit radar. In CBD, especially, there’s just so much of it. It makes me really angry when someone says that their hemp oil is going to help with your muscle aches, and then I look at the ingredient list and there’s nothing on there that would do anything except moisturize your skin.
Beauty journalists have a responsibility to debunk these new myths. It’s like Whack-A-Mole. You have to hit them all so people don’t start to believe them, otherwise they live on in perpetuity and you have to forever remind people they’re not true.
I’m interested in cannabis from all sides and there are a lot of amazing, innovative things happening in this space. I want to be educated as a consumer. I want to be educated as a journalist. But the influx of CBD products right now is so frustrating.
Weed has become a tool that helps me feel better, process information in a different way, and slow things down.
Someone asked me the other day, “If you could make a beauty product, what would you make?” But I would never make a beauty product, because there is someone out there with more knowledge than I have who is making something right now. The last thing the world needs is another product. It needs a few of them that are focused on quality rather than quantity.
It’s tough to impress me with a CBD product honestly, which is maybe why I don’t have a million recommendations at the ready. I do love Vertly, which is run by Claudia Mata, who used to be a beauty editor. I took a bath with her CBD bath salts last night. Ugh. They’re so nice. Just sink into that tub for an hour and don’t move.
I’ve gotten very into edibles recently—the Gossamer edibles especially. My usage goes in waves, where sometimes I find myself packing a bowl every day or every other day, and then I’ll go weeks not really thinking about it. But now—obviously now, the past 10, 11 months have been unlike anything else—I see it less as a way to unwind and more as one to assuage my anxiety. With alcohol, which is another vice that people turn to, you can lose control, and you can wake up with a hangover, which is way worse when you’re over 30. Weed has become a tool that helps me feel better, process information in a different way, and slow things down. My brain is one that will go, go, go and spin, spin, spin from the moment I wake up to the minute I fall asleep. Cannabis allows me to give myself a break from that. It’s a welcome part of my routine. I’m very grateful for it, and I’m very grateful that I have access to it.
The racial inequality and social justice implications of cannabis is something that’s very important to me and in the way we cover it. Coming from the beauty world—a racial reckoning has been so long overdue in this industry. As a beauty editor, I’ve always felt that I have a responsibility to be informed on all products. I am a white woman. I’m relatively thin. I have 2B hair. I can’t only write for an audience that looks like me. I have to know what a twist out is and how to use a hot comb. That’s just a part of the job, but now it’s taken on another layer where we also need to be outspoken. As a white person, it’s our responsibility to fix it, because we created the problem in the first place. It’s been white editors at the top of mastheads for so long, shaping these brands and these points of views.
It’s our responsibility to make sure that a Eurocentric standard of beauty is not the de facto norm and to dismantle it. I tackle that in the writers that I want to work with, the types of stories that I want to have on the site, and the issues that we’re choosing to promote, whether it’s a brand founder or someone doing something really interesting in the space.
On a personal level, in my real life and on my own Instagram, if I see someone doing some racist shit, I’m going to call it out. I have a platform. How dare I not use it to help people who have been marginalized and who people aren’t listening to? What a waste that would be.
It’s our responsibility to make sure that a Eurocentric standard of beauty is not the de facto norm and to dismantle it.
It’s a really interesting time right now. A lot of us have been forced to slow down. I rarely leave the walls of my Brooklyn apartment, so I have nothing to do except sit and think about my work and my life and what I find fulfilling. I’m like, “Well, what did I enjoy doing today?” I wake up. I do my skincare routine. I make a cup of coffee. If it’s the weekend, I’ll probably get my partner to roll a joint, because I still cannot roll a joint. I’ve tried. Normally, I have really long nails, so that’s my excuse. But maybe this year.
And then you feel guilty that you didn’t start writing your best-selling novel, learn a new skill, or something like that. My crowning achievement of 2020 was learning to skateboard. That’s the unit of measurement we’re working with right now. Just finding those tiny moments, because life in New York is stressful already. You’ve got to give yourself a break. We’re all so hard on ourselves. We’re all trying to find our new way, and that’s okay.
It’s really entertaining to watch my parents embrace smoking in their 60s. I always knew that my dad sold weed in college—it’s one of his favorite stories to tell, and he is definitely a story teller (I get that from him)—but neither of them made a big fuss about it when I was a teenager. Now, they’re all open about smoking, and have even offered me some flower from their respective stashes when I visit, which is the trippiest thing ever. I really look forward to the time when it’s safe to travel again and we can all share a joint, almost like a toast to the return of some normalcy.
There is no one right path to get into the editorial industry, or eventually leave it—I’m proof of that.
I think the same laid back attitude that they took with me and smoking weed applied to really every aspect of how I grew up. It was never like, “Hannah, you better get straight As or else you can’t play on the soccer team or go to that concert with your friends.” They always just wanted me to do the work the best that I could.
That mindset is helpful now in this industry when everyone (whether we openly admit it or not) compares our trajectory to everyone else. Especially with social media, you essentially have a front row seat to someone’s successes and failures. You’ll go crazy if you’re constantly using that as the yardstick for your own career. And frankly, there is no one right path to get into the editorial industry, or eventually leave it—I’m proof of that. We’re all just mucking about in the same pond.