The top five most powerful celebrities in the world, according to Forbes' 2013 list, are Oprah, Lady Gaga, Steven Spielberg, Queen B, and Madonna. Now I know you are all thinking... why isn't Yoncé #1? I'm thinking that too, never fear. #QueenBForever Nonetheless each of these magical (yes, dare I say magical) individuals have their own special type of fame, each attributed to their unique talents. According to the wisest woman in the world, Merriam Webster, fame can be defined as the condition of being known or recognized by many people, public estimation, and/or popular acclaim. Now, you probably think this article is going to be about the one and only Kim Kardashian, who isn't very powerful since she simply didn't make the cut for Forbes' list yet is obviously still the most famous woman in the world based on her romantic and inspirational documentary co-produced by Ray J back in 2007. I am here to tell you that you are wrong; this article isn't about America's Sweetheart Kimmy K, but instead an interview proposed to shed light on the ever-evolving definition of fame in today's society.
The year is 2014 and everything as we know it has changed; for the better or for the worse, who is to say? Everywhere we look, from the pages of our favorite magazines to the billboards that flash by as we speed down the highway, tens upon thousands of individuals nonchalantly flaunt their fame. There are the models by the likes of Emily Ratajkowski, the internationally-famous model and controversial star of Robin Thicke's Blurred LInes music video, and Jourdan Dunn, the absurdly stunning British African-American model who resides as the Parent Ambassador for the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, Inc. due to her two-year-old son Riley's sickle cell disease; there are the reality television stars like the aforementioned Kim Kardashian and the spray-tanned, baby-bearing Snooki from MTV's Jersey Shore; there are the sports stars including Alex Morgan who infamously just got engaged and professional skier/Tiger Wood's girlfriend Lindsay Vohn. The career paths for fame are indescribably endless, to say the least, and that is where our guest of the hour, Hannah Sanders, comes in. The Colorado-based high school student is one of the thousands of trailblazers utilizing social media to define a new type of fame: Internet Fame.
With the ever-growing and ever-amazing popularity of social media applications and websites, including but not limited to Instagram, Vine, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, the possibilities to attain fame are truly endless. And who is to say everyone doesn't want their fifteen minutes of fame? These social media sites are making it easier for individuals, teenagers especially, to grab their talents by the horns and transform a simple online page into an inspirational page of global popularity. What does it take to attain internet fame, you may ask? Beauty, brains, and a bit of bravery seems to be the answer, and Hannah Sanders has it all.
I sat down with this tech-savvy stunner to discuss what internet fame means to her way back in October at a coffee shop in Denver, Colorado. Hannah showed up fashionably late wearing a plaid mini-dress over a white beaded tee-shirt; the girl's got great style and great Insta-follwers! Now it's time to share her answers from our long-ago interview, complete with photographs from her ubiquitously popular Instagram account; with 30,258 Instagram followers, she's the real deal. Are you ready?
MOLLY MINTZ: Tell me a little bit about yourself! What do you like to do with your friends for fun? What do you want to accomplish in life? Stuff like that.
HANNAH SANDERS: I don't know, I have to think about this, I don't want to say something stupid! (Laughs.) Well my friends and I, I don't know, we're just normal teenagers. We go to high school, we go to high school parties, we go to concerts, and we just went to California which was really fun. I have a big group of friends but instead of that group of friends I have a smaller group of five girls. It's taken me a while to find true, good friends but I found them, so that's good! I don't have super super great grades, they're average so it's not like I could get into NYU; I've wanted to go to Brown since I was little but obviously that's not going to happen! (Laughs.) I definitely want to go to college. My mom wants me to go to an arts school but I don't think that I do. I want to go to a big football school and I really like TCU, and we visited USC when my friends and I were in California and it was really cool to see all that and all the sororities and stuff. I know I've always wanted to major in graphic design or visual arts so I know I will do something with that but I don't know. I've always felt like I could go two ways with my life: one way would be going and living in California and starting a small company and having kids or something, or, like, meeting my husband and going to Africa and ditching all the bullshit (laughing) and leaving to go and help people. I could see that happening, too, so that's pretty much it!
MM: I really like the photography and inspirational messages you post on your Instagram, Tumblr, and personal blog. What made you start these sites?
HS: I guess because it's coming from me -- since all of these inspirational messages are what I believe, I wondered if other people thought this way and I wanted other people to be open like this because I think a lot of people think the things I do but don't share them. I just see people get so down about things and it's like 'You have no reason to be so down on yourself! Everything is going to be fine, I swear!' So that's kind of why I started, like, inspirational stuff, just telling girls you can be yourself. Also, during freshman year and kind of eighth grade when I started doing the photography I got bullied so much. LIke when I was a freshman, a bunch of the sophomore girls were so rude, it was so bad. There are still some girls that are mean but I don't know, it made me realize that people get so down on themselves but if you realize that you're original and creative you should just be yourself! If people don't like it, screw them! (Laughs.) But I think that's where it came from, from being bullied my freshman year of high school when I was like 'I'm going to prove them wrong!' I know other girls go through hard stuff and they shouldn't have to, so that's basically where all of this came from, to be there for everyone.
MM: But how did you come up with your Instagram name @hannahsawildparty?
HS: (Laughing.) Well first of all, to clarify, I'm not really a wild party! People are always joking at my school and saying stuff like 'Oh, she's such a wild party!' and if I am at a party and I'm not really doing anything exciting people are like 'Where's the wild party?' People make a lot of jokes and with Simply Sanders Photography people at school call me Simply, which is totally weird! So basically it's created a nickname, I guess. But @hannahsawildparty, I came up with it because it's catchy and I wanted people to look at it and be like 'What? Why is she a wild party?' and become interested. That's just where it came from!
MM: Well you definitely accomplished your goal, since over thirty thousand people are pretty interested in you! How did you attain such a following?
HS: I don't really know, people ask me this question a lot and I have no idea! I think, well part of it is that I went to Hawaii and one of my really good friends there has a lot of Instagram followers so if she just posted a picture of us I think people would just get interested and go look at my account. And then, the other thing I think is that I was posted on the Brandy Melville clothing account and they have tons of followers, so I think that's how I got such a big following too. They posted me three times, so I guess people were just interested and then started following me! There’s no magic thing, it’s not like I did #hashtags or bought followers. I think that’s so stupid! And I was just thinking about it and how your followers are just a number. Half of the people that follow me don’t even like my pictures so it doesn’t even matter! Like, I don’t know, people always ask how I got so many followers and I really just don’t know! There’s not like a formula where you do this and this and then you’ll be Instagram famous!
MM: Speaking of Instagram fame, do you believe that you are "famous?"
HS: No, I don't, I really do no think I am famous. I think that people know who I am but I don’t think that that makes me famous. I don’t really know the definition, like verbatim, of what famous would be. I think that having people follow me on Tumblr or Instagram just opens doors towards inspiring people and being there for girls. Like, I’ve had girls message me when they’re going through really hard things and ask me what they should do. I’ve had girls ask for my phone number. I just think that instead of being quote-end-quote famous, this is just a way to reach out and help people.
MM: Do you think that the impulse to share is specific to ou generation or do you think that's just something that people have always done?
HS: I honestly think that there are two sides to it. One side is that I think people are just so closed off and just not open to people, which is why I started being open to people. I didn’t understand why people are so guarded and fake. If you think something, that’s what you think! But to answer to question I think sharing has always been like this. People who are willing to share are just going to do that and then the people who don’t want to share just won’t. But I don’t believe in total transparency, everyone have parts of their lives that are hidden and if you post your life all over the internet people will pick at you and find things you’re vulnerable about. And that’s happened to me; it’s a huge downfall because I used to have a blog -- I don’t really post on it anymore -- and I shared a lot of things about my personal life on it. There was this girl that came to me and said something extremely rude about it. I don’t know, people can make it hard so you can and should share things but not be totally transparent. You should be careful what you say!
MM: Have you recieved a lot of backlash for the things you have posted?
HS: I don't know, like, back to freshman year when I started gaining followers and when I started my photography company things were really bad in terms of bullying and stuff. But I think that girls will just find things to talk about and no matter what people are going to talk about you, and it can be good things or bad things. Back when I first started doing everything it made me really sad because I thought people really just didn’t like me! Then I realized that there were actually a lot of people that really did like everything I was doing! I just think you need to focus on the good and not the bad; if I chose to listen to all those negative people I wouldn’t be doing photography and I wouldn’t be doing what I want to do.
MM: That is truly so inspiring, and your pictures are as well. What criteria does a photograph have to have to make it "Instagram-worthy" in your eyes?
HS: Ahhh, I don't know! (Laughs.) I get a lot of questions about whether I take my pictures on my phone or on my camera, and basically all of my Instagram pictures are taken on my camera, so I think that's the criteria! They have to be good quality, but sometimes they're from my phone so I don't really know. I don't think that there are certain guidelines, I just post what I want to post and what I think is interesting to other people and to show my personality! I never want to come across as fake or stuck-up so I think that posting silly things or things with my friends or my artsy stuff -- because that's who I am! -- are just the kind of stuff I like to post.
MM: What was the last thing that sparked a big inspirational moment or idea for you?
HS: I have to think about this one, this is a hard question! Tumblr inspires me, like, I'll go on Tumblr and see a cool picture and think 'Oh, I can take that picture but make it ten-thousand times better!' (Laughs.) I have a tumblr and it's made up of all my pictures, so just being original inspires me because I can keep pushing myself to bring something new to the table. Well, this is not really the question, but when I take pictures -- people always asks me who takes my pictures because I am in them a lot of the time -- I take them with a tripod! People are always like 'Does your mom take them? Do your parents take your pictures for you?' and I am over here like 'You just have to press a button on your camera and wait ten seconds, no!' (Laughs.) I take all my pictures that I post to my Simply Sanders Photography thing, so I guess that it is easier when I get inspired for me to just be in the picture, because I know exactly what I want. I feel like I would be too bossy because I am such a perfectionist! If someone else was modeling for all my pictures, I would definitely be too bossy. But then there's the opposite, where I'l just run around and take pictures because I think it looks kinda cool.
MM: You definitely have a huge inspirational impact. What kind of messages do you want to send with your internet-fame (even though you don't think you're famous)?
HS: Yes, I don't think I’m famous! I really don’t. But I don’t know, I really just want to put out the message especially to girls, since I know a lot of younger girls follow me, that I want to be a really good influence. Because we all make mistakes and stuff -- and I am not trying to act like I am perfect or anything -- but I think that I am influencing people to know that you should be yourself. But still that’s always hard because people are like ‘How do you do that?’ (Laughs.) It's just like a journey, I guess, and I found what I was looking for even though I got criticized for it so I guess my biggest message is to just be yourself! And then to also express yourself; I don't know how other people express themselves but I express myself through photography so if your expression is music or artwork or... the people that do math, you go do your math! (Laughs.) Have fun! But the other thing I know is that you should definitely not be mean to people. People are so judgmental and mean and I think you shouldn't judge people before you get to know them.
MM: While you're inspiring people, you must be influenced, too! How heavily would you say fashion influences what you post?
HS: Well besides photography, fashion is definitely something I am really interested in! For me it's kind of like I use fashion to display an image, so even though it's not my main focus, fashion is so fun and i really enjoy it! I like being really out-of-the-box and standing out and being really different from what everyone else is doing! At school I wear really really weird outfits and I can never tell if people are confused by what I’m wearing or if they like it, but whatever! (Laughs.) So fashion definitely has an influence on my pictures -- and a lot of my pictures are of my outfits -- so I really think that fashion is fun to mess around with. And hey, it’s really fun to take a picture when you look really cute! (Laughs.) Why not?
MM: What's your all-time favorite piece of clothing?
HS: Oh god! I have two, I guess. I have this dress that I wore to Snowball [Note: Snowball is a school dance similar to a Winter Formal] that's the kind of thing that if you could only choose one thing to wear for the rest of your life this would be it! It's my favorite dress of all time. The dress has sequins on the top and it's poof-y on the bottom. One of my friends was rushing sororities this year in college and she asked to borrow the dress of all. The dress has sequins on the top and it’s poofy on the bottom. One of my friends was rushing sororities this year in college and she asked to borrow the dress and I literally threatened to kill her if anything happened to my dress! And she ended up not wearing it because she was too scared. (Laughs.) Oh well. But definitely that dress, and I have a lot of other dresses that I really like too, and I really Hudson Jeans -- they're so comfortable!
MM: Your outfits are always so cute! But let's finish with a more serious topic; with your high-profile Internet activity, you are always in the spotlight. In your opinion, what is so wrong with the way women are portrayed in the media?
HS: I think that people, especially girls, are portrayed wrong because they see in magazines that you have to be really skinny and blonde and tan, just all these standards that make it seem like you have to look a certain way. I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to be blonde or tan or whatever, because I am blonde and tan! (Laughs.) So I don’t think that it’s wrong, but I think women are portrayed badly because you don’t really see the opposite images, like bigger girls, on the cover of magazines. Like Jennifer Lawrence, I watched this video about her and she said when she started acting, her manager told her she needed to lose, like, fifteen pounds. And she’s obviously not fat, I think she’s so pretty. And then they had a thing about how she was insanely photo-shopped to be super skinny and how she wouldn’t let the magazine run the pictures; she was really mad, and I would be too! I think it’s the way we change people makes other girls feel like they need to change themselves, when really we should be changing the magazines to fit us. I definitely just think that our society doesn’t choose to change things even though we have the power to change things! There’s just too much talk and not enough action.