Learn the difference between attention to detail and obsessive perfectionism. As an artist, a lot of us care way too much about the stuff that 99% of people won’t notice. It’s not bad to care a lot, but it’s bad when you’re never satisfied. I have songs or projects that I tried to perfect for so long that they never saw the light of day. I became bored or even resentful toward them instead of just releasing them and letting them do what they were going to do.
As a part of our series about stars who are making an important social impact, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Gabbie Hanna.
She is an internationally known Billboard and iTunes charting artist; two time New York Times Best Selling author (and illustrator), comedian and social media megaforce (22M career followers), who just released her new single, “Shut Me Up.” Gabbie’s recently released book “Dandelion,” hit the New York Times Best Sellers list at #5 (paperback trade fiction).https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/02f171d2343362851d00a85448bb9d4a
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share with us the “backstory” that led you to this career path?
Sure! I had just graduated from Pitt and was living in my aunt’s spare bedroom, waiting tables and waiting for my first “real job.” I saw that one of my favorite comedians and life inspirations, Bo Burnham, was posting vines to. . . well, Vine. I re-downloaded the app (I deleted it at least twice already) and started exploring, meeting new friends, and posting daily. Once I got my “real job” I realized it sucked, quit (fine, I got fired), and decided I wanted to focus all my energy into creating. Creating Vines turned into creating Youtube videos turned into writing a poetry book turned into writing music based on my poetry — and here we are!
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What was the lesson or take away that you took out of that story?
One time I got an exclusive invite to a meet and greet with my other life inspiration, Brendon Urie. I’ve been a fan of Panic! at the Disco since I was 15. Brendon was actually really popular on Vine as well, so he (unfortunately for me) was pretty well-versed in our weird, niche, little culture. I approached him at the meet and greet as any fan meets their longest-running-celebrity-fav… like a f — -ing bumbling idiot. All well and good… until he said “Oh, hey Gabbie, I know you. Your vines are really funny.”
It’s way more embarrassing fangirling when you’re not just an anonymous face in a lineup.
The takeaway is that the people you admire are just human beings. They waste time on social media in their spare time, they have their own idols just like you. You never know who’s watching, so be proud of everything you make.
What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?
Here’s something I wish I had a better way to explain: don’t try to emulate my success. I spent a lot of my career trying to follow in the footsteps of people I admired. While that did take me places at first, it ultimately held me back. No one wants a replica of someone else. Something I wish I had done a lot sooner was to not give a single f — — about other people’s opinion of me. It’s hard, because as an entertainer, you like. . . really want people to like you. But people can smell it when you’re not being yourself or doing what you want to do or saying what you want to say. So my advice is be fearless, be unafraid, and be another adjective that inspires you to be 100% your authentic, wonderful, special self. All the cliches are true. You really just have to take some risks. . . and be ready for those risks to blow up in your face every once (or twice) in a while.
Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?
The people who have the most impact on me are my closest friends; they never fail to tell me who I really am when I’m telling myself lies. I have a really bad habit of finding the worst in myself and ignoring the good — a trait I picked up from a lifetime of others finding the worst in myself and ignoring the good. Without my friends, I think I would have a really hard time loving myself. I used to be drawn to people who put me down and made fun of me all the time to the point that I thought that’s what friendship looked like. The only thing worse for your self-esteem than being the punch line of every joke for years is being in that situation and believing it’s normal.
Thankfully, I found people who hype me up, cheer me on, and call me out when I need it. They pulled me out of the universe I created in my mind and grounded me back on planet earth. They openly express to me how much they care about me, the human being, and remind me that I’m not defined by the opinions of those who don’t know me. As long as I have the people I love and the people who love me by my side, everything else in life is just a bonus.
How are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?
Mental health is something that’s always at the forefront of everything I do. Being completely vulnerable publicly is horrifying. It’s one thing to put yourself out there as an entertainer, it’s another to completely expose all of the darkest corners of your mind. One is putting your work up for criticism, the other is putting your heart up for criticism. A lot of the stuff that I share is embarrassing, awkward, and uncomfortable. . . but it’s real, and it’s important. I’m not unique and I’m not special, millions of people experience the mental health issues that I do. That’s why I think it’s necessary to really put it all out there, for better or for worse, in hopes that it becomes as normal to express the bad as it is the express the good.
Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?
I’ve grown up with and around mental illness in a world where we didn’t speak about our feelings. The repression and shame has held me back and harmed me in so many ways. I spent almost all of my life severely depressed and anxious without resources or information on how to help myself. Being suicidal was my darkest secret; I lived in fear that someday, someone might find out the horrifying thoughts that I was having. It brought on a lifetime of failed relationships, sleepless nights, panic attacks in rush hour traffic, misplaced anger, burned bridges, and hopelessness. No one should ever feel like what they’re experiencing is embarrassing, and no one should ever feel alone. And no one should ever feel like they shouldn’t have a future because of their past.
Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
I’m so fortunate to say I have so many. I’ve received tens of thousands of messages, emails, DMs and letters over the years from people who found strength in my music, poetry or stories. One little angel who always comes to mind, though, is a sweetheart named Violet that I met in Australia. She wrote the kindest letter and gave it to me in person. Afterward, her mother pulled me aside to thank me for sharing so much, for making her daughter feel like her feelings were valid and normal. Both of their hugs buried themselves so deep into my heart.
I miss hugging my fans a lot.
Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?
1) MAKE TALKING ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH NORMAL. We’ve made huge strides in the last decade to normalize the conversation, but it’s not enough to talk about it on social media. It’s not enough to copy/paste a suicide awareness hotline number if you’re going to ignore the call from someone who needs to talk. We need real, awkward, uncomfortable conversations happening at home and in classrooms. Teach kids to express their emotions in a healthy way daily. Ask them how you can be a better parent or teacher, find ways to reduce stress or anxiety. Reward children (and adults!) for sharing their feelings in a productive way.
2) STOP USING MENTAL HEALTH AS A TREND. Everyone has anxiety. . . not everyone has an anxiety disorder. Getting scared or nervous is not a panic attack. Liking things clean is not OCD. Having a sad week or even month is not depression. We all need to recognize the difference between having emotions and mental illness. If someone you know has mood swings, don’t tell them they’re bipolar. The more people trivialize mental health, the harder it is for people with mental health issues to get the help they need. Mental health class needs to be a requirement the same way health class is.
3) DO NOT INVALIDATE THE EXPERIENCE OF OTHERS. If you’re white, don’t speak on the mental impact living in a predominantly white society has on a Black person. If you’re cis/straight, don’t belittle the hardships of being LGBTQA+. If you’ve never struggled with your mental health, don’t minimize the emotions of people who do. Just because you personally don’t understand something doesn’t mean you can’t be empathetic about it.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.
1) Patience. It’s okay not to do everything all at once. I felt like I was constantly working against time, convinced if I didn’t achieve enough out of the gate that I wouldn’t succeed in the end. I burnt myself out and gave each project a fraction of my attention instead of pouring everything into a couple things I was passionate about. It’s also okay to fail sometimes — in fact, it’s necessary.
2) CHOOSE YOUR CIRCLE WISELY. That thing they say about being the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with is very true. Don’t waste time chasing popularity or acceptance from people whose intentions don’t align with yours for the sake of success. Your happiness, integrity, and longevity depend on it.
3) Delegate. I’m a control freak and insisted on doing everything myself because I felt I could do it better. In some cases, maybe I could- but my mental health is way too high of an opportunity cost.
4) RELAXING IS NOT A WASTE OF TIME. I wish I had learned that lesson much, much sooner. I’m a type A, overachieving workaholic. Any time I took for myself made me feel guilty. It took me way too long to realize that the reason I worked so hard was to enjoy life. So — take time to enjoy the world you built for yourself. You deserve it!
5) Learn the difference between attention to detail and obsessive perfectionism. As an artist, a lot of us care way too much about the stuff that 99% of people won’t notice. It’s not bad to care a lot, but it’s bad when you’re never satisfied. I have songs or projects that I tried to perfect for so long that they never saw the light of day. I became bored or even resentful toward them instead of just releasing them and letting them do what they were going to do.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Dude, just BE NICE TO PEOPLE. I’m so shocked at how shocked people are when I randomly compliment them. I love gassing people up so much, it’s so fun to see people’s confidence boost in front of your eyes. When you think something nice about someone, tell them. It’s so easy and so rewarding to go out of your way to just be nice. And guess what? When you’re nice, people around you are nice back, and then they’re nice to others too because they feel happy and confident, and then more people walk around feeling happy and excited for life. Don’t just be not-mean. Be nice.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?
I have so many, but the thing I try to tell people the most is to make your tragedies a work of art. When you start creating beauty from pain, the pain becomes a necessary evil. When I’m in my hardest moments, I just remind myself that I always come out better and more creative on the other side. Pain is inevitable, so no need to waste it.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Miley Cyrus is one of the coolest people on earth. I don’t mean because she’s famous or the things she has. I mean her, her soul, is really cool. She spent a lot of years being really misunderstood and she persevered. It takes a lot to survive that type of mental abuse from the media and still be able to show so much of yourself. Through the years as she’s evolved, I’ve always believed her. She didn’t always do stuff to play the game, she did what felt good to her. She’s so active in standing up for the rights of all people and has put so much effort into fighting homelessness amongst youth. I just think she’s so rad and I know we’d get along and talk about astral projection, aliens, spirituality, the industry, finding peace on earth, mental health, and humanity.
I’m dying to talk to Joe Rogan, I think we’d have a lot of really interesting and unique insight for each other. His content is so refreshing. As I build my new channel and podcast, I definitely look up to him for honestly and realness. He’s just a really talented guy with some really cool opinions, and I think him and I got chop it up a LOT about internet culture.
I could name a lot of people because I have a ton of role models, but those are the people I’d wanna just chill with right now, haha.
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read! I appreciate you and hope you have the best 2021 possible.