Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with Hannah VanderPoel

Hannah VanderPoel tells me she is into old-timey tonics. Sitting down for breakfast at La Bergamote in Hell’s Kitchen, she pulls out two small vials of oil from her purse. One, Mustard, claims to relieve sadness that arises for no reason; and the other, Cherry Plum, is for when you “feel like you are going to ‘lose it.’” You put a few drops under your tongue but you have to be careful because they’re also 20% alcohol, she laughs. She opens the bottle and tilts her head back inconspicuously in the quiet restaurant, and I follow suit.

Hannah currently works in advertising at MTV, where she is the Editorial Director. The day we meet, her team is getting ready to pitch the promotional ideas they’ve conceptualized for the VMAs, which will happen later this summer. There’s a bunch of wacky ones, she says, but there are some that are of course a little more mainstream. For a while, Hannah also was the on-air voiceover artist for several MTV shows and ad campaigns, including the 2017 VMAs, Teen Mom, and Siesta Key.

Hannah is a writer by trade and had previously worked at The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon while freelancing for places like VICE and Funny or Die. She is also an illustrator and started drawing comics a few years ago, a perfect way to combine her love of comedy and her quirky drawing style. Inspired by everything from David Bowie and feminism to Waiting for Guffman and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, her humor is dry and dark and delightfully weird. It even led to work on a webseries that’s forthcoming. Perhaps accordingly, last October she also did several drawings of faux old-timey tonics filled with macabre plants, some of which included “McMalice’s Revenge Capsules,” “Doctor McMudgett’s Female Tonic,” and “Shrewcliff’s 100 Proof Death Elixir.” She hopes one day to have a graphic novel of her own.

Soon we are both diving into eggs and toast and berries and salad, me sipping coffee and her an orange juice. Do people even meet for leisurely breakfasts anymore? Soon it’s a bit too leisurely, though, and we depart so Hannah can be on time for The Big Pitch Meeting. We walk through Hell’s Kitchen and Hannah wonders what it would be like if we got rid of all the men for a day. Just one day. Then she says “Hey, take a picture of me in front of this pile of garbage!” so I oblige. On our way through Times Square to Viacom’s offices, Hannah muses on how her trips to work must be addling her brain--traipsing through throngs of tourists at some of the busiest hours of the day while surrounded by bright flashing lights all the time perhaps does not do wonders for one’s psyche, but maybe she won’t feel the effects until she’s older, she says, when suddenly she’ll start shaking for no reason. “It’s okay,” she imagines doctors saying. “She used to work in Times Square!”

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