A YouTube star shares her thoughts on following your passion.
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Barilla

When Hannah Hart posted her first video on YouTube in 2011, she had no idea what it would turn into.

“[It] was originally just a joke for a friend,” Hannah says.

She had just moved from San Francisco to New York and was working as a proofreader. One night, she was chatting with her friend on the other side of the country when her friend shared that she missed Hannah’s "drunk kitchen."


“I was like, ‘Man, I’ll send you a video right now,’” she recalls. “So, using Photo Booth on my MacBook, I shot a video, cut it up, and sent it to her, and then a bunch of strangers watched it.”

Hart in the first episode of "My Drunk Kitchen." Image via Hannah Hart/YouTube.

The video went viral.

It wasn’t long before viewers started clamoring for another episode. So she made another one, and the YouTube series “My Drunk Kitchen” was born.

From there, Hannah’s career as an online celebrity took off.

She not only continued making videos for her “My Drunk Kitchen” series, but she started experimenting with other kinds of videos too. She soon left her job, moved to Los Angeles, started collaborating with other YouTube celebrities, and ended up dedicating herself to her passion full-time.

When she went all-in, she discovered that she had a passion for entrepreneurship and that she enjoyed building something in a new medium.

Over the following six years, she created a brand for herself online. She has also written two books — the parody cookbook “My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating, Drinking, and Going With Your Gut” and “Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded” — and is currently the star of “While the Water Boils,” a YouTube series she creates in partnership with Barilla.

Hannah Hart in "While the Water Boils" season 3 trailer. Image via "While the Water Boils"/YouTube.

Through it all, Hannah says, it was her passion for connecting with people that really drove her to build this career online.

“I was always the person that was talking too much in class, always staying after school to hang out with the teachers and saying, ‘So, third grade, what made you decide to get into elementary education?’ I just can’t help it,” she says, laughing. “I find people really fascinating.”

“I love getting to know people, I love engaging, and I love hearing what other people’s passions are.” That’s why she loves her work on "While the Water Boils," she adds.

“[It] is a series that allows me to do exactly that: meet fascinating people who otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to kick it with,” she explains.

Hannah Hart and Paul Nicklen at a seal rehab in Season 3 of "While the Water Boils." Image via "While the Water Boils"/YouTube.

"While the Water Boils" is now in its third season.

Guests so far on seasons one and two have included such people as Bill Nye, Wanda Sykes, and Theo Rossi. And in season three, she will be interviewing photographer Paul Nicklen, basketball legend Paul Pierce, and actress Grace Byers.

During each episode, Hannah gets the chance to talk with these people about what they are passionate about, whether it be wildlife photography, bowling, or card games. And while they talk, she cooks a special pasta recipe for them.

“I am in no way a cooking expert,” Hannah says, “but I am an enthusiast, and there’s nothing more engaging than sharing a meal with someone. I love cooking with people. I love the energy that’s in a kitchen.”

Plus, the show allows Hannah to combine two of her loves: food and talking to new and interesting people about their passions.

“There is nothing more invigorating than hearing someone speak about something that they are passionate about,” she continues. “Your passion can be botany, your passion can be whatever. But I love engaging with people who are interested in things, who have something to share, who have something to educate — it’s a little like nourishment for the soul, just hearing their experiences and what brought them and led them on this path in life.”

Hannah Hart and Grace Byers talk card games in Season 3 of "While the Water Boils." Image via "While the Water Boils"/YouTube.

Hannah followed her passion six years ago. Now, she wants everyone else to find theirs too.

She's happy to share some advice for when you do, too.

First, try not to get overwhelmed by your decision to go after something. "People get so daunted by massive life changes. ... I think they forget about the incremental steps," she says. "Just remember the importance of baby steps."

Second, don't forget to drink plenty of water, she says with a laugh. "Nobody drinks enough water."

And finally, remember that it's OK to try things alone first — you don't have to tell everyone what you're going to do before you do it.

"I feel like people forget that you can experiment with something privately long before you’re ever ready to share it publicly," she says.

"So if opinion is what’s hindering you from pursuing your passion, then just keep it close to your chest first," she continues. "Then, when you’re ready ... when you’ve fallen so deeply in love with it that it doesn’t matter what anybody thinks, then you can share it with the world."

Courtesy of Creative Commons
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After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

"I was entered into a lottery and I just said to myself, 'Okay, this is going to work out,'" Jackson said. "The next thing I knew, I had won the lottery — in more ways than one."

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Few child actors ever get to star in an award-winning film, much less win a prestigious award for their performance. That fact appeared to hit home for 8-year-old Alan Kim, as he broke down in tears accepting his Critics' Choice Award for Best Young Actor/Actress, making for one of the sweetest moments in awards show history.

Kim showed up to the awards (virtually, of course) decked out in a tuxedo, and his parents had even laid out a red carpet in their entryway to give him a taste of the real awards show experience. When his name was announced as the Critics' Choice winner for his role in the film "Minari," his reaction was priceless.

Grinning from ear to ear, Kim started off his acceptance speech by thanking "the critics who voted" and his family. But as soon as he started naming his family members, he burst into tears. "Oh my goodness, I'm crying," he said. Through sobs, he kept going with his list, naming members of the cast, the production company, and the crew that worked on the film.

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We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

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There's an old saying that luck happens when preparation meets opportunity.

There's no better example of that than a 2016 discovery at the University of California, Irvine, by doctoral student Mya Le Thai. After playing around in the lab, she made a discovery that could lead to a rechargeable battery that could last up to 400 years. That means longer-lasting laptops and smartphones and fewer lithium ion batteries piling up in landfills.

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Tory Burch

Courtesy of Tory Burch

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This March marks one year since the start of the pandemic… and it's been an incredibly difficult year: Over 500,000 people have died and hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs. But the pandemic's economic downturn has been disproportionately affecting women because they are more likely to work in hard-hit industries, such as hospitality or entertainment, and many of them have been forced to leave their jobs due to the lack of childcare.

But throughout all that hardship, women have, over and over again, found ways to help one another and solve problems.

"Around the world, women have stepped up and found ways to help where it is needed most," says Tory Burch, an entrepreneur who started her own business in 2004.

Burch knows a thing or two about empowering women: After seeing the many obstacles that women in business face — even before the pandemic — she created the Tory Burch Foundation in 2009 to empower women entrepreneurs.

And now, for International Women's Day, her company is launching a global campaign with Upworthy to celebrate the women around the world who give back and create real change in their communities.

"I hope the creativity and resilience of these women, and the amazing ways they have found to have real impact, will inspire and energize others as much as they have me," Burch says.

This year's Empowered Women certainly are inspiring:

Shalini SamtaniCourtesy of Shalini Samtani

Take, for example, Shalini Samtani. When her daughter was diagnosed with a rare immune disorder, she spent a lot of time in the hospital, which caused her to quickly realize that there wasn't a single company in the toy industry servicing the physical or emotional needs of the 3 million hospitalized children across America every year. She was determined to change that — so she created The Spread the Joy Foundation to deliver free play kits to pediatric patients all around the country.

Varsha YajmanCourtesy of Varsha Yajman

Varsha Yajman is another one of this year's nominees. She is just 18 years old, and yet she has been diligently fighting to build awareness and action for climate justice for the last seven years by leading school strikes, working as a paralegal with Equity Generations Lawyers, and speaking to CEOs from Siemen's and several big Australian banks at AGMs.

Caitlin MurphyCourtesy of Caitlin Murphy

Caitlin Murphy, meanwhile, stepped up in a big way during the pandemic by pivoting her business — Global Gateway Logistics — to secure and transport over 2 million masks to hospitals and senior care facilities across the country. She also created the Gateway for Good program, which purchased and donated 10,000 KN95 masks for local small businesses, charities, cancer patients and their families, immunocompromised, and churches in the area.

Simone GordonCourtesy of Simone Gordon

Simone Gordon, a domestic violence survivor and single mom, wanted to pay it forward after she received help getting essentials and tuition assistance — so she created the Instagram account @TheBlackFairyGodMotherOfficial and nonprofit to provide direct assistance to families in need. During the pandemic alone, they have raised over $50,000 for families and they have provided emergency assistance — in the form of groceries — for numerous women and families of color.

Victoria SanusiCourtesy of Victoria Sanusi

Victoria Sanusi started Black Gals Livin' with her friend Jas and the podcast has been an incredibly powerful way of destigmatizing mental health for numerous listeners. The podcast quickly surpassed a million listens, was featured on Michaela Coel's "I May Destroy You," won podcast of the year at the Brown Sugar Awards, and was named one of Elle Magazine's best podcasts of 2020.

And Upworthy and the Tory Burch are just getting started. They are still searching the globe for more extraordinary women who are making an impact in their communities.

Do you know one? If you do, nominate her now. If she's selected, she could receive $5,000 to give to a nonprofit of her choice through the Tory Burch Foundation. Submissions are being accepted on a rolling basis — and one Empowered woman will be selected each month starting in April.

Nominate her now at www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen.