Teen Author Ruby Karp Wants You To Live By The Hannah Montana Method

Photo: Becky Vu.
Ruby Karp is taking the SAT on Saturday, and it's all she can think about. And, yet, the 17-year-old Upright Citizen Brigade rising star and 2017 Z-Lister was sitting in the Refinery29 office for a RIOT Live chat with the one, the only, Tina Fey on Thursday night. If you can't tell, Karp is clearly kind of a big deal. But, important conversations with living comedy legends isn't Karp's only recent achievement. No, the high school senior wrote an entire 280-page book, Earth Hates Me, which debuted earlier this week on October 3. She penned the entire revealing guide to the modern teen girl during her junior year, between juggling the demands of her school play, homework, and the mess of relationships that comes with high school.
Fey and Ruby stopped by R29 to talk about the Earth, along with heartbreak, feminism — "the definition of 'Feminism' is as simple as boys and girls are of equal value. Everyone has equal rights" — and the best Hannah Montana metaphor in recent memory. The conversation proved there is a reason the 30 Rock alum repeatedly called Karp "clear-headed," "reasonable," and "empathetic:" the newly-minted author is one of the most self-aware people I have ever heard speak.
At the top of the discussion, Fey noted the fact Karp, a feminist from birth thanks to her Bust-founder mom Marcelle Karp, "very articulately" recognizes her privilege as white, cisgender, New York City teen girl in Hates Me. As we know, that’s hard for card-carrying adults to even do. Yet, Karp admitted her challenges don’t even come close to those of "people who don’t have anything," or girls’ education activist and Taliban target Malala Yousafzai, who was name-checked. "But, at the same time, the people who are privileged enough to have [my] kinds of problems have those problems," Karp recognized, citing issues like boy woes and friendship troubles. "And I am one of those people who is privileged enough to have annoying, stupid problems." Not many teenagers are understandably prepared to concede to the fact their homeroom hiccups aren’t technically the end of the world.
While Karp understands a guy not liking her back isn’t comparable to global catastrophes, she does hope her book goes a long way to defend her younger readers' myriad of emotions. "I think so much of growing up for me was figuring out how to accept what I was feeling as emotions," the up-and-coming comedian admitted. "And just being like, ‘It’s okay that right now I’m at a really, really hyper-emotional state. Because something that’s not important, but feels really important, is happening.’ Because I feel like that’s so much of what being a teenager is: figuring out how to deal with all these emotions for the first time."
Although it’s easy to tell someone in that panicked state "It gets better," even Fey noted how that kind of platitude isn’t helping the situation. "At the time it’s all so painful it’s like going up to a person who’s screaming because their leg is broken and being like, ‘Honestly, it’s gonna heal. So you should stop screaming,’" Fey joked. "It really hurts right now, though!"
Photo: Becky Vu.
That is why Karp has come up with an entirely different set of advice to get through the emotional obstacle course that is one’s teens years. As anyone who’s sat in a single high school classroom can tell you, at that time, "You can’t help but care what people think of you," as the Earth Hates Me author put it. But, there is one small, Disney Channel-approved trick you can use to put things in perspective. "You have to remember Hannah Montana puts on a wig, and she’s one person. And then she takes it off, and she’s another person," Karp said, referencing a lesson in her book. "Embrace that [idea]. All the pressure you feel and all judgement you think you feel, just take it off." Fey is such a big fan of this tidbit of advice, she essentially said it right along with Karp, word for word.
Considering this is Karp’s mantra, it’s no surprise she has pretty lofty goals for anyone who picks up her book, especially teens in the middle of their headiest, most high-anxiety years. "A lot of the advice is cliché and cheesy, and I understand that, I’m acknowledging that, but I hope people just feel a little less cynical about the world and realize everything isn’t the biggest deal," she said with that trademark awareness. "Things hurt a lot in the moment, but you get through them. And life goes on, and you realize you’re much stronger than you thought you were."
It sounds like Karp picked up a similar level of perspective by re-reading Earth while recording the audiobook version, saying she also learned she’s personally "stronger" than she expected. "I wrote some of the most inspirational parts of this book when I was crying and not feeling good," she revealed, explaining she penned chapters on heartbreak or friend drama right as she experienced it. "You can see how much I was feeling in those pages. And I look back on it like, ‘I dealt with that. I got through that. That happened. I’m good now. And that was awesome.’"
We told you Tina Fey thinks Ruby's clear-headed.
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