Sarah Ramos Journeys Through Her Lifelong Obsession With Celebrity

Jacket, Tracksuit, and Shoes Sarah’s Own. Sunglasses by Versace.

At the 2017 Golden Globes, just before exiting the stage with her Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement, Meryl Streep concluded a rousing acceptance speech with a quote from her friend Carrie Fisher, who had died just a few days before the broadcast. “Take your broken heart,” Streep said to the crowd, “make it into art.” That advice stuck with Sarah Ramos, a writer and actor who has had, for as long as she can remember, a tangled relationship with fame. At 10, she convinced her parents to take her on a weeklong cruise to the Bahamas, organized by a company called Sail With the Stars and hosted by her childhood idols Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. In the wake of that experience, her mother recalls her going to bed each night praying for an agent. About a year later, Ramos landed her first big part, on the ’60s-set TV drama American Dreams.

A predictably bumpy path followed, littered with both successes and disappointments, through which Ramos kept recalibrating her relationship to the very idea of fandom—not as an outsider looking in, but as an insider looking around. She went through a disdainful period, in which she mocked, via red carpet appearances, the very celebrity apparatus that allowed her to attend such functions. She turned her back on the objects of her pop obsession, preferring instead the company of alt-comedy performers. She moved to New York to study creative writing. At one point, she considered getting out of the industry altogether. But, as with most Hollywood endings, our protagonist ends up just fine in the end, making art out of her broken heart in the form of a zine titled Autograph Hound. She even befriended an Olsen along the way. 



“I was a big Mary-Kate and Ashley fan. Who wasn’t? I had notebooks in which I would write down a schedule for all the different times during the day when Full House or Two of a Kind, any program they were in, would be on TV. One day in 2001, when I was 10, I was hoovering up some MKA content and saw an ad for a Caribbean cruise where I could actually meet the twins. I asked my parents about it and they’re overly agreeable, so they said yes. Then there we all were, stuck on a boat together. There were events like dance parties on the lido deck and an arts-and-crafts class where I drew ‘Mary-Kate and Ashley Number-One Fan’ on my arms. I have a photo of me dancing with one of them, and I just look so happy.”



“This was really soon after the cruise. I started acting, and I was down to do basically anything related to Hollywood. One of the things you can do if you don’t have any connections is become a background actor, so I became an extra on Malcolm in the Middle.”



“After Malcolm in the Middle, I did three years on my first TV show and was feeling hot to trot. I was like, ‘I did it. I go to premieres now.’ At the time, they were making this show called Gossip Girl. I had read all the books because I was obsessed with All Things Fabulous, and apparently books about bulimic virgins who hook up with problematic men are fabulous. I auditioned to play Jenny Humphrey, and it was a really long process. I went in a ton of times, and by the end it was just me, and I thought I had the job. Then they brought in this other girl, Taylor Momsen, who was a 13-year-old blonde with a smokey eye. When I didn’t get the part, it crushed me. I decided to cope by completely rejecting the fan that I’d been, reading Atlas Shrugged and listening to Bob Dylan and claiming that I didn’t like pop music. But this is the complicated part: I was still trying to be on The CW.”



DALLAS, TX – FEBRUARY 04: Actresses Brie Larson (L) and Sarah Ramos attend the Bud Light Hotel Playboy Party with performances by Snoop Dogg, Warren G and Flo Rida on February 4, 2011 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Getty Images for Bud Light)

“I thought Hollywood was stupid, I thought my life was stupid, and I thought it would be funny if I took a phone call on the red carpet. It was at a Super Bowl party. In Dallas. Hosted by Playboy. Yes, there’s some cognitive dissonance there.”



“At this point in my life, I’m reading Ayn Rand and The Stranger by Camus, and I’m in need of a little joy in my life. So I turn to alternative comedy and get really into people like Maria Bamford and B.J. Novak. I basically begged my mom to take me to SF Sketchfest, and you can guess what she said. Instead of going to prom, I went to San Francisco to take pictures with the stars. At 17, Eugene Mirman was my new Mary-Kate and Ashley.”



“This one’s blurry because it was taken in a hurry. I was still in my ‘celebrity is false, how awkward and phony to do this’ phase. I lived in Hollywood and I kept seeing Joe Jonas around. The first time I saw him was at a 24 Hour Fitness. The second time was at the airport. The third time was at Whole Foods, and I thought, ‘What if I got a photo with him in front of the bulk food section?’ He assumed I was just a regular fan until I asked him to move in front of the bulk food section. He became suspicious and sensed that my intentions weren’t pure.”



“I got a role on [the NBC drama] Parenthood in 2009, which was very exciting. The show had an iconic cast. I knew Erika Christensen from Swimfan. I knew Dax Shephard from Punk’d. I knew Mae Whitman from Arrested Development and State of Grace. And I obviously knew Lauren Graham from Gilmore Girls. Other people were like, ‘Peter Krause, that’s very exciting.’ I had to get myself caught up so I watched Six Feet Under. I ended up having him sign my DVDs, which is a very weird request since he plays a sexy, bad boy on that show, and my dad on Parenthood. Around this point, I found it difficult to maintain my disdain for celebrity. It became self-sabotaging. I’d started at such a positive place and gone to such a negative place. I had to find somewhere in the middle where I was like, ‘Okay, these are the rules of working in this industry and wanting to be a performer.’ A lot of celebrities act like the game of celebrity or press doesn’t exist. I think my own fascination with that very game is what separated me.”



“I decorated the hair and makeup trailer with drawings of my Parenthood castmates. I guess I’m not sure how everybody felt about them.”




The Arm was the first short film I co-wrote and produced. I directed it with Brie Larson and Jessie Ennis, and it starred Miles Heizer from Parenthood along with, like, my family. My aunt and uncle, who wear matching Hawaiian shirts all the time, are major characters. It was my first time at Sundance and we won this award. I was shocked. This was the first time I felt like I might have something to say.”



“Shortly after Sundance, my contract on Parenthood didn’t get renewed. I was 21 and had been let go from this show about a family, and I was reeling from that. I went to Columbia to study creative fiction. Heidi Julavits, who is a literary icon in New York, was my professor. She had us writing journals that she would read and I guess I was really vulnerable in one of them and wrote something like, ‘I’m scared that I suck and that my art isn’t valuable.’ She wrote on this tag, ‘You don’t suck. You are an artist.’”



City Girl is a romantic comedy I wrote when I was 12 for Reese Witherspoon to star in about a 28-year-old woman who gets migraines and whose doctor falls in love with her and tells her she has a brain disease so that he can spend more time with her. I discovered it when I was in my 20s and made it when I was 25 without changing any of the words that I’d written as a kid. I knew it was funny but I had been told it wouldn’t find an audience, but it did. That was really heartwarming, so I was like, ‘Well, we need to campaign for a short-form Emmy.’ We decided to do an homage to David Lynch. In 2006, he thought that Laura Dern’s performance in Inland Empire deserved an Oscar and, being David Lynch, he didn’t just do a typical For Your Consideration campaign. He printed out a massive banner with a picture of Laura Dern on it, put it out on the street, and sat next to it, and a live cow, in a director’s chair. Unclear why, but I thought it was cool.” 



“I love Taylor Swift. I think she might be partially to thank for helping me get out of the irony and disdain era of my fandom. I went to the Red Tour with somebody I barely even knew. It was the most fun night of my life. It was a bonding experience that showed me that the shared fandom of an artist can get you through different periods of your life—even if the friends you originally discovered the artist with aren’t there anymore, the artist is. I bought this jacket for $200.”



“This is really embarrassing. I learned about Charlotte Olympia because Taylor Swift was photographed wearing her flats to the grocery store. Charlotte did a zodiac line where each zodiac sign had a shoe. I got the Sagittarius ones. I’m not a Sagittarius, I’m a Gemini-Taurus cusp, but Taylor had the Sagittarius ones, so I got those. The Charlotte Olympia store in Beverly Hills had a limited-edition Hollywood collection where you could get a Walk of Fame star purse customized with your name. Katy Perry has one, I think. And now I do, too.”



“I saw Timothée Chalamet at a table read with my friend from Columbia, and we became obsessed with him before it was cool. I usually do karaoke birthday parties, but two years ago I decided to have one in my backyard. I needed a theme. I thought it would be funny to do a Timothée Chalamet theme. I got a Timothée Chalamet cardboard cutout. I printed out some photos of Timmy and taped them to the front gate saying, ‘Hey, guys! Party’s in the back!’ Now he lives in my basement.”



“In 2017, my husband [the filmmaker Matt Spicer] made the movie Ingrid Goes West [about a woman named Ingrid, played by Aubrey Plaza, who forms an obsessive friendship with an Instagram influencer named Taylor, played by Elizabeth Olsen], and he claims that it was partly inspired by me. I’m both Ingrid and Taylor. He kept this prop from the movie. Around that time, I told Lizzie that I went on the cruise with her sisters. She did not seem surprised. She just kind of… agreed with me, like, ‘Yeah, that checks out.’”



“Before quarantine, I’d made a video reenacting a scene from Bring It On that I’d memorized from childhood, and, again, I was surprised by the audience that I found. During quarantine, I started remaking scenes from movies and shows with my friends. Aubrey Plaza said she wanted to do one. We did a scene from Showgirls. And then my other actor friends wanted to do them, too, and it just became this meta-homage to our love of pop culture. We all started acting because we saw something that we wanted to be a part of. We all started as fans. That’s what I love about these ‘Quarantscenes.’ They’re a celebration.”



Autograph Hound feels like a synthesis of all the different relationships I’ve had to Hollywood. I guess it’s also about reclaiming some of that idealistic joy I once had. I’ve collected all those pictures and memories, and put them into an art zine that gives it the context it needs to elevate it into art. I don’t leave that girl behind. And I don’t judge her. I take her with me, and I let people really consider what role fandom and obsession and fame has played in shaping my identity. The number-one question I get from people is, ‘How are you a fan of pop culture if you’re in pop culture?’ And I guess I don’t know the answer to that. To me, it’s completely natural. But something about the way the system is set up is designed to make you choose.”



Hair: Ashley Lynn Hall using Oribe at Atelier Management.

Makeup: Elayna Bachman using YSL Beauty and Marc Jacobs Beauty at ART Department