Our Ottolinger editorial was the perfect opportunity to re-meet its star, Misha Hart, who has been sought out for her full-lipped, anti-girl-next-door appearance ever since a Burberry runway debut in 2014. In recent times, the Glaswegian model’s experience has been underscored by her longtime struggle with depression; culminating in an attempt to take her own life in 2017. Since surviving her illness and breaking from model-things, the fetching Misha Hart is back and has redefined herself. Redefinition is an act familiar to models who know their careers go through many lives, adaptation is just part of the job–but maybe not like Misha knows it. “If you are currently struggling with your mental health (as so many of us are) and have found yourself in what feels like a relentlessly hopeless place with no release, no future, no light, I want to share something with you–It will not last forever,” she declared in a lengthy Instagram last year. This year, her appearance on Christopher Bailey’s global stage for his final Burberry show with her buzzed head was a fitting full-circle act as she enters a new period of her life (the Ripley hair transformation was no surprise if you had been following her Instagram @Mishahartbreak). Opening up about these issues, she has taken to being vocal about mental health and the stigmas that surround them. With more mettle than ever you can be certain there’s lots of Misha Hart to come.
At that point in my life I had become paralyzed by my illness. I don’t use that word lightly; that is truly what it feels like to be so overwhelmed by thoughts and worries that you are glued to the spot.
You’re back modeling–how does it feel? Plus you’ve got a lovely buzzed head…
Yes, I am! It feels different, and not just because I shaved my hair off. I feel like I’m coming at it from a whole new perspective. I’m determined to be present and really experience everything I end up doing. I’m really enjoying myself.
What are a few of the most significant chapters of your life, of your career, before you took that brief break from modeling?
The period between leaving school at 16 and starting modeling at 19 was probably the most fun I’ve ever had. I just remember there being a feeling of complete freedom. I spent all my time with my friends, making and listening to music, going to gigs, allowing ourselves to feel inspired and alive and uninhibited. We didn’t DO anything of any significance, we were just messing around, and yet I feel like those experiences have very significantly shaped me as a person. I then went on to spend the next 4 years traveling and modeling, visiting mind-blowingly beautiful cities on my own and learning to appreciate life without always having a group of people by my side, which was an equally significant learning curve.
What is home life like for you in Glasgow, then (being younger) and now?
Honestly, my home life’s one thing that has always remained constant. I have family and friends who I couldn’t love more. And as for Glasgow, it never changes, there’s always creativity and music and hilarious, open hearted people and so much fun to be had.
You revealed you have long suffered from depression and anxiety, how has this illness effected and burdened navigating your career, your day-to-day?
I feel as if I missed out on a lot of beautiful experiences because I was so inside my own head, too busy thinking to be taking in and appreciating my surroundings. For a long time during my career it felt as if I was there physically, but I wasn’t really experiencing what was going on around me at all. I wasn’t present. And unfortunately that’s what these illnesses do to you. You could be in the most beautiful, vibrant city in the world and not feel able to look around and absorb it because you’re too busy worrying about a million irrelevant things, and then feeling guilty for not feeling happy! Luckily I’m getting a lot better at being present these days, although it’s still something I have to constantly work at, but I can honestly say I’m appreciating every opportunity that comes my way.
When it was at its worst, last year, you shared you tried to take your own life…what allowed you to overcome this event?
Honestly, I am so incredibly lucky. At that point in my life I had become paralyzed by my illness. I don’t use that word lightly; that is truly what it feels like to be so overwhelmed by thoughts and worries that you are glued to the spot. I’m lucky because I was in a position where I was able to completely drop everything, and be cared for by my relentlessly loving family while I re-built myself. But not everyone has that option. I met many people when I was in treatment who had a one or two week deadline looming over their heads. They knew they had to be well enough to work by that point or they would no longer have a job. This is why it is so unbelievably important to get to a place in society where we view mental illness the same way that we view any other serious, life threatening illness. You wouldn’t stop half way through an operation and insist the patient gets back to work with an open wound. It’s no different!
How and when did you decide to take ownership of your affliction, deciding to be candid about it?
It was when I realized all of a sudden that for the longest time I had been telling really small lies almost every day to mask the extent of how ill I was. I wasn’t even aware I was doing it, for example telling a friend I was missing their birthday because I was working or had a throat infection, or being really vague about why I needed to spend yet another month off work, giving a brief description of minor anxiety issues. It was totally draining. Friends and colleagues knew that I’d been in hospital although they didn’t know why, so once I began to re-build my strength, I knew I had to decide: Was I going to fabricate a cover up story? Give my usual vague explanation of “I suffer from anxiety”? Or do I finally stop hiding and lay it all out there? I wasn’t willing to treat my illness as a dirty little secret anymore, and it was the best decision I ever made.
This holiday season feels like it has come out of nowhere. Because honestly, at the start of the year I didn’t think I would see 2018. And for the latter part I didn’t (and couldn’t) imagine anything beyond immediate future. So it’s safe to say this looming New Year has caught me off guard! I genuinely managed to forget there WAS a future, that 2018 would come, regardless of what I do. If you are currently struggling with your mental health (as so many of us are) and have found yourself in what feels like a relentlessly hopeless place with no release, no future, no light, I want to share something with you – IT WILL NOT LAST FOREVER. I’m not asking you to see beyond the darkness, for when you’re in a place with no light it’s useless to demand perspective, reflection or a “bigger picture” (because it’s fucking dark in there, you can’t SEE anything!!!!) Trust me, I know the frustration. But, what I will ask you to do is acknowledge a fact – it will not last forever. That would be literally impossible, because nothing in life, good or bad, light or dark, no state of mind, feeling or emotion can remain constant, forever. Fact. I know it sounds strange and daunting, but if you are engulfed in darkness or sadness or hopelessness or guilt, no matter how overpowering these feelings are, just KNOW that everything in life is ever changing and you and your state of mind are no exception. I have managed to find great comfort in acknowledging the temporary nature of our lives, of humans, of the planet. I promise you that one day an emotion you thought was long forgotten will creep in, maybe it’s a laugh or a little ounce of confidence. Maybe it’s a feeling of camaraderie with a friend or a half-hour without feeling anxious while out for dinner. I promise you that the darkness that feels so unbreakable right now, will in fact break and these little joys will creep in. They will start off few and far between, and slowly but surely begin to take over until you realise you are experiencing more good hours than bad, then eventually more days feeling free than ones you feel restricted. “This too shall pass” – not an opinion, a fact. Xxxxxx
Was doing this important in your decision to begin modeling again?
Something quite beautiful that I’ve noticed since I started talking openly and unashamedly about my experiences with mental health is that honesty is contagious. As is openness and compassion. It can be terrifying to break through the barrier of wrongly-enforced shame and talk about something which still carries so much stigma, but once you do, it makes others feel comfortable to do so too. In my experience, people respond to openness with openness, and it has allowed me to feel closer to the people in my life than ever before. I couldn’t have continued modeling if I’d let this cycle of embarrassment and secrecy that I’d created continue to thrive. Deciding to be transparent about my mental health has impacted hugely on my personal and working relationships, and my relationship with myself. I feel so much more free.
I wasn’t willing to treat my illness as a dirty little secret anymore, and it was the best decision I ever made.
Does social media influence this?
Social media is such a double edged sword. We all know that social media can make us feel really awful about ourselves, giving us a constant stream of peoples successes and enabling us to compare ourselves and our lives to others. However, it has also been such an important instrument in really vital discussions such as mental health awareness. As a teenager suffering from undiagnosed depression and anxiety, I hadn’t even heard of the term “mental health” and had no clue what a “mental illness” was or that it could apply to me. But you talk to teenagers now and there knowledge and awareness is incredible!
Do you feel pressured to conform to a certain model identity
I used to. I used to walk into castings wearing clothes I thought a model should wear, acting and speaking in the way I thought was expected of me. But it’s easy to see when a person is being genuine and when they’re not. Putting on an act is draining, and it’s so much more exciting and inspiring and admirable to just do you.
What guidance can you provide having gone through all of this?
My best piece of advise is to ditch that automatic response we are all guilty of: “I’m fine, how are you?” and replace it with something more honest. In my experience, this has never been met with “stop being so miserable” like my anxious brain (and society) told me it would, but instead it has made those around me feel more comfortable to talk honestly about their own feelings and finally drop the bullshit social norms we are so used to. It’s refreshing.
How has your perspective of the industry changed since you were discovered? Beyond perspective, have you noticed any actual changes in the industry that effected you?
I really didn’t have too much of an insight into the industry before I was in it, I very much learned on the job. I do feel like a lot has changed in recent years though. When I started out I didn’t have to write down my Instagram tag and number of followers on entering castings… I find it pretty disconcerting knowing the girl next to me is more likely to book a show because she has half a million followers and I… don’t. But on the other hand, it’s because of social media that both designers and fashion enthusiasts seem to care so much more about a models personality and what they have to say. Being a blank canvas is no longer desirable, and thats pretty cool.
The reason I’ve decided to continue modeling is to prove that there’s more to life than that messed up, tragic rockstar image that’s deemed as “cool”. Why cant happiness be cool? Or honesty or vulnerability?
In a wide scope, how has your sense of self evolved over the course of time?
I’m trying, not always successfully, to just let myself be. I’m no longer trying to impress anyone or make people like me, and people tend to like me better for it. I like me better for it.
Why do you model?
There was never a motive as to why I started modeling, but having achieved a lot at a young age (for a wee girl from Glasgow that is) I learned quickly that being “successful” on its own isn’t enough to make a person happy and fulfilled. The reason I’ve decided to continue modeling is to prove that there’s more to life than that messed up, tragic rockstar image that’s deemed as “cool”. Why cant happiness be cool? Or honesty or vulnerability? Growing up, the only people I had to look up to were either unrealistically squeaky clean, or glamorized a certain self-destructiveness. I want to prove that you can be real, be kind to yourself and to others and still be fucking cool.
What inspires you now?
Change, and people who pioneer change.