by Micayla Rothberg & Will Tondo
Contributing Writer & Editor-in-Chief
Last week, The Student Programming Board and the Student Arts and Speaker Series held an event that was popular with the Bryant Students due to some familiar names. Comedian and author, Sara Benincasa, and Full House Star, Jodie Sweetin, blessed the stage with their humor and personality, but also emphasized on important matters and topics that needed to be heard.
Beginning to live the celebrity lifestyle at the age of 4 for Jodie Sweetin was great, but not the best. After getting taken out of a broken home and being adopted, Jodie learned at a very young age that she still felt wanted; as though she had a purpose to fulfill in this new life she was given. However, her childhood was in fact tough in the beginning, feeling hurt that her biological parents did not want her anymore. From being in the limelight at such a young age, she learned to keep secrets. It wasn’t until her first novel, unSweetined, that she was able to give an image to the public what exactly she was going through. She had done this in hopes of lifting the problems off of her shoulders, and coming to realization that she needed to make a change in her life. She started off her career by starring in commercials, then to landing a role in the Hogan Family, to finally landing one of the lead roles in Full House. After starring in the show for 8 years, she came to the conclusion at the end that she needed to break the Stephanie Tanner role; she needed to start becoming someone else. This is then where her life took a twist. By working hard on the show, one can imagine the amount of paychecks she was receiving. The money aspect was providing her two outlooks on these stage of her life. The first being by having more money, she has the power to do whatever she wanted with it; spend it or save it, in this case spend it. The second aspect was showing her that if she worked hard at her job, she would continue to be receiving more and more money, which can result in the drive and hard effort she put into the show.
Through the conversation about addiction to the spotlight, and mental health, the audience was nothing less than shocked when Jodie went more into detail about the troubles she had faced once she turned 13 years old. From seeing her “sweet little girl” role in Full House, the audience was able to understand the difficult times Jodie would then face once the show came to an end. Through the challenging times and unbearable memories, one thing that Jodie is thankful for is the strong support system she had with her family and the Full House cast. The cast of Full House acted as a second family in which they were there supporting her through all of the situations, and would later help her overcome them.
Sarah also mentioned her tough times. She had terrible nervous breakdowns and anxiety attacks and depression/suicidal thoughts so bad she had to drop out of college. Although she is a hilarious comedian and published author, she experienced troubling times as well.
Jodie’s main concern for coming to the Bryant University campus was to point out how serious mental health and addiction are in this country; there is a negative stigma towards this. For those that aren’t going through what you may be going through, they will simply not understand. One example that she shared was that people will say all the time “stop drinking, stop being depressed”, but what those people don’t know is that has the same equivalent reverence as saying to a cancer patient “just get better”. One aspect that Jodie pointed out that caught the audience’s attention was people with these problems strictly do not participate in these activities to cause distress on those in their lives. Instead, they do this as an escape route for an opportunity to disappear from reality and not feel the awful sense that is taking a toll on them.
With such a casual setting in place, students were truly able to devote their time on what the speakers were trying to teach, rather than sitting in a boring lecture-based environment. It was shown that the students were there specifically because they wanted to be, and sought out to learn as much as possible. Besides having the same agent, the two speakers wanted to come together to share their life changing stories. Even though they are public figures, they too have struggles. By sharing these struggles, students were inspired when it came to the later portion of the event where questions were asked.
The biggest importance was the two showing their audience they too are normal people with normal human problems. However, what defines an individual is how they handle these problems. For Sara and Jodie, reaching out and using the available resources around them was the best way to overcome the difficulties. This initially made it so they had the confidence to come and speak to our campus. Many students had the chance to ask questions and share their stories and difficulties. Both speakers made it very comfortable and warming for the students to speak and the event actually went over time because of the inflow of questions that the two wanted to answer.
The Archway had the opportunity to meet Jodie Sweetin and Sarah Benincasa after the event for some questions. They were super cool, funny, and friendly. We wanted to thank SBP and SASS again for this opportunity!
Q: Who was your inspiration as a kid or your inspiration getting out of your tough times?
A: Sarah: My inspiration as a kid was Molly Ivins, who was a journalist and columnist and published author, and she was a hero for me and she inspired me to do what I want to do and to achieve my goals. My inspiration while I would have a nervous breakdown would be my parents, who although struggled, were always there for me.
Jodie: My idols as kids were Shila and Gem, but when I was going through my tough times, my parents were very supportive and always stood by me.
Q: Do you have any mentors now?
A: Sarah: For a writer it would be Diablo Cody and for a producer it would be Debbie Liebleng. They were both big mentors to me who have had successful careers that inspire me.
Jodie: For me, there are a lot of woman in this business that work really hard and produce some amazing things and one of them is Meryl Streep, who I admire as a person and a role model. Throughout her long career in entertainment, she had such a sense of humility and normality and I love her for that. I admire her and I hope to be like her if I am still in this business many years down the road.
Q: When did you both begin your careers?
A: Sarah: I started writing when I was very little due to my mother being a librarian and I would always be reading. I wanted to be someone who wrote those books. And then comedy began while I was in graduate school at Columbia University. I originally wanted to be a teacher but I had one who said that I should quit that and she took me to my first comedy show and it opened my world.
Jodie: I began acting at the age of 3 in commercials and the rest is history!
Q: How did you guys team up for this event?
A: We have the same agent, Sean from Keppler. We both just met today! We hope this works out where it can be a reoccurring thing because we work well together and it felt natural. The event went well and it was fun and different, and it was an important topic to address.
Q: (To Jodie), What was one of your favorite moments on set?
A: Wow, I mean there have been so many amazing memories. I got my first bike on the Full House set from Jeff Franklin the creator and it was such a cool amazing memory, I was so excited. Traveling with the crew was also great, we went to Walt Disney World for two weeks to film the finale and living in San Francisco for work was incredible. I am lucky to continue it with Fuller House. It was so nice to get together again on set and we saw everything rebuilt and the whole set. I began to cry because it was such a sad goodbye and we were all thrilled to re do it again! It was an amazing full circle moment that I am thankful for that.
Q: Any advice to anyone struggling with addiction or a mental illness?
A: Sarah: Before helping others, help yourself. Seek the help you need.
Jodie: You need to have the willingness to change and get help. And if you know someone who is in that situation, you need to be a support system but you can’t change them. It is hard but everything can change.
Q: What are you going to be for Halloween?
A: Sarah: I am going to be at Disney Land so we shall see what I am going to be! But a pumpkin would be a great costume!
Jodie: My fiancé is going as a mariachi with a large sombrero and I am going with a long flowing Spaniard floral dress with sugar skull face paints. My daughters are going to be an alien empress and wicked princess.