What’s it like to go viral? Local memoirist, humorist and hardcore feminist finds a platform for positive change.
Regardless of what Law and Order and Criminal Minds lead us to believe, foster children do not all grow up to be losers, addicts, and murderers. Despite abuse and neglect – or perhaps, in a way, because of it? – some so-called “throwaway kids” develop their own special superpowers to navigate the world and buck the system.
Ladies and gentlemen: Lara B. Sharp.
Lara is cut from some seriously indefatigable cloth. The child of an immigrant, artistic mother, suffering from the disease of addiction, she bounced her way thru foster homes, group homes, shelters, and detention centers, until running away — back to her hometown of lower Manhattan — at 14 years old. She worked as a waitress, and a then bartender, and as a catalog model. She was a video dancer, and an original, internationally touring cast member of legendary NYC performance artist Penny Arcade’s seminal production of Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!
In her late 30s she took time out from the theatre scene to earn her GED, and after receiving a full scholarship, graduated from Smith College with honors. After years of writing and performing for theatre and live storytelling events, and endlessly posting musings on her Facebook page, last summer, she went “accidentally” viral with a memoir piece about being manterrupted at the pool, while reading Rebecca Solnit’s, “Men Explain Things to Me,” a book most commonly credited for bringing to light the now well-known phenomenon of mansplaining.
Her cringe-worthy, sneakily trolling, and sarcastically feminist Facebook post was unexpectedly shared, and re-shared, globally, over 50,000 times – by many celebrity’s social media pages, and in several mainstream publications, such as Elle Magazine, Refinery29, Revelist, HelloGiggles, and Huffington Post… Along with what she now feels is a somewhat regrettable image accompanying the original memoir piece on her popular Facebook page:
“My now infamous ‘ugly feet’ are literally in Glamour Magazine, and most people can’t say that,” she says brightly. Her piece was translated into several languages, and discussed across the world. “Didn’t make any cash from it, but I did do an awful lot of sometimes weird interviews. Rebecca Solnit shared it. That was super exciting for me, because I’m a huge fan – I got a bit overwhelmed, and I vomited in my panty drawer. “
She also got a bunch of dick pics and rape threats, but that didn’t slow her down – she made a Dick Pic Compilation Calendar for her many gay, male friends, and she included the senders profile information with each image. Today, she delights her 17,000+ Facebook followers with writing that’s often morbidly hilarious, occasionally heartbreaking, and somehow both equally relatable, and highly personal.
And she’s one of ours!
Lara moved to East Falls this spring with her “extremely patient yet often rightfully exasperated” British hubby and their two insolent black-Siamese cats. She bounces between Philly and NYC, where she works as Penny Arcade‘s personal assistant (most recently on her reboot of Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! at PS122, this summer).
Lara’s also represented by the Literary Agency Chalberg & Sussman, and currently writing her memoir, DO THE HUSTLE, within which she details her rather slapstick and often poignant experiences in foster care: starring 1970’s Manhattan and her “drunk, eccentrically feminist, crazy-ass mother” who eventually lost custody of her three children – propelling Lara, at age 9, into the tumultuous foster care system.
Lara’s stories are full of dark humor and raw emotion. She sugar-coats nothing. She shares every confusing, twisted, often frightening, darkly humorous detail in order to send her message as clearly as possible: foster kids can grow up to be happy, thriving adults. When asked who her biggest creative influences are, she shrugs, and names Penny Arcade as her mentor.
“We were both runaways, and when I was a feral and floundering young adult, she really took me under her wing – mostly by yelling at me. Nobody had ever bothered to do that for me before, so that made a huge impact on my life. Penny Arcade is absolutely brilliant, brave, outspoken, and never ashamed to be authentic, so whenever she yelled at me, she always yelled some really clever shit! I listened. I still do. Penny still yells at me, thankfully.”
Lara is writing her story for all the foster kids who feel they might have no role models, and therefore no way of knowing they aren’t doomed to life as a negative stereotype. She is audaciously proud of her tumultuous background, and she feels quite strongly that everyone who survived a childhood of foster care is a “straight-up hero,” and absolutely shouldn’t take on the many false social stigmas commonly associated with foster youths. “Throughout my life, I didn’t know that. I didn’t see that or hear that. I needed this book, “ she said in a recent online interview.
“I’m not rich, I’m not famous, but I’m doing freakin’ awesome,” she says on her Patreon page, where you can sponsor her memoir. “Shout out to foster youth: guess what? We can make it!”
Required Reading for Lara B. Sharp (annotated):
- Poolside Johnny: Her heady blend of sharp-snarky-funny-fierce writing on full display.
- Chip and Biff: Lara tattles on some bros who were busting on a middle-aged woman behind her back at a job interview.
- “A Tiny Scar, From Falling” Quick, elegant, intimate, heartbreaking.
- Interview with Lara by the Founder of Inspiring Women Changemakers.
- Her cheeky posts here and on East Falls Rants Page. (You never knew ground hogs and meth heads could be so amusing!)
And for godsake follow her on Facebook! We couldn’t be prouder to share Lara’s work, we love the tone she brings to EastFallsLocal.com and the paper. Who knew hyper-local humorists were a thing?! Many thanks to Lara for making us laugh and for shining new light on familiar surroundings.
FIVE QUESTIONS WITH LARA B SHARP
- Three words that describe what it’s like to be Lara B Sharp: Neurotic, neurotic, and neurotic? But, I probably shouldn’t have chosen those words.
- Dumbest life lesson that took you the longest to learn? Well, aside from the fact that I didn’t learn to tie my own shoes until after I was about 16, because nobody took the time to actually teach me anything while I was in the foster care system, I’d say the dumbest life lesson that it took me a long time to learn is that: as long as I don’t lose the lesson, it’s actually fine for me to make mistakes – and, it doesn’t matter if anyone agrees with that philosophy, or not. Mistakes also make for great stories. People relate to feelings even more than they do to similar experiences. Secrets are stupid. Nobody should ever be ashamed of having made a mistake. Therefore, I’m extremely proud to be a floundering fuck up, because I learn something every time, and I gleefully share it with the entire world.
- What do your cats discuss most often when they talk about you? One of my cats is way too stupid to hold an actual conversation, and the other is far too clever to give even a tiny little shit about me. They both love my husband – we all do – because he is our bug killer. If my cats discussed anything at all, it would probably be my general incompetence, and my husband’s Dexter-like, acrobatic, often unnerving, undeniably murdering reflexes.
- First impressions of East Falls so far? It’s a great location for someone in the federal witness protection program. Incidentally, and it’s not that I’m in any way opposed to fancy bread or un-fancy Hoagies, but can anyone explain to me why don’t we have a proper freakin’ supermarket? Who took away our huge Chili Pepper? That was my landmark – now, I can barely ever find my apartment. Do all Philly trash collectors get such a generous vacation package, or just mine? I’m deeply appreciative of the ability for all of us to park our cars on the sidewalks! Locally, groundhogs are apparently a very controversial subject.
- When will you know you’re a Fallser? Oh, that isn’t actually a goal of mine. I’m a New Yorker, forever. I’ve got cholera in my gut, from eating dirty water hot dogs, and I’ve got live STDs on my fingertips, from riding the Subways – you can’t purge that shit. I’m totally cool with that. I’ll infect the Fallsters – whatever that even bloody is – before they even know it. Besides, as a former foster kid, a New Yorker (AKA the land of misfit toys), and as an artist, I’ve long embraced my ‘social outcast’ status. I wouldn’t want to ruin my image! Anyway, from a writer’s perspective, ‘Fallster’ sounds like someone who is unable to remain physically upright. I’m excellent at standing up, both on my feet, and with my big ass, Manhattan-born mouth. (Shrugs, eats 50 more Sour Gummy Bears.) If anyone actually wants me outta East Falls, I can make them a deal… They can make a huge subscription contribution to my memoir’s Patreon page, and I’ll use it to buy myself a penthouse apartment in Rittenhouse Square – I love Philadelphia, and I’m never, ever leaving! Be forewarned, I’ll still come back here to visit. It’s easy parking, what with all the sidewalks you have here, and my friend in East Falls has a pool. If I can get used to Groundhogs, the locals can get used to me. I’m a lot like the local groundhogs – I’m digging up everyone’s gardens, but with my tires! See how well I’m assimilating to the local culture? Maybe I do belong here!
CHEAP THRILLS: Preview Lara’s memoir on her Patreon page, as she’s writing it, for as little as a dollar per month. Help support her sour gummy bear addiction – “I can’t write without them!” – so she can continue to meet her publisher’s deadlines. And follow along as her spirited, comical (and somewhat demented) story unfolds.
UPDATE: FRINGE FEST 2018
Lara will be performing two of her “greatest hits” including Poolside Johnny featured here and a complicated, moving tribute upon her mother’s death.