Sending the Elevator Back Down: Sara Benincasa on Artists Acknowledging Those Who’ve Helped Them Come Up

At The Rumpus, Catherine Cusick has a wide-ranging interview with writer and comedic actor Sara Benincasa, author of Real Artists Have Day Jobs (And Other Awesome Things They Don’t Teach You in School). They cover everything from definitions of success to definitions of good sex—with a detour toward Benincasa’s suicidal tendencies in her twenties, along the way. They also touch on the importance of artists helping and influencing one another, and of acknowledging that help once you succeed.

Benincasa: I have a friend who’s an artist with whom I’ve never worked, who does not, I’ve noticed, credit the individuals who help along the way. It’s always presented as though this person did it solo.

Rumpus: What are the consequences of pretending to have gotten there without help?

Benincasa: It’s a lie.

It’s not just about ego-scratching. It’s about acknowledging. If you say that you did it all yourself, you’re absolutely lying. Most people don’t want to work with liars. They’ll work with a liar if the liar makes them money and gives them credit, but not if a person’s lying extends to not making them money and not giving them credit.

Shonda Rhimes, Whitney Cummings, Patton Oswalt, Diablo Cody, Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer, Beyoncé, Cecily Strong, Adam McKay, Laverne Cox—all of these individuals are people I’ve seen talk not just about their own strength and self-reliance and hard work, but also about collaboration. That strengthens my belief that they are incredibly talented and hardworking on their own. It strengthens my respect for them.

If someone like Laverne Cox, who as a queer person of color, much less a trans person of color, much less a trans person of color working in the arts from the South? If someone who has the odds stacked against her on paper can acknowledge that her success has come as a result of collaboration, work, and self-reliance, why would I ever try to pretend that I wasn’t influenced, or that everything I do just comes from within my soul?

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