Writing This Article is My Version of Fangirling: On Sarah Ramos and Autograph Hound
A recent exhibit by sarah ramos explores the vital connection between fame and fandom.
By Sammy bluth
Junior High LA—a nonprofit community arts space and host of events ranging from BIPOC and LGBTQ+ AA meetings to album release parties, comedy lineups and figure drawing classes—completed its month-long pop-up exhibition for Sarah Ramos’s Autograph Hound: A Retrospective on May 8th.
On opening night, Ramos worked her way through the crowd of attendees in a maxi pencil skirt and matching crop top, her hair in a high pony tied with white ribbon. Her look was a cross between late-90s Salma Hayek and a grown-up Lizzie Mcguire—an apt fashion choice for an exhibit revolving around Ramos’s childhood experiences in La La Land throughout the 2000s and 2010s.
Jim Smeal/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images / Lizzie McGuire
A longtime fan of Ramos’s internet presence, I felt starstruck as I brushed shoulders with the actress almost immediately upon entering the packed gallery space. I channeled my inner LA “it-girl” (I’d lived in the city less than a month at this point but had seen enough nepotism-baby TikToks to know how to carry myself as if I owned the world and maybe even property).
In front of me were two Party City-esque cardboard cutouts: one of Rihanna and the other of hotskinnyboy Timothée Chalamet. My roommate Atessa, who works for the Academy and had taken a photo with THE Timothée Chalamet a week prior on the Oscars red carpet in a brief moment between putting out fires, made sure to snag a photo (I took a rapid 20) with the celeb’s rendering. I expected a side-by-side Instagram post with the caption, “Saw my boyfriend again tonight,” but no such thing came to fruition. I guess my iPhone photography skills were no match for her Oscars Instagram dump.
Atessa Moghimi / Sammy Bluth
We wormed our way to the opposite side of the gallery, where we found the titular exhibit. Ramos’s personal archive of celebrity fan photos from 2001 to 2018 covered the wall in neat rows, each photo outlined with a white border and arranged in timeline order. The selfies and posed shots were snapped on a cruise with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, in a dog park with Angelina Jolie (the stars—they’re just like us!), on the various television lots where Ramos worked, and at award shows she attended. My favorite photo features Ramos with Kris Jenner, Tavi Gevinson, and an exuberant Jennifer Lawrence photo-bombing with her arms in the air. The mix of reality royalty, child fashion blogger/magazine editor/Broadway and Gossip Girl reboot actor (Tavi is a lot of things and I must acknowledge them all), and A-list celebrity was too bizarre to not stop and point.
The gallery additionally featured others’ fan photos in an informal display (photos taped to a back wall in a purposeful clutter), submitted to or acquired by Ramos in the process of building her exhibit. Friends of Ramos crowded around to find themselves amongst the heap of blurry snapshots and awkward smiles. In many photos, the fans looked far more presentable than the rushed or unbothered celebs. Consider, for instance, Ramos’s photo with P!NK, printed in the exhibit’s accompanying zine. It is the fans who select from their digital cameras and smartphones which photo they will show their friends and post on their feeds for bragging rights and likes. The celebrities could not care less. Ramos joked about this phenomenon in her opening night speech, asking the crowd how many times a celebrity has asked, “Can you send me those?” after an impromptu selfie shoot. We might as well ask for the photos; it will make our day (or week, or life?) and will affect the celebrity for only a moment.
As we were about to continue through the rest of the exhibit (portraits of the entire cast of Parenthood that Ramos drew in her tween years, billboard-esque photos of Ramos’s big-bosomed, BBL character “Miss Successica Simpson,” and self-tapes for roles for which she was not cast), a gallery assistant dragged a projector screen through the ever-growing crowd and we collectively huddled in a crescent to prepare for the night’s special event.
Ramos, microphone in hand, formally welcomed us to her exhibit by admitting that the contents are, “to be honest, quite embarrassing for [her]” and quoting Nicole Kidman’s iconic AMC ad, “Even heartbreak feels good in a place like this.” She elaborated on the essence of Autograph Hound as a take on the intersection between fandom and fame. One cannot and should not exist without the other. That is why, even though she is now a big Hollywood celebrity (did you catch her on that episode of Wizards of Waverly Place?), she will always be a fangirl, too.
The draw for attending opening night—besides the obvious free drinks and seeing Ramos in action—was a never-before-seen screening of a Hanson fanfic short film written by Los Angeles Times senior entertainment writer Amy Kaufman at age 12. In 2017, Ramos shot and starred in her own short film, CITY GIRL, which she developed directly from a script she had written in 2003 and found in her childhood bedroom’s closet 13 years later. The film—a romantic comedy about a woman with migraines whose handsome doctor hands her pills directly from his office desk drawer, goes to lunch with her so that she can feel comfortable having him as her new doctor, pre-orders her a salad (because that’s all she ever craves), falls in love with her, and recommends that she move in with him so that he may better observe and care for her potentially dangerous condition—is a hilariously upsetting understanding of love and lust from a 12-year-old girl that brought Ramos internet virality, articles, and interviews. Produced in the same vein, Kaufman’s Hanson fanfic presented her tweenage dream word-for-word, legitimized as a cinematic experience by its star-studded cast (Pitch Perfect’s Brittany Snow and Maze Runner’s Dylan O’Brien, among others).
By the end of the screening, we were fully invigorated by the spirit of the event. We tracked Ramos down in between her hugs from Industry and friends and, like true and unencumbered fans, hounded her for autographs. She gasped when she saw that we had purchased her zine and humbly asked us for our names as she scribbled individualized messages. My roommate’s read, “You are beautiful!” Should I be jealous?
Opening night at Autograph Hound was a star-studded yet intimate experience. As we bumped into familiar faces and whispered, “Wait, what is she from?” for the 15th time, we realized that we were likely some of the only attendees who did not know Ramos personally or did not have a blue checkmark next to our Instagram handles. Still, I made eye-contact and smiled at Dylan O’Brien, Camilla Mendes, and one of the Wolff brothers (couldn’t tell you which one), which made me feel undeniably cool. Did I get selfies? No. The LA “it-girl” in me became too powerful.
You can read more about Ramos, Autograph Hound, and watch CITY GIRL on her website, heysarahramos.com, and join her social media fandom @sarahramos.