Within five minutes of talking with the singer/songwriter and Girl Meets World actress, the cat is completely out of the bag: Sabrina Carpenter is that weird homeschooled girl and she doesn’t hide it. I mean this in the most complimentary way. Not only was this old soul not born yesterday, but she is the sharpest tool in the shed. The top brass. She is playing with a full deck of cards and she holds her royal flush close.
We sit outside on a comfy patio below lanky palm trees which twinkle like fierce jazz hands in the mid-afternoon breeze. Not far from us is the 17-year-old’s label, Hollywood Records, which released her second album – EVOLution – handily premiering at #28 on the Billboard 200.
It’s Wednesday, a school day. Today’s lesson? The matters of the heart. Specifically their physiology and how they break. We hit the ground running. Our interview casually turns into an intimate two-person book club and we dive for a classic: Plato’s Symposium. I begin to tell her about the plot of the text and each man’s understanding of love. Together, we dismiss Pausanias’ pedophilia and arrive upon a mutual agreement that Aristophanes’ tumbling theory is fantastic. Possibly because we’re both three-hanky saps and fangirl together over a good romantic myth.
These heart-in-mouth sentiments are present in her song “On Purpose” off EVOLution, the video for which features home-video-style footage of Carpenter mugging hilariously for the camera (and an unseen camera operator) all over London. “You’re scared, I’m nervous/ But I guess that we did it on purpose,” Carpenter sings over exuberant pop-house beats.
When I ask her to deliver her own encomium to the Symposium, she says, “Jesus, how am I supposed to top Aristophanes?! That is pure poetry.” I tell her there is no wrong answer, that philosophers and poets have been wrestling the idea since time immemorial. She pauses and ponders, “I like the idea that love governs all, like Eryximachus said, but I would add that true love is comfort with someone as well as comfort in silence.”
She continues, “feeling comfortable with someone is a big thing. You can feel excited, you can feel embarrassed, even giddy, but feeling comfortable with someone else is extremely difficult,” she says. “Right now, I feel most comfortable with myself.” You can see it. For our interview, she is wearing velvet sweat pants, furry slippers, and a baggy Beyoncé Lemonade t-shirt – there is no façade. “I guess I haven’t gotten to the point where I feel that way with someone else. Besides family – but that’s a very different type of love.”
After getting down to the brass tacks of love, I can finally ask her if she’s ever had her heart broken. Before meeting Carpenter, I expected her to dispense a saga about a failed Mickey Mouse Club fling, but she is much more sagacious.
“Well, let’s think about this,” she laughs and I know she is about to make a monkey out of the question, “I’m 17, so I wouldn’t say that I’ve experienced it to the point to be satisfied in calling it heartbreak.”
Continuing our book club of classic and over-analyzed texts, I bring up Romeo and Juliet. “I think there is something so beautifully heartbreaking about what Romeo and Juliet share at such a young age,” she says. “I wish I could have had that type of love. It would have made me a more interesting person. But I think we live in a different, less hopelessly romantic time.”
There are, however, other ways for hearts to be broken besides ewwy-gooey-gushy-mushy love. Like Gil Pender in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris (2011), Sabrina yearns for the honeyed nectar of glamour that drips from the Jazz Age of the 1920s. The timeless language in The Great Gatsby broke her heart when she first read it in her self-paced homeschool curriculum. More recently, her heart’s been broken by Lana Del Rey’s song “Young and Beautiful,” from the film adaptation of Gatsby. On her Instagram, she shares photos of her beloved journal renovated with the words of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Cummings. “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” Hemingway urges. Sabrina Carpenter, for one, is listening.
Written by Miles Griffis
Photographer: Zackery Michael
Stylist: Mui-Hai Chu
Hair: Jamal Hammadi for Art Department
Makeup: Allan Avendaño for Starworks Group
Styling Assistant: Britton Litow
Location: Good Times at Davey Wayne’s