Sarah Ann Masse on the Power of Storytelling

Credit: Instagram/@sarahannmasse, Universal Pictures

Sarah Ann Masse is a woman of many hyphens. She is a bisexual writer, filmmaker, comedian, actor, sexual violence survivor, and the founder of Hire Survivors Hollywood – an organization working to end retaliation against survivors of sexual violence in the entertainment industry. Masse was one of the first to come forward about Harvey Weinstein and recently starred in the groundbreaking Universal Pictures film She Said. She also came out as bisexual to her Instagram followers last June and openly shared her journey and experience as an invisibly disabled artist. Sarah Ann Masse is a storyteller. Read on to discover more about her story.

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Sarah Ann Masse is a Real Weinstein Survivor

Editor Caitlynn McDaniel spoke with Masse about her career and many endeavors, starting with her recent role as Pulitzer Prize-winning NY Times Journalist Emily Steel in She Said. Despite being an actress, Masse contacted the production company not about a job but about an opportunity.

She hoped to encourage the production team to partner with real survivors for the making of the film. She Said tells the real story of two New York Times journalists who exposed the sexual abuse allegations against powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Masse left a voicemail and wrote an email to the executives of the film.

“I just wanted them to know about the advocacy work that I was doing and tell them that I thought this was a really great opportunity to work with survivors on this project.

“But then I got an audition and I found out that many other Weinstein survivors had also gotten auditions.”

Masse plays Pulitzer Prize winning NY Times Journalist Emily Steel in the film.

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Speaking Out and Fighting Closing Doors

Masse came forward as a Weinstein survivor in 2017.

“It’s been a real up and down experience having come forward publicly,” Masse recalled.” There’s been so much that’s been positive. I’ve met so many other survivors and I’ve been able to share my experiences and become a really committed advocate,” she told Gayety. “I started my own organization, but there has also been difficult stuff.”

After she came forward and shared her survival story, she noticed a significant stall in her career.

“The phone stopped ringing. Auditions stopped coming in. I’ve dealt with online harassment and threats and obviously sort of like re-traumatization of going through my own story publicly and having the trials happening. So it’s been a wild five years.”

Founding Hire Survivors Hollywood

And she was not the only one. Masse shared her experience online in real-time and connected with other survivors who were also being blacklisted. She began pitching ideas to preexisting organizations to address this issue but found that no one was willing to invest in the initiative.

“So after a couple of years of sort of unofficially advocating for this more informally, I launched Hire Survivors Hollywood. It was almost three years ago now, and it has been basically me and my director of communications running the whole thing.”

Now, Hire Survivors Hollywood has a 30-person strong advisory board and offers a free, downloadable toolkit to create a safer work environment that includes survivors. It’s only the beginning, but the initiative has already greatly impacted the industry.

“I want every production company, every studio and network to take our pledge and to consult with us and let us help them welcome in this really amazing group of people who are often multiply marginalized and come from lots of different backgrounds that often make it harder to get just a fair chance in this industry.”

Putting Herself in Other People’s Shoes

Masse says she utilizes her storytelling to encourage culture to be more inclusive, representative, respectful, and dynamic for people of all ages, genders, races, nationalities, abilities, sexualities, and creeds. The actress credits her own coming out to LGBTQIA+ storytelling, in-person and in the media.

“I didn’t realize the way that I was looking at the world and appreciating the people around me wasn’t just everybody’s experience,” Masse said.

In June 2022, Masse came out as bisexual, first to her husband Nick, then to her friends and family, and finally to her followers.

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“There’s this compulsory heterosexuality that we have hoisted upon us, I think from birth. And so it took me a long time to understand that I wasn’t just appreciating a woman’s beauty and like that there was attraction there, and I just didn’t understand it for a criminally long time. And it feels silly to say it, but it was partially watching shows like Our Flag Means Death. That allowed me to see adults exploring and discovering things about their sexuality when they thought that it had been one very clear thing for their whole lives that let me start really asking myself those questions.”

More From Masse

Masse has numerous projects in the works. She landed her first role as a bisexual character in a film called Through The Rinse, she was cast in a Broadway-bound musical called The Right Girl, and is currently developing a new TV series.

Follow Sarah’s journey and watch part one of her interview with Gayety below. Part two can be found here.

Sarah Ann Masse on the Power of Storytelling
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