Reality vs. Reality TV

Hannah Berner finds her sweet spot on Bravo’s Summer House.

Hannah Berner

Berner went on reality TV not to show off, but to show her vulnerabilities. Moe Alyasini

Life in a house full of millennials in the Hamptons might seem like the ultimate challenge on Bravo’s Summer House, but cast member Hannah Berner ’13 came to the role well prepared. A lifelong athlete, four-year veteran of UW–Madison women’s tennis, and fiend for the camera — both in front of and behind it — Berner is all too familiar with life’s highs and lows, and she has made a career of reflecting on them.

After nearly 15 years in tennis, Berner passed on the pro tour after college and, like many athletes who choose not to go pro, she was left with an unfamiliar freedom that had her feeling lost.

“I just felt very empty after college. I didn’t feel like I had a purpose,” Berner says. She felt like a failure and wondered if there was more to life than tennis.

Spoiler: there was. Berner bounced around digital marketing jobs in her hometown of New York City, craving the rush she’d felt on the tennis court. But the jobs didn’t fulfill her need to create.

That’s when her brief undergraduate broadcasting experience with the UW Athletics Communications Department came into play. It helped her land a job heading the video production department for the millennial media company Betches, where she wrote and produced short comedy videos that quickly went viral. This exposure led to a casting on Summer House.

“I wanted to go on reality TV not to show off or act like I’m better than anyone else, but rather to show people my vulnerabilities so that other people can understand, can relate to me, and we can learn from each other,” she says.

Berner is also the creator and host of the podcast Berning in Hell, which she uses as a platform to start conversations about successful people’s fears and failings. The podcast, which she calls her “passion project,” has allowed her to show that there’s not much difference between those who succeed and those who don’t.

“Sometimes it’s just how you speak to yourself and how you control your own mind instead of letting it control you,” she says.

Berner adds that being true to herself has been key to a happy life.

“Just because you’re really good at something, like tennis or sales, doesn’t mean it’s what makes you happy,” she says. “It was a process of learning what I really wanted, and then it’s a choice of self-love to then act on it.”

Published in the Spring 2020 issue

Tags: Alumni, Athletics, television

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