Q&A with Lydia Hearst, Ambassador for Operation Smile

LYdia Hearst

Lydia Hearst likes to make people smile. The actress and model achieves this frequently as an ambassador for Operation Smile, an international medical charity dedicated to helping improve the lives of children from over 60 countries by providing free surgical procedures to patients with facial deformities. Here, the 31-year-old heiress discusses the importance of philanthropy, her new show—WEtv’s South of Hell—and her recent engagement to producer and podcaster Chris Hardwick.

What is the most rewarding part about your experiences volunteering with Operations Smile?
I have been on a few volunteer missions with Operation Smile, and am currently finalizing the details for another one I shall go on this summer. Working with Operation Smile is a completely life-altering experience. It is truly inspiring to be a part of something with so many unique individuals who come together for the greater good of helping others.

Why is giving back so important to you?
I firmly believe that anyone can put on a cocktail dress and attend a [charitable] party, but it’s a completely different story to be out in the field, helping these children and their families.

Who are your charitable role models and why?
Angelina Jolie and Jaime King. Angelina brings political activism into a whole new light, and is not abrasive about it. Jaime inspires me daily by speaking her mind and standing up for women. She is beautiful, inside and out. Her efforts may not be considered ‘charitable’ by traditional standards, but her positivity and empowering messages to unite women and celebrate life is magnanimous. She is a true role model.

Tell us about some of your upcoming projects, including South of Hell.
In Condemned, which premiered at ScreamFest in Los Angeles in October, I played a junkie who succumbs to infection and psychosis, while trapped in a tenement building with the other residents like Dylan Penn and Ronen Rubenstein. This character is in no way beautiful, but I was attracted to her because she is a true character and so different from who I am in real life. For Downside of Bliss, I drew upon my own personal experiences in order to play Bliss: a penniless, single mother who is estranged from her father and diagnosed with cancer. This was a very emotional role, especially since my own father, who I was extremely close to and loved dearly, lost his battle and passed away from cancer not too long ago. Stealing Chanel was very different for me as an artist. I had to embrace and expose my vulnerabilities, instead of manifesting a character. This film is a dramatic, romantic comedy and [a] real coming-of-age/self-discovery story. I [also] cannot wait for audiences to see my television show, “South of Hell.” It premiers on Black Friday, on WEtv, and comes from the mastermind behind Dexter, James Manos Jr., and horror geniuses Eli Roth and Jason Blum. I play Charlotte Roberts, a Southern belle who falls in love with the wrong boy; [she’s] is a bit of a loose canon who struggles with addiction and demons. We all have our demons.

What are your goals for 2016?
To keep doing everything I am doing now, and more! I truly just want to be happy and continue to work hard; I love life and every opportunity presented. I absolutely love acting, but at the same time, my background is fashion, and it’s not something that I would truly ever want to say goodbye to. I’m hoping to find that happy balance between the two.

You’ve just recently become engaged—Congratulations! Have you started wedding planning yet? Any ideas for the impending nuptials?
Thank you! I never knew it was possible to be so unbelievably happy or in love before meeting Chris. We plan to be married sometime next year, and have begun planning. It is all very exciting and private. I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life with Chris.

What to you is the greatest luxury in life?
All I ever want and what makes me happy is the love and care of my family and fiancé.