Full disclosure: I’m truly obsessed with, inspired by, and in awe of the Hartzell sisters.
I first met Jordan, two years my junior, four years ago during a summer program at Brown (yes, I was one of those, and yes, it was a good omen for Jordy because she’ll be Brown Class of 2021!), and had the pleasure of spending some summer time with her this year as she did a program at Harvard. Her older sister, Sydney, who is a freshman at NYU this year, and I have never met - yet we've always felt like kindred spirits, peas in a pod, the whole nine yards of familiar twin metaphors.
For background and general amazement: Jordy is a senior in high school who is going to Brown next fall. She is involved in physics outreach in her community as the founder of the PA Young Women in Physics Conference (an event for high school students to listen to research talks of female physicists from across the state - the goal being to provide high school girls with female role models and expose high school students to real physics work). She's also an amateur science writer (check out her posts here and here!), and a guest speaker to a class/women's group on the state of women in science. She hopes to find an interdisciplinary approach to studying physics/maybe computer science/neuro at Brown.
Sydney is currently a second-semester freshman at NYU. She is passionate about art, ballet, learning, and food. She recently started working for Hannah Bronfman, the founder of the nyc-based health and wellness startup HBFIT. Though she’s new to NYC, she feels at home in its chaos and is looking forward to new adventures!
Lucky for me, Sydney was home for the weekend and eager to hop on FaceTime with Jordan for a warm and sunny start to our Sunday yesterday! I went into this convo fully expecting to feel some sisterly love, and left with expectations exceeded and feeling more motivated by these girls than I thought was possible.
Tell me a little about where you’re from. What do you miss? What do you not
Sydney: Pretty interesting dichotomy in our responses because we’re both at different points in our lives since I’ve just left home and she’s still here feeling like she wants to leave. Now that I have left this area, I can’t express how grateful I am to have grown up here in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania - you’d only know it for Bucknell University, unless you’re visiting the Federal Penitentiary...
Jordan: It's very community oriented and familial, which I love, but it's hard to reinvent yourself in a small high school that you've been going to for twelve years, which is the part of it that makes me want to leave.
S: Jordan and I are similar in our social standing in that we’re not introverted, have you heard of ambivert? We can be extroverted around each other… Jordan and I spent the majority of the last two years of high school in the library together. We’re kind of outliers in that way. Now that I’m in New York everyone thinks I’m such a cliche. I didn’t grow up under a literal rock!
What’s your background? Phone and literal
J: Mine's my Dog Tashi - she’s on a boat! This summer my dog lived on this boat with my parents, so this is a constant reminder that my dog is cooler than me...
S: My background is marble because, I mean I know that’s a thing, it’s trendy (J: It’s clean!), but for me it feels like creating space. I used to have pictures of my boyfriends - not my boyfriends I’m monogamous - I love my boyfriend, but even my homescreen is just a gradient. I got the vogue app and it froze on the screen before it enters the homescreen so I took a screenshot of it thinking, “wow this color is so pretty!" My life is busy enough that I need control in the one place I’m always looking.
What’s the story of your name?
J: Ours kind of go together. We have one more older sister, Alexandra, and my mom’s plan was, if she had all girls, to name them all with unisex names, she wanted us all to have androgynous, strong names.
S: Essentially what she’s trying to say, I think, is that my parents thought of androgynous names because they were strong and sexy. The set up was our older sister to be "Alex", but she ruined it with Ally - though Ally is a beautiful name. Back in the really old days, when people would wear cumber-buns (no, wait, that’s the prom thing?) guys used to be named Sydney. I’m really drawn to the name Taylor and Charlotte for a daughter but to call Charlie. I really like Jordan but my sister and boyfriend are both named Jordan and I just can't keep surrounding myself with Jordans!
What’s one fact about you?
J: When I was little, I don't know if it was me wanting Sydney to think I was cool, but I would memorize her favorite things. Syd would say, “update my favorite store” and I would commit it to memory. And then when people would ask about her favorite things, like her favorite flavor of ice cream, I would say, "she doesn’t really like ice cream, but if she did it’d be a chocolate milkshake."
S: My random fact is gonna counter that and make me seem like a terrible sister... Growing up, we would only fly to Disney once a year and it was a big deal. My dad would allow us one treat each before the plane. Jordan would get sour skittles and I would get normal skittles, and I would eat all my skittles and Jordan would save hers. Then when we took off I was like, "Jordan do you want to play a game, I’m gonna close my eyes and you feed me your skittles and I’ll guess what color they are!" And then I ate all her skittles.
What’s your favorite aspect of your closest friend? Besides each other, haha.
S: My favorite aspect of Alessandra is that she’s very strong willed. She doesn’t compromise herself or her values in the face of a social situation, which is something I seek out in a friend because, throughout my life I have kind of isolated myself when I don't feel comfortable around people who prefer a social situation to maintaining their morals. Maybe I should change it to authentic, because that’s something super hard to find especially in New York. We can tend to differ once in a while but I think that’s something I respect more than someone who just goes along with what you're saying.
J: I admire my best friend, Alyssa. The word I’ve used to describe her is reliable because if i need to talk to someone or she hears something and wants to share it with me, I can rely on her to actually be excited for me when good things happen to me - that’s kind of rare. She got into Carnegie Mellon engineering and I think I was happier for her to get into her school than me to get into mine!
Favorite conversation starter?
S: ooh OOH this is so good, wait lemme think. I always lead with a joke about being from a small town. People will ask, "Oh where are you from?" "Pennsylvania, you wouldn't know it, it's a really tiny town, we have a motto “medicate, educate, and incarcerate" (they say in sync) for the three things we're known for. When I begin with that I'm from a small town, the expectation is very low about where the conversation will follow haha.
J: In terms of meeting new people, we both like to make jokes. Syd is the wittiest person I know, she’s quick with a pun which I know you are too Maia (S: "Dad thinks my dad jokes are terrible.").
S: I’m a huge fan of pick up lines. With guys I might as well be out there and if it doesn't work it's fine. I asked my prom date last year to prom, it was very last minute, I texted him asking if he wanted to go with me, and the week before we had had a competition with pick up lines. So the last night he picked me up in his car and a bunch of limes fell out, and he said “sorry I’m really bad at pickup limes.”
J: At least with Syd, she’s a very good listener and always makes you feel like what you’re saying is valuable which makes her really likable. She’s good at reflecting what people say.
If you had to think of a mantra your family grew up saying, what would it be?
J: So my dad loves these books called the Aubrey Maturin series, there’s 26 of them and they’re a Napoleonic war series. He loves ships, and he's always said, “steer your ship”, and it's something that’s become inspirational but also normal in the house. It means if you're in a situation you're always the captain and it’s your choice to steer it - you have control. And it’s a less harsh way of saying “get control”.
S: She’s exactly right, it’s been my whole life that he’s said that. Especially in New York, I hear it in the back of my head in a tough situation.
What music are you listening to now?
S: I’m really into music, my favorite thing about music is curating it. I love making playlists!
J: I listen to music by month and year - Syd organizes it for me.
S: I love making custom playlists. When I first started dating Jordan, I would make him playlists on Spotify and he would be like, "What is this?" (J: "It’s you in music!"). Making mixtapes is my idea of true romance, so that’s what I do on Spotify. My fave quote is, “art decorates space and music decorates time.” It’s so true that music really heightens emotion - it has the power to motivate me or calm me. Now to counter that, I’ve currently been listening to the 50s shades darker soundtrack... I also like the new frank ocean song Slide.
J: We have one of those amazon Alexa things and we always play jazz. Around the holidays it's Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong, it's always on really low volume and you don't really notice it, but there’s always jazz or concert piano - even our dogs like it!
Go to outfit. What’s your uniform? What is a classic look that everyone would say, “that’s so Jordan/Sydney”
J: Mines probably simpler than yours haha. I usually look fairly sporty so I have a pair of old Nikes and high top Vans and wear that with leggings and a sweatshirt. My new favorite sweatshirt is my Brown one because it’s so “homey”. (S: "You need to get me a brown sweatshirt, one that says Brown not just a brown one lol"). I also love leather jackets over like a silver dress or a patterned dress, it makes me feel so strong!
S: I’m all about less is more with style. I really like the new french look where it’s supposed to be effortless but for me it’s a lot of effort. In New York, everyone wears all black so I don’t own anything that has color, except white, which I guess has all the color. When I shop I buy all the same things but the newest version.
J: Syd’s good that she has a few key things that she can wear really well
S: When I find something that goes with a lot of things I will invest in it. A classic outfit I would say high waisted jeans ALWAYS (I feel so comfortable in high waisted jeans, I only wear high waisted bathing suits because I love that 1950s look), maybe a white button down thats kind of loose so I can tie it in the front, or a blouse/cami, and either leather jacket or a bomber jacket - some sort of easy peasy that kind of thing.
What’s an accessory or piece of Jewelry that you’d like to be remembered by or that is iconic you?
J: We both have these little necklaces. Mines gold, hers is platinum, we got them three years ago, and we like to think they’re like Twitches. I also have a little third ear piercing which is a little out of character for me - I don't wear anything other than these and little gold hoops.
S: I have very tiny ears. I don’t know if anyone noticed. When we went to get her ear pierced the second time I was sitting in the chair, and it didn’t feel very Sydney, so I said, "No nonononono!" and I ran out of the chair. My other thing that I wear is this ring. It’s a sapphire but it almost looks black. My mom and I got it together before I went to Paris one summer, and I made her kiss it so I always had her love and now I haven’t really taken it off. I do like minimal jewelry, the other reason why is because I tried to wear a watch one time and I took it off at the gym and lost it. I can’t have anything nice.
What’s a current trend that you really like or are envious of?
J: I’ve gotten into fashion week so I’m trying to think deep into things I’ve been seeing. I love the new work out chic, athleisure, because I love to be comfortable. I love bringing back utility as fashion, like windbreakers.
S: I think inherently I’m not a trendy person, I almost try not to be trendy, (J: "You're counter cool!!"), I try to have a timeless style, which I don't always have because I'm mostly in workout clothes. The thing that I love is lipstick thats supposed to be worn in, like stain, it’s kind of messy. Jeanne Damas, she’s a french it girl, style guru, and that’s her thing - she’ll put on bold lipstick and blot it off so there’s a tinge left. I feel very uncomfortable in bold lipstick but I love buying it, so I blot it off. I’m glad it’s a thing now because I feel like I’ve always done it!
What’s a trend that you wish would die?
J: I hate when people wear t-shirts when its freezing out. I don't think its a trend but its an act of ignorance or defiance, unless it comes from not having a coat then I totally understand and want to help in some way, but when its like a macho thing it bothers me. In a more general trendy sense, if you put fashion above utility at the point of being detrimental to yourself I'm not a fan.
Signature phrase. What do you say a lot?
S: Wait, can we think of each other’s? Because I don’t know what I say...
J: I’m sorry we’re spending so much time looking out the window, there’s something about Pennsylvania's rolling hills that really makes you think lol.
S: Oh! I say, "Word" a lot!
J: As an affirmation - like she’s bringing back 1990s Will Smith.
S: I text it sometimes and people are like, "What?” and I’m like, "Like 'power to you'!”
J: There was an episode of New Girl where someone told Jess he loved her and she didn't say it back so she did finger guns, and thats become a thing for me. I also snap, like when people go to poetry slams (S: "You go to poetry slams?"), or especially in class if I like what they’re saying I’ll give them a couple snaps.
Soundtrack to your life?
J: Capsize by Emily Warren, this was my summer song, and even now, it makes me so happy
S: The Way You look tonight with Frank Sinatra is my favorite, favorite song but that’s not the soundtrack because thats just me being like, “The way I look tonighttttt.” Another song I like is Paper Doll by John Mayer. I don't take it for the meaning I think it actually has. For me it's more my self identity but the outfits represent that I'm evolving all the time based on my experiences and my circumstance - I always think about that song in relation to myself.
S: This is gonna sound so dumb but it's so me. There's a grocery store on long island called Fairway and they have these chocolate malt balls. I don't know if that's a dessert or a candy. I went to Rosh Hashanah at my boyfriend’s house and they put out dessert, and they had a jar of malt balls in front of his mom and his aunt and I kept sneaking 3 until they were gone. I love chocolate more than anything sweet. I’m also an advocate of having chocolate every day instead of restricting yourself and then binging. Anyway, there’s like an inch of chocolate before you hit the malt ball on these things - I love it!
J: Mine would definitely be sour gummy worms. At the Bucknell library they always have little baggies, and I just love sour candy and candy in general like a 5 year old, or ice cream, because I’m 5.
What’s your favorite thing to gift people?
J: I was really honored when someone recommended a book to me. So my new favorite thing is to gift a book, and personally pick it out for them. And also give them my favorite book. My favorite book is “The Trespasser” it’s a mystery, and inside the cover I'll write, “It’s so much fun just like you!”
S: I have 3 things. One is specifically for my boyfriend: I gift him the clothing I want him to wear. Second, I love to gift and receive flowers, actually I’m allergic to flowers but I love having flowers and plants near me. I am actually allergic to most living things, but I love having them near me in my space because I soak up their energy - not in a bad way, they still have some energy left. I love to gift candles because I am an old soul, even though I live in a dorm building and I can’t light them...
J: Syd actually came home and she brought me something, wait I’m gonna get it, she got me this card that says “it’s been a while crocodile.”
S: And YET I wrote nothing in it - I just got her the card haha...
J: I also think orange is really inspirational, and I also love planners, and she got me this orange planner that I love.
S: UGH same, I have like a fetish for planners!
Describe yourself as a human bean:
(Note: for this last bit, I had them text me their answers about describing themselves as human beans and then had them describe each other as human beans aloud. I was kind of curious to see how they saw themselves and how they saw each other)
S: I would describe myself as authentic, empathetic, and curious about life. I've always stayed true to myself and I feel like having a strong sense of self has guided me through tough situations and challenges. I would say that I'm empathetic because even unintentionally, I feel connected to other human beans. I feel like this leads me into my next adjective, but the connection that I share with other people makes me more curious about life and it's many facets... the idea that we're ever-evolving beans who each experience hundreds of different lives within our own.
J: Me as a bean: so I love coffee (I'm a two a day kind of gal) and in connection to a literal coffee bean (and mod and Bean ;))I'd like to say that I'm energetic -- the qualities of which I'm most proud kind of stem from this... I'm typically a self-starter and I love to make decisions (though I agonize about simple ones like dessert choices)
The sisterly reveal:
S: I did it so seriously, whoops! I think I did it the way I would think my teacher would want me to do *face palms*. I feel like Jordan has always been my best friend, my whole life. I love my older sister, but I feel very connected to Jordan (J: "We have telepathy!"), she’s passionate about life - it's not necessarily rare, but it’s tangible. She’s also extremely motivated which radiates. When I’m around her I feel motivated. In general she’s incredibly hardworking, and you always want to be around someone like that. She has an amazing work ethic. Also, she just carries herself very well for her age: she’s extremely mature, wise, and passionate. She’s so funny - like unintentionally funny. She also has a fantastic jazz singer voice! She has this huge belt voice when she’s imitating other jazz artists!
J: In describing Sydney, she’s someone who when you’re talking to her she makes you feel important, heard, comfortable, and valued. The other thing about Sydney is that she’s very introspective and very reflective too, which is something cool about her because she’ll bring out another perspective when you’re talking. She’s incredibly passionate which is inspiring to be around, even if it's about an essay she wrote for class, she’ll turn it into an introspective reflection of what she’s been thinking about (S: "I think that’s because I’m a nerd."). She’s incredibly witty, I always used to say you laugh at your own jokes and you're the only one laughing.
S: I really resonate with this meme of Drake sending a text and laughing because you know it’s going to be fire!
J: The highest compliment I've ever heard, is someone calling Lupita Nyongo a "force." I think Sydney walks into a room and she’s a force.
Cue the sisterly awwing and hugging, making me realize I should probably call my sister more and compensate for the six year gap we have as opposed to the Hartzell single year gap. Suffice it to say, I fully expected to feel full on sisterly love during this conversation, but felt even more energy and love emanating from these girls than I had anticipated!
All photos courtesy of their strong, and aesthetic social media presences.