Biography | Sarah Hampson

Sarah Hampson is an award-winning columnist and feature writer, who has worked for The Globe & Mail, Canada’s leading national newspaper, for nearly 20 years.

She started her journalism career in 1992, as a freelancer, mostly in magazines. She wrote for all the major magazines in Canada including Saturday Night, Toronto Life, Chatelaine, Report on Business, Canadian Art, Homemaker’s and Today’s Parent, among others. She also contributed regularly to The Observer newspaper in England. For almost every year through the nineties, she either won or was nominated for a National Magazine Award of Canada. She holds three gold awards, one Silver and several Honourable Mentions.

It was on the strength of her award-winning magazine journalism that The Globe and Mail, then at the start of the newspaper war with the new National Post, invited her to write a column, starting in 1998. Known for writing profiles of well-known personalities, she started a weekly interview profile for the paper, which ran for more than 15 years. She has conducted over 500 interviews and talked to a wide range of interesting people. The great thing about people is that they’re endlessly fascinating.

Leonard Cohen, Sarah Hampson, Globe and MailShe went to the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles to interview Hugh Hefner (yes, he was in a bathrobe and slippers). She traveled to Las Vegas to hang out with illusionist Criss Angel, who was starting a show in collaboration with Cirque de Soleil. He lived in a penthouse in the top of the Luxor Hotel – right in the peak of the fake pyramid. It took a while to gain his confidence, but he eventually invited her up, and at that moment, she knew she had her story. Toy trains, pinball machines, skull decor motifs, a handler who packed heat, his dead father’s memorabilia, artifacts from his stunts, and an interview with him, covered in bling. She sat down for tea with P D James in her London house. (In her bedroom was a four poster bed, designed by fellow mystery writer, Ruth Rendell.)

And Hampson once spent five hours with Leonard Cohen, in his house in Montreal. Jane Fonda, Sarah HampsonThere was cherry pie, wine, and the offer of a bath, anytime, in a tub in a tiny bathroom under the stairs that led to the third floor. (She never took up his offer.) He had recently come down from the mountain, and he had a lot to impart – about art, life, beauty. It was an extraordinary interview that was published at 4,500 words in The Globe and Mail and has been reprinted by some magazines and in a collection of pieces about famous musicians. There are so many memorable scenes from her interviews. Connie Francis drinking from a bottle of olive oil backstage before a performance. Eric Idle bringing her back to his on-set trailer to discuss celebrity culture at great depth while dressed as a wicked pirate for a Disney film. Jane Fonda huffing that “Oh, you’re one of them” when it was suggested (politely) that perhaps God was just her latest crush after a series of disappointing marriages and love affairs.

In 2000, her interview column was nominated for a National Newspaper Award.

In 2007, she began a popular column about the social phenomenon of divorce. Called “Generation Ex” the column helped launch the Life section of the Globe and Mail. Her mailbox overflowed. The success of that column led to her first book, a memoir entitled Happily Ever After Marriage; A Reinvention in Midlife, which was published in Canada by Knopf in April 2010 and went on to be a Canadian bestseller.

Sarah Hampson, Kensington, LondonHampson has an interest in many topics. She has covered business stories about female ambition, the appeal of late-night browsing on the Shopping Channel, the mating and feeding habits of Bay Street denizens and the retail magic of Holt Renfrew. She has reflected on her life as a mother of three boys. She has gone on a road trip through the dusty Saskatchewan plains to write about the acclaimed “Saskatchewan Series” by Canadian artist, Landon McKenzie. She has trekked across the Arctic lowlands of Devon Island, the world’s largest uninhabited island, for a travel memoir; ventured into the wrong Chicago ‘hood with basketball legend, Isiah Thomas; and hung out in the Leafs’ Wives’ Room to understand the behind-the-scenes culture of hockey. She drew upon her great-grandfather’s diaries of World War 1 to write a meditation on memory. Following on her interest in the Great War, she wrote about shellshock and how it lay the foundation for modern psychiatry. She has also researched the biological root in gender identity and explored other transgender issues as they emerged. 

Sarah with Kathleen McCartney, President, Smith College.
Sarah with husband Mark Raynes Roberts and Kathleen McCartney, President, Smith College.

Before she began to write as a journalist, in the first (shorter) chapter of her working life, Hampson worked as an associate creative director at two of North America’s leading advertising agencies, Ted Bates and DDB Needham. Writing mostly for television on blue-chip accounts, including Dentyne, Heinz, Lotto 649 and Hersheys, she won several prestigious awards, including a Gold Marketing Award, several Bessie, and a Clio.

Born in Montreal, she has lived in many places: London, England, Geneva, Switzerland, Vancouver and Halifax. She was educated at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she graduated with a degree in English Literature. She currently sits on the board of the Alumnae Association of Smith College, as she is committed to the value of a liberal arts school and to single-sex education for women.