Phone-a-Friend: Ashly Perez

Published June 3, 2016.

Ann: Welcome to Call Your Girlfriend.

Aminatou: A podcast for long-distance besties everywhere.

Ann: I'm Ann Friedman.

Aminatou: And I'm Aminatou Sow. Every other week we'll be bringing you a special phone-a-friend episode between either Ann or me and one of our rad pals. This week I talked to Ashly Perez from BuzzFeed! She's like this really cool lady who makes videos and she is really fun and cool but too like really kind of opened my mind to being somebody who is really visible on the Internet. And she's . . . yeah. I don't even know where to start, she's so awesome.

Ann: Did she try to talk you into doing any kind of vlogging?

Aminatou: No, because she like knows better.

Ann: [Laughs]

Aminatou: But Ashly's really cool. So Ashly is somebody who I've been Internet buddies with for a long time and it wasn't until we started recording that I realized that I had honestly never talked to her on the phone but I was so familiar with her voice because I watch her on everything. So it made me laugh. I was like oh, modern friendships.

Ann: Yeah. That's really why we do phone-a-friends to be like oh, this person that I think I talk to a lot who I actually don't talk to very often . . . that's awesome.

Aminatou: Yeah. And Ashly's a really big promoter of other women's work and just being a creative and her career arc was also really interesting. She actually started working on the editorial side at BuzzFeed and then now she's like a video star there. And they're doing some really cool experimentations with episodic-style stuff. She's going to be a star and we're both going to be on Oprah's couch together one day basically.

[Theme Song]

[Interview Starts]


Aminatou: Welcome Ashley Perez to Call Your Girlfriend.

Ashly: Oh yes, thank you. I forgot we were doing . . .

Aminatou: Right. I'm just like hi, I'm calling my friend.

Ashly: Thank you for having me, Amina. This is a great honor.

Aminatou: Also it's really funny when the first Ashly I guess they added, it said San Diego.

Ashly: Oh, yeah.

Aminatou: I was like maybe she's from San Diego?

Ashly: I am from San Diego.

Aminatou: I had no idea.

Ashly: Yeah, I'm from San Diego and my name used to have an E in it so you know all my secrets.

Aminatou: Yeah, it's like there was the E in the name and there was the thing. But then I figured maybe the Y and the E are interchangeable because you're trying to make it hard for people to find you on Facebook or something.

Ashly: Oh, actually it was a stage name thing. My mom got me this book that was a Barbra Streisand biography because I'm in love with Barbra Streisand and I always wondered why she spelled her name the way she did. There was just this whole little blurb about how she took the second A out of her name because it was such a common name and she wanted to have a stage name that made her feel like she knows who the real Barbra Streisand is but Barbra without an A is like her stage presence. And that was right around when I was starting to get a lot of Internet attention and it was starting to freak me out. And I was like "I'm going to take the E out of my name," and I told my friends at Elle.

Aminatou: [Laughs] That's amazing. I love that.

Ashly: They were like "That's stupid!" And I was like "You guys, I'm going to sit on it for a while." And then when I changed my Twitter it was really serious, and then I changed all my social media.

Aminatou: Oh man.

Ashly: So now there's a whole bunch of people who have no idea why my name is the way it is, but now you all know.

Aminatou: That's amazing. Well I'm so excited. You know, also on the Barbra Streisand tip, I was going to say have you seen our mutual love Jenna Weiss-Berman's Barbra tattoo?

Ashly: Yes, she showed it to me. When Jenna and I started becoming friends she showed me that tattoo and I was like "I will never leave your side if you ever need me for anything."

Aminatou: I, listen -- yeah, the first night that I met her I saw that and I lost my mind a little bit and I was like I must be friends with this woman.


Ashly: God, Barbra to me embodies . . . I never really understood the idea of making media that made someone feel fully understood, and then I got the Barbra Streisand box set when I was like 17 and I watched Funny Girl and I have never felt so completely understood and it made me want to make things. Barbra is the reason I am who I am today.

Aminatou: That's amazing. Well, you know, here's the thing: you make some of my favorite things, a.k.a. video products, but also the things that I'm the most scared of. Like there is not enough money in the world to make me make a video on YouTube. There's not. It's like between my anxiety and just every . . . it's like I'm just now coming around to FaceTime.

Ashly: Oh my god.

Aminatou: It's like this is not a thing that I can do. And so for me it's like when I watch you on video the first thing I always think is "Oh my god, she's so brave!" which is a dumb lady thing to say, you know? But at the same time, yeah, it's like you're super-creative and you're super-funny and you're so out there and I'm like this is incredible. And it's so far removed from what I would ever do.

Ashly: That's so funny because to me, you know, hearing your podcast and listening to it it seems like the same thing of ladies being out there making things. I started this hashtag #ladiesmakingthings just because I love any women who endeavors to make anything.

Aminatou: Yes! The best.

Ashly: Right? Oh, god, I want it to catch on so bad. But my favorite thing . . . it's funny that you say "Oh, that's so brave," because a lot of people will refer to me just in comments or when they tweet at me which I see obviously, they're like "Oh, Ashly's so confident. I want to be that confident." And to me I'm like what about me registers that I'm confident? But I guess it's just the fact that I'm out there. [Laughs]


Aminatou: You are, you know? But in this very cheesy way -- I love that I'm going to just be the stand-in for the cheesy mom character -- in this just very cheesy way I think that even in 2015 there is something just so radical about seeing women onscreen, you know? And just all types of women. You know, that's one of my biggest fears. I was never a performer. Like I think I was in one play in high school and two plays in elementary school. I was never a performer. That's so far beyond my personality and what I like to do. When I just see people who are unabashedly themselves, I'm like man, I'm sure you can tell it is blowing my mind.

Ashly: [Laughs] I love that. I love also -- there's this phenomena that happens of just when cool ladies talk to each other, it's like the first ten minutes have to be like "You're the best!" "No, you're the best."

Aminatou: No, you're the best. You're the best. But real talk, you are. [Laughs]

Ashly: Stop. It's also weird. We should note this is the first time we've ever talked in person.

Aminatou: That's not true. I talked to you at the BuzzFeed office. Oh no, you're right. Oh my god, you're right.

Ashly: Uh-uh. I wasn't there.

Aminatou: We like completely missed each other.

Ashly: See? This is what I'm saying. But it's one of those things . . .

Aminatou: I know. But we online talk so much I felt like I had talked to you before.

Ashly: We've got that Taylor connection, some sweet Taylor Swift love.

Aminatou: I know. Let's rewind for everyone. Really the way that we know each other is because of the obsession with Taylor Swift.

Ashly: Like the DMs. There's always the initial thing when you become Internet friends with someone, you're like what are we going to talk -- what gets you to the point of needing to DM someone? And ours was 100% talking about Taylor Swift.

Aminatou: I was like 100% talking about Taylor Swift. And the thing is I'm usually such a weirdo about just talking to people and stuff that I don't know, but yeah, you get me started on Taylor Swift and I'm like I'll be over with a bottle of wine in ten minutes. What's going on? It's like when we do our own fashion show, it's like the women Taylor has brought together.

Ashly: Oh, that's so good. I had -- this was the year . . . I don't really do resolutions but last year I wrote in my journal "Be friends with Taylor Swift" which is insane.

Aminatou: [Laughs]


Ashly: This is the first year I got acknowledged by Taylor Swift. I got two favs and it was mind-blowing to me. And it's so funny because I'll fav people's tweets and then they're like "Holy crap, you acknowledged my existence." And I'm like yeah, it's not that weird. It weirds me out when people do it to me, then Taylor did it to me and I spent four days in a daze.

Aminatou: It's the thing where . . . and I'm sure maybe people who are your fans feel like this because I have met some rabid fans of yours.

Ashly: Really?

Aminatou: Is they just concoct this whole story about who you are and then, you know, they'll see you at Ralph's and they're like "Oh, she's a normal human being."

Ashly: Yeah, it's a very weird line when people . . . the funny thing to me is people think that I don't read my comments or the YouTube comments or anything but I read almost all of it. And the way people talk about me is funny. It's just like "Oh my god, I had a dream we were best friends and we were just doing these normal best friend things. I feel like I know you."

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Ashly: Just really funny comments. But on social media in general I'm not trying to make my life look super-cool so I do feel like to some degree if you follow me on enough platforms you kind of know who I am. Like you know about my angsty night tweeting.

Aminatou: I mean, you know? Like yes and no, right? It's like I think you sit at this really incredible just nexus of, I don't know, Internet-famous people who you're a very normal person but let's be real, more people see some of your videos than some of these Hollywood movies. Real talk. Like numbers-wise, which is really nuts, right? When you think about it.

Ashly: Yeah.

Aminatou: But also makes me so insanely happy.

Ashly: Welcome to the fold.

Aminatou: Yes, like the way that we are doing entertainment is changing.

Ashly: It's just cool that it's not . . . my favorite thing about that is I know it's just me and my friends making stuff that we want to see and there's no agenda, so people will be like "It's so cool because the main characters are Ashly and Quinta. They're people of colors. There's queer ladies and this and that." It's like that's just how we live our lives. Of course we would be the main characters of our own thing. It's not like a weird network thing of "Oh, I think diversity is in. We should cast diversity."


Aminatou: [Laughs] Right? Yeah, so I do not know Quinta but I think she was in San Francisco for some Google -- like Google I/O or something.

Ashly: Yes.

Aminatou: Or maybe it was the Apple conference? Unclear.

Ashly: Apple. She was there for Apple.

Aminatou: There was some girl that I worked with that saw her at a tech conference and came back fully dead. [Laughs] And it was the most beautiful thing in the world, you know? Because it's like oh, yeah, all these famous people were there and for her she was like no, this girl from YouTube that I love . . .

Ashly: [Laughs] Quinta was there.

Aminatou: And she wouldn't shut up about it. And it's like for all the other people in the room that didn't watch YouTube, she was showing off these videos and she was going over . . . and I'm like this is such a thing and I love it so much.

Ashly: It really is. And the funny thing is a lot of times those worlds tend to be separate so people who are super into TV aren't necessarily super into YouTube so they don't cross very often. Like people who are into YouTube tend to like a bunch of different YouTubers and a bunch of different online media, but it is kind of fun to belong to this pocket of things that people feel like they're super fans. It's like when you find new music in high school. People feel like "Oh, I know who you are."

Aminatou: I know, but the scale of it is just really incredible. Well I guess, you know, let's rewind a little. Tell me how you got started making videos online.

Ashly: Oh yeah, I mean, so I've been at BuzzFeed for almost three years now and I started just as an editorial fellow, kind of so happy to be doing anything. When I graduated I worked at my dad's dental office and hated it and I was so sick of it that I just moved to South Korea to be an English teacher to have any other job.

Aminatou: What? You were an English teacher in South Korea?

Ashly: Yeah.


Aminatou: So many of my friends have done that and it's incredible.

Ashly: It's just great because they pay for your housing. They pay for all of your stuff. You get to travel.

Aminatou: Right. Everybody always comes back debt-free. They're like "Yeah, my whole life's paid for."

Ashly: It's freaking crazy. But I did that, and while I was doing that I had three hours every day where I wasn't doing anything because I was done with classes and so I started writing and that's what got me the job at BuzzFeed. I started blogging and then I found out BuzzFeed had a community thing. And so when I was done with my time in Korea I had literally a week left and I got a job at BuzzFeed. So I went home to California for a week and then I moved to New York. 

Yeah, I guess the path from there, I was a writer in New York for like a year then they asked me to move back to L.A. because that's where I'm originally from and we were kind of starting this office and I was the travel editor at that time. I had started the travel vertical. And when I moved here they had just started doing video for BuzzFeed when we were all in the same office and they would just need people to be in shots for a second or two. And mainly because I was loud was the main . . .

Aminatou: [Laughs] God bless the loud ladies.

Ashly: Yeah, they're like you seem jovial. Want to be in a shot?

Aminatou: That girl projects.

Ashly: Exactly, like we could use her voice. She doesn't even need a microphone. We did this one weird gameshow thing that someone dropped out of and I was one of the people then the president of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, Dave Frank, thought I was funny and made people make videos with me. So very roundabout I've been at video for about a year-and-a-half and it was kind of just through an odd path at BuzzFeed which is crazy. The second I got here I was like I want to make stuff for women about women then they kind of graciously let us start our own channel which was a big bet. And now Violet's just a really big thing. We're on season two of You Do You now, or we're starting to do that.

Aminatou: Yeah, that's cool. So what's the premise of You Do You?


Ashly: Oh yeah, so for people who don't know, BuzzFeed has four channels on YouTube, Blue, Red, Yellow, and Violet. And Violet is our character universe and that's where you can find all of my stuff. It started really slowly. It took about a year to build enough of these little, relatable videos to kind of have characters to go off of and then we just thought it would be fun to do a production test of can we make a bigger series? So it's a 12-episode or 12 mini episode series that the total is like 46 minutes and by the time we had it we were like oh, we should just release this for people to binge watch. So it's the first thing that BuzzFeed ever sold on iTunes and we bet the Kardashians for five days which is nuts.

Aminatou: Holy crap.

Ashly: Yeah, it was like that was crazy to me to have a cultural standpoint of whoa, we just made this thing and can put it on the Internet and it can go exactly to the audience that wants it. But the basic premise, it's based around four girls and we're all friends and we hang out. You Do You is kind of . . . that one, the first season, is all of us facing our biggest fears. My character comes out kind of in a roundabout way in that and we're all kind of facing our biggest fears. Quinta goes to a wedding. We all go to a wedding. It's just a romp. It's been really fun to do. There are so many classic male comedies we can just remake because there are no women that get to do that stuff and BuzzFeed like wants us to.

Aminatou: That's simultaneously amazing and depressing at the same time. [Laughs]

Ashly: I know, right?

Aminatou: I'm like maybe that's what my production company will be is just remaking dude comedies for women.

Ashly: Yeah, right? It actually is so . . . this next one is going to be more like Superbad. It's a lot more outrageous and super funny and just bigger. And so I'm really excited. We didn't know what the first one was going to be and the response was so stellar that we were like oh, we can make more of these. And BuzzFeed, it's a crazy place. They just give a bunch of 20-somethings full creative control and ask us what we want to make and so we just make shit all the time.


Aminatou: Right. It's crazy what happens when you get competent people in a room and just trust them.

Ashly: Yeah, and the things that people assume about my job have been interesting, like "Oh, so they told you to make a women's channel or whatever?" I'm like no, it's not even supposed to be a women's channel. It's just like this is my perspective on the world and BuzzFeed gave me a platform to do it and it's cool that they recognized that there is a point where it means business and it's beneficial for all parties but really they're just interested in letting us make content that speaks to us.

[Music and Ads]


Aminatou: You know, one thing that I really loved about the first season is just this really sweet exploration of queerness on the show and so many of the women on the channel I guess are women of color. And that's something that doesn't get focused on a lot. You know, in my experience I find that a lot of . . . when I encounter a lot of people who are your fans, those are the things that they glom on really quickly, right? It's like "Ashly's Filipino and Cuban and Korean and she's queer and she's awesome." Also it's sad that it's so underrepresented in media. So do you sometimes feel pressure because people just project so much of their own identity onto you? You know, like want to talk more honestly about things that are personal?

Ashly: Yeah, it is that classic like I think this happens to female creators more than anyone else where you get put in this position, like Lena is the perfect example of this. She makes a show called Girls and immediately everyone feels like they need to be represented.

Aminatou: Yeah.

Ashly: Completely equally by this one female creator who is just trying to get her perspective out there. And so for me, I mean there was even a choice we had to make of You Do You and I have always been queer but I came out like two years ago to my friends. And then it was a weird thing where it was like okay, this isn't part of my character, but it's so underrepresented that I want it to be. However I didn't want to do a coming out thing. I think queer people are so sick of seeing themselves be represented as sad and angsty. There's so much . . .

Aminatou: [Laughs]


Ashly: There's so much after that, you know? The dating part is really just as awkward and funny. So You Do You, we wrote it with Brittney Ashley, she wrote the whole first season, and we talked a lot about the coming out. It was like I don't want to come out to everybody and have this big thing. I kind of just want it to be that I have a new crush and everybody kind of accepts it. And there's a moment where Quinta and I are talking and I'm like "I have a crush on this girl named Madison and I'm worried if she likes me back," which is my way of coming out to her, and she's like "We know." I was like "How do you know? What?" Then it just moves on to us talking about the actual date which is really cool.

Aminatou: Yes.

Ashly: But yeah, it can be a little bit hard to feel the pressure of having to represent people but I think the biggest thing that we've tried to with Violet is just be really . . . each character, it's confusing because we have the same first names, and to some degree we're playing ourselves. But I would say at this point it's about anywhere between 60 and 70 percent us, and there's a good chunk, like 30 percent has nothing to do with the real versions of ourselves.

But to that degree we've also just tried to stay true to things that seem honest to us, and so it doesn't feel like an enormous pressure to be like okay, now I have to talk about being Asian or I have to talk about being black or I have to talk about being queer. It's really just what is our lives and how does that . . . you know, there's a multifacetedness to it. So I don't think . . . it should be hard to figure out which one of us you really relate to because we're all multifaceted, you know?

Aminatou: Oh my god. It's like please now explain to everyone. You're like this is just a character! It's not me!

Ashly: Yeah, it is not me. I think the cool thing . . . so there was this really sweet moment that we had at Big Con (?) where I think we kind of realized that we were on the right track where there was this group of girls . . . there were four girls and we were all walking around too and they stopped us to take a picture and there was an Asian girl and a black girl and a white girl. It was like running into versions of ourselves. And Eugene was there with us, who is part of the Try Guys, and was like "Which one of you was the Quinta of the group?"

Aminatou: [Laughs]


Ashly: Quinta had this moment where we both kind of wrongly expected it would be this black girl who was like "I'm the Quinta!" and it was the Asian girl who was like "Oh, I'm for sure the Quinta." And the black girl was like "I'm the Ashly." And it was so beautiful to see that race had nothing to do with them relating to us which is normally the case of "I guess I'll be the black girl of this group," you know?

Aminatou: Yeah, which, you know, which is fair when you think about how people classify themselves in the Sex and the City universe.

Ashly: Exactly.

Aminatou: For a long time we had to be people who were not our race so we have a ton of practice with that.

Ashly: Yeah, and the funny thing is I've been watching Sex and the City again and they really are . . .

Aminatou: Me too!

Ashly: Oh god, it's so good. I had never watched it before and so watching it . . .

Aminatou: Oh my god, we're in the same boat. I had never seen it before save a couple episodes and so I started rewatching it from the beginning.

Ashly: Yes, what season are you on?

Aminatou: I am on the last season.

Ashly: Me too! No, I'm on five. I'm one behind you. But it's been really informative. I'm kind of glad I didn't watch it until I was an adult.

Aminatou: Oh, I think it's an awful TV show. It's like I'm judging all of my friends. I'm like are you guys serious? This is the thing you would all ditch me to watch? Are you kidding me?

Ashly: [Laughs]

Aminatou: Yeah, no, it's so crazy. And yeah, my number one troll is I tell everyone that Charlotte's my favorite. But the reason she's my favorite is I think that of all the characters she's the one that went through the most personal growth and still stuck to who she was, you know? Whereas in the Sex and the City universe people are like "Oh, she's the stuck-up one. She's the blah, blah, blah." And I'm like no, she's the only real G on the show. All these other people are crazy.

Ashly: The thing that's weird about Sex and the City and even being able to see media ten years out and being like "Oh, they've changed so much," is they're complete stereotypes of themselves. They do not change out of their boundaries. They assign who Carrie is, who Miranda is, who Samantha is, and Charlotte, and it's like they don't even really allow the characters to kind of change that much within themselves. I think you're right that I would argue that Charlotte changes the most. But that's the thing we didn't want to do where when we were making this show on Violet and figuring it out it's like okay, we have to insert some of our real selves in there because both Quinta and Sarah like comics and it's not that only one of them can be into comics. And all of us are awkward at some point. It's not like one of us has to be the awkward one, you know?


Because think about your friends. The reason you're friends is because you all have some shit in common in the middle. And that's the thing that's hard for me about Sex and the City is I keep being like how the fuck did they become friends?

Aminatou: Right? Like how are they friends? Well, you know one thing too about it that is maybe the most depressing part is thinking that show, in its time, was really progressive right?

Ashly: Oh yeah.

Aminatou: And just thinking of where the culture was at that point and was like this is the best we could do. It's like we have the gift of hindsight and just more time. Yeah. It's like every year I'm just like god, I was born too early. If I was just born ten years later . . . everything was awful. But it's like when I think about Sex and the City I'm just like yeah, for that time, Carrie is our first anti-heroine. She's just this really kind of mind-blowing character for the culture, and it's like fast-forward ten years later and I'm like this is trash.

Ashly: Yeah. It is crazy to think about that. It's funny that you say that, that you feel like you were born too early.

Aminatou: Yeah, peaked too soon, man. Too soon.

Ashly: [Laughs] I feel like we are in this new generation though where right now is the prime of women kind of, because we experienced the beginning part where we're like this doesn't feel quite right either. I felt my whole life a desire to change it and I didn't know how I was going to get there but I do feel really blessed to just be in this position right now where it's like oh, because I felt some degree disenfranchised or not represented in the media I have somehow ended up in a position where I make media. You know, it sucks to be in the middle of the battle of media which it really is. The more I'm in it the more I'm like god damn it, it's so hard to see myself anywhere. And so I just finally had to fucking play myself. [Laughs]


Aminatou: I know. But it's like think about even five years earlier, you couldn't have done that, you know? In just this . . . 

Ashly: No, no . . .

Aminatou: Yeah. It's like for me I'll watch period dramas or even like Mad Men or whatever and I feel zero nostalgia towards it. I'm like literally only white people can go in the time machine. This is just not for us.

Ashly: Yeah. I would only want to travel into the future.

Aminatou: Like every year I'm just like ugh, I can't believe I was born in 1985. I wish I was born in 2005. It's like every day it gets better.

Ashly: I think about the fact that there are just a bunch of queer teens on Tumblr who just are on Tumblr and queer and awesome and cool and all the angst I went through in my childhood of just being like oh, no, I don't . . .

Aminatou: No, right? I think about that all the time. I'm like man, if I had had the Internet growing up, the sky's the limit. I don't even know.

Ashly: Yeah.

Aminatou: It's like I see all these babies discussing their sexualities on Tumblr and they're so open and they're so earnest and I'm like god, you don't even know how blessed you are.

Ashly: Yeah, god, the fact that Rookie exists. I listened to the Tavi interview a couple weeks ago and I realized I'd never gotten a Rookie Yearbook.

Aminatou: Oh my god, mistake.

Ashly: And I fucking go and I . . . as a 26-year-old woman, I was like oh, thank god for this. What is this? It's so beautiful and so thick.

Aminatou: That's how I feel. I'm like I'm 30 and I get more out of the Rookie Yearbook every year than anything else in my life. It's crazy.

Ashly: Yeah, it's just so wise and not jaded. Everybody I think is genuinely trying to be a better version of themselves, or at least most of the women I encounter and surround myself with are just trying to be better. This is probably the Oprah effect of all of our moms watching Oprah and trying to be better.

Aminatou: Seriously.


Ashly: To which point I have watched those Oprah commercials and just am so inspired and I'm like yeah, I want 2016 to be my best body too Oprah.

Aminatou: Yeah, right? I'm just watching this. I have no respect for Weight Watchers then I sobbed and Googled it. There's nothing Oprah won't make me join. Like nothing.

Ashly: My actual -- people ask me "What do you want from your career?" or whatever. That classic Beyonc Pretty Hurts, "What's your aspiration in life?"

Aminatou: Oh, Oprah interview for me. 100%.

Ashly: Yep, exactly.

Aminatou: It's the number one thing on my bucket list. It's like when she cancelled her show I'm like how will she interview me? I'm not there in my career yet.

Ashly: Exactly. I'm just I want to get to the point in whatever I'm doing Oprah feels the need to be like "Let's get Ashly here to . . ."

Aminatou: Everything I do, I do for Oprah. I'm just like I want to make her proud. I went to her crazy show during the summer. It was like going to church. It was so  . . . honestly, yeah, it's like I went to . . . my family is Muslim, I grew up Muslim, but I went to a Christian boarding school.

Ashly: Oh.

Aminatou: And dabbled in going to big churches afterwards. And honestly this thing was like being at a Christian conference except Oprah Winfrey and it was insane.

Ashly: Oh my god! I would like . . . oh, I can't even get into Oprah. There's one of these things, I've been going through this phase of the whole kill your idols thing where I do feel like my admiration for people is changing. It's not just idolizing people but more like thinking about their choices and their career and that kind of thing which feels good. However Oprah is 100% exempt from that.

Aminatou: Are you kidding? 100. I mean I feel the same way. I have very few heroes but Oprah is untouchable in my universe for me.

Ashly: Yep. Reading the Shonda book and her talking about how she remembers nothing from her Oprah interview just made me feel better. I was like oh, thank god, even Shonda can't remember . . .

Aminatou: Oh my god, yeah, even Shonda is in awe of Oprah. I mean can you imagine? I was in the same amphitheater as that woman and I thought I was going to combust so if I'm ever blessed enough to be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey which everything I do is for that I will probably die promptly the next day.


Ashly: You will get there. I firmly believe that. And I don't say that to everyone about Oprah, but there are people in my life who I feel like Oprah will know about you. One time I was drunk and one of my friends . . .

Aminatou: Oh my god, that's the highest compliment from you.

Ashly: Right? Oh, she will know about you. But one time someone was like "Oprah doesn't care about you," as a joke and I started crying.

Aminatou: [Sighs]

Ashly: And I was like "Oprah cares about me!"

Aminatou: "Oprah cares about me! She just doesn't know me yet."

Ashly: It took like two weeks for my friend and I to get back to the point where we were okay because I was like why would you say that to me? [Laughs]

Aminatou: Yeah, that's a very hurtful thing. Why would you say that?

Ashly: It's like I know Oprah doesn't know who I am but objectively Oprah does things for people like me because she cares about the world so shut up. [Laughs]

Aminatou: Oprah cares so much, because listen, her career is legendary as fuck. She retired from her big show. She's doing more things. Like she's not going away; she's still here.

Ashly: Thank god. Sometimes I think about how happy I am to be alive in the age of Beyonc and Oprah. Like truly I'm like thank you Jesus for letting me see this.

Aminatou: [Laughs] You're like it's the small mercies.

Ashly: When I was in the 13th row of the Beyonc/Jay-Z concert I was like wow, my life is so good right now.

Aminatou: Oh my god, I went to see Beyonc in the Mrs. Carter tour, like VIP.

Ashly: Ugh.

Aminatou: And this is the first time this has ever happened in my life: I burst into tears as she started singing and I surprised myself.

Ashly: [Laughs]

Aminatou: Because I . . . listen, I have four good cries a year. Like I'm just not that kind of person.

Ashly: Oh, god.

Aminatou: I'm not like a super fan of anything. I just like . . . Beyonc opened her mouth and tears just flew out of my face and I was like this is how they get you.

Ashly: Oh my god, what a great time. The fact that we're just Skyping, like chatting . . . hi, Internet. I forget the Internet is listening to this.

Aminatou: The Internet is listening. So many people listen to this because people love to eavesdrop on people's conversations.

Ashly: Yes.

Aminatou: So hello Internet.


Ashly: Wait, what would you say to the Internet right now? What's the one thing that you needed to hear in this last like month?

Aminatou: Oh, man, that is so Oprah profound. It's like . . .

Ashly: I know. It was.

Aminatou: Taking me a minute. You know, I just needed someone to tell me that things are really hard. Not everybody has a super-charmed life. But with enough time shit just gets better. It's very cheesy but it's actually true.

Ashly: That's a great thing to learn. What have I learned in the last month? I think the thing I've learned is I'm starting to represent myself more.

Aminatou: Hmm.

Ashly: Of just hey, people shouldn't . . . I shouldn't allow people to treat me poorly. And it's not that people are being outwardly shitty but I think the older you get the more you just learn that hey, you're pretty cool. You're worthy of being treated nicely and you deserve that. And that's something that is hard for women to learn that you don't deserve to be walked on.

Aminatou: Oh man, that's like very . . . that's like good.

Ashly: Yeah. It's been crazy learning to like yourself. I love . . . do you read Nayyirah Waheed, the poet?

Aminatou: Yes.

Ashly: Oh my god, she's so good and I found her . . . I was at a women in film event and [0:35:11] was giving this speech and then she quoted this Nayyirah Waheed poem where it's like I love myself. The quietest, simplest, most powerful revolution ever.

Aminatou: That's awesome.

Ashly: Young girls, whoever's listening to this . . .

Aminatou: Young girls. [Laughs]

Ashly: Internet people, just love yourself. What a crazy idea. If you love yourself then literally who could stop you?

Aminatou: Look at you. We are so going to be on Oprah soon. We're just laying the foundation.

Ashly: I hope we come up into the Oprah time at the same time, you know?

Aminatou: I mean, listen, if I'm ever within earshot of Oprah I will tell her we're a two-for-one deal.

Ashly: [Laughs]


Aminatou: So you're watching Sex and the City. What else are you watching on TV that you love?

Ashly: Game of Thrones and Jane the Virgin are the only things I watch weekly anymore. Like I don't watch anything else on a weekly basis. I binge everything.

Aminatou: I watch Law and Order SVU on a weekly basis.

Ashly: Ooh.

Aminatou: I'm like rain, shine, snow. Wednesdays, you cannot fuck with me.

Ashly: That's my dad and Survivor for as long as I remember my dad being alive and Survivor being alive. It's like on Thursday nights you are literally not allowed to talk to him.

Aminatou: That's so funny.

Ashly: He just won't say anything to you.

Aminatou: No, no, that's like me and the whole Dick Wolf universe. I'm like I'm sorry, it's Wednesday night. I don't have time. I've got to go home. Yeah, I don't know. But then there's like -- you know, there's things like being blessed with cable and a DVR so . . .

Ashly: I don't have cable in my life which is . . .

Aminatou: I have cable for the first time in my life in a long time, and you know the thing about it that's crazy is it's like even when I'm watching Law and Order I'll start it 15 minutes late so I can fast-forward through all the ads.

Ashly: Oh, that's so smart. It's so smart.

Aminatou: Yeah, it gives me so much anxiety. I'm like I have adblockers on my computer. I hate television ads. If I could find a way to mute radio ads I would. I just don't . . .

Ashly: [Laughs] I mean that's why a podcast, it's like okay, I podcast and I have Spotify Premium and I have Hulu Plus. I don't like ads either. I think it ruins the experience That's honestly why we released our series the way we did too. I was like I like binge watching shit. Can we release it in a way that people can just binge it? Like pay the money then buy it and watch it on your . . .

Aminatou: I know, but do you feel sometimes though that as a creator . . . like I love binging things. I wish that all TV was released as like -- they're like "Here's ten seasons of The Fall." God bless, take all my money. I will pay for it. But do you find . . . because last year I remember at Sundance I was at this panel where Jenji Kohan who is so rad, who is the creator of Orange is the New Black, was talking about her frustration with the binge watch watchers and how it just basically creates a bad habit and people don't engage in the material at the same time.

Ashly: Yeah.

Aminatou: There's not that continuity. And I was like I hadn't thought about that because I enjoy watching all of this at the same time.


Ashly: Yeah, I understand that as a creator and I think specifically for people who were born pre-digital that must be a hard thing to reconcile. But now I make content for the binge and for both ways. So we release You Do You, it's still coming out on YouTube so you can watch it for free, and we released it all at once in one chunk. So it's kind of like you are allowed to watch it the way you want. I am starting to test more . . . I'm really fascinated about the tune-in effect in a digital era, so we're actively thinking about ways to test that more and see if it's even possible. Because it is fun to engage in something and be like "Oh, wait, did everybody . . ." I feel like the last cultural remnants of that is like The Bachelor where everybody is like what's going to happen?

Aminatou: But that's also how all of black Twitter engages, right? Like Love and Basketball is on and literally we all get a text message and we're like bye.

Ashly: That is so . . .

Aminatou: Like across the land tasks are dropped and we just all go home. But I find that's a thing a lot of minorities do, you know, and maybe it's specific to black Twitter, but I feel like we watch a lot of things together because of social media. It's like even award shows that I would usually never watch, I watch them because I like the communal effect of them.

Ashly: Yeah, oh my god. That's when I bust my tweet deck out. Yeah, I think as a creator it's a difficult problem but I don't see it as . . . you know, I just want people to watch these things and I don't really care how they get it as long as the story is interesting. It creates a slight problem when you're trying to figure out for multiple platforms how do we make it engaging on YouTube and as a whole chunk? Because they do function kind of differently. But I think in general the nice thing is when people want content I'm just happy that people want to see more of it. So I try to listen to those things but in general I like to binge content so I kind of have made a choice to make most of our stuff in that way bingeable.


Aminatou: God bless. Ashly, I could talk to you forever and ever and ever and ever, and I'm so sad. But I want to ask you one last very super earnest question.

Ashly: Here we go.

Aminatou: If you could go back to teenager Ashly and tell her about Ashly today, what would you say?

Ashly: Oh, god. Okay, this is great. Let me open my earnest heart. What would I say to teenager Ashly? What was I most afraid of? Oh, you know what it is? I used to be so afraid that my life would be really small and that I wouldn't have any experiences. I would actively cry at the dinner table with my dad, who both my parents are immigrants and they had this big life full of stories, and I just didn't feel like my life was going to be big at all. And I think I would tell young Ashly that there are moments in your life that you can't even imagine that are coming and you don't want to know how they come either. And I'm telling current Ashly that too of like I can't even imagine what my life's going to be and it's really cool that if you are kind of earnest and you actively want these things the universe has this way of conspiring in your favor which is from The Alchemist but . . .

Aminatou: Yeah, trust. It's like people make fun of The Alchemist a lot but I'm like actually my dad gave me this to read in the seventh grade and it forever will be one of my books.

Ashly: Yeah, it's one of Malala's favorite books, and if Malala . . .

Aminatou: If it's good enough for Malala it's good enough for me.

Ashly: She has a Nobel Pease Prize so I ain't trying to fuck around. [Laughs]

Aminatou: Oh my god, Ashly, I can't wait to run into you backstage at the Harpo Studios.

Ashly: Oh, yes.

Aminatou: You know, and Oprah say "Do you guys know each other?" And we just like wink at each other. Can't wait.

Ashly: Can't wait. Thank you so much for having me. Say hi to Ann and the whole Call Your Girlfriend team. This was awesome and hopefully we'll see each other soon.

Aminatou: Yes, you are the best. Thank you so much.

Ashly: See you on the Internet.

Aminatou: See you on the Internet.

Ashly: Bye.

[Interview Ends]


Ann: Ugh, you can find us so many places on the Internet, like almost one million, on our website, you can download this podcast anywhere you listen to your favorite podcasts, or on iTunes where we would love it if you left us a review. You can tweet at us at @callyrgf or email us at You can also find us on Facebook -- look up the link -- or on Instagram at callyrgf. You might be noticing a pattern. You can even leave us a short and sweet voicemail. That's at 714-681-2943. Again 714-681-CYGF. This podcast is produced by Gina Delvac.