19 Dec DIGITAL PIONEER PANEL: ANNA AKANA
ADA TSENG: YOU END ALL OF YOUR VIDEOS WITH “STAY AWESOME GOTHAM”. I’M WONDERING WHERE THAT CAME FROM?
ANNA AKANA: That came from going bye was super awkward. I should just have like a button that rhymes. I was unhealthily obsessed with batman at the time. I was like, what could rhyme with batman or bat symbol or Gotham or any of those words? So I picked stay awesome Gotham.
TSENG: WHY WERE YOU OBSESSED WITH BATMAN?
AKANA: I just really thought he was handsome and like the ideal version of a man. He was rich, he was broody and he’s Batman. He had really nice muscles. But yeah it wasn’t from like Geek culture. It was purely selfish of like being in love with animated characters.
TSENG: WHEN DID YOU START PERFORMING?
AKANA: I was 19 when I started stand up. My sister committed suicide when I was 17, right around the time when you’re supposed to apply for college. So I kinda didn’t do that. I was in community for I think like one or two semesters and just hated it. I was watching a comedy central mashup special that had like Margaret Trow and Gabriel. All these cool comedians. I think I laughed for the first time in like two years. I was like, I could do that. So I started writing in a notebook for like a month and one of my friends had a show in a bar and was like, do you want eight minutes? I was like, yeah, I’m there. If you’ve never done stand up, eight minutes is a long time to be on stage. Three minutes is an embarrassingly long time to be on stage. So like three minutes max. I started that and I really fell in love with it and kept going.
TSENG: WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT YOUR FIRST STAND UP ROUTINE?
AKANA: My first stand up routine was great. It was like this, all my Asian friends came, they laughed at my horrible jokes about like Godzilla dick and like masturbation. My parents were there so it was, it was really great experience. From there I got really anxious and I actually stopped doing standup like three years ago because the anxiety of performing got too terrible. So I turned to Youtube. Now I’m like, oh, I should confront this fear. So I’m getting back into it.
TSENG: I READ AN INTERVIEW WHERE YOU SAID YOUR PARENTS WE’RE NOT SURE WHAT TO THINK ABOUT YOUR STANDUP AT FIRST WHEN THEY SAW YOU THEY SORT OF UNDERSTOOD. WAS IT BECAUSE OF THE GODZILLA?
AKANA: No, it wasn’t the Godzilla dick joke. They weren’t like, that’s the joke that makes us on board. I think it was because especially with the death of my sister, they were so concerned about me and my brother. How that was going to affect us for the future. Finally seeing me on stage and seeing how much I loved performing. Them seeing how happy it made me, made them kind of like get on board. They’d be like oh yeah, this is what you’re meant to do. I was also a really dramatic kid. So I think there were like, oh acting, it makes sense now.
TSENG: PART OF THE REASON YOU WERE INSPIRED TO ACTUALLY PURSUE PERFORMING WAS BECAUSE OF YOUR SISTER. DID THAT AFFECT YOU GOING FROM STAND UP TO ACTING AS WELL?
AKANA: I’d always wanted to be an actor since I was like five and I did the little red hen play with like sock puppets. I was like, I was born for this baby. I was too afraid and I was incredibly shy growing up. Like I couldn’t ask store clerks where the bathroom was. I would’ve whispered to my sister, like please ask that man where the bathroom is. It was really debilitating. When she died it was kind of like, oh fuck. I’m 19 years old and I’ve always wanted to do this one thing, but I’m too afraid to do it because of how people will judge me or what my parents will think or how my family will accept me. Her death kind of made me realize like, you know, we don’t really know what happens after this. So I might as well spend what time I do have pursuing what makes me happy.
TSENG: GOING BACK FROM STAND UP TO YOUTUBE, DID YOU START WITH THE TEN-SECOND TRAUMAS?
AKANA: Youtube was great because at the time you could do a bunch of live shows for like three people in a bar and with Youtube, even if you only got like a couple of hundred views, it was like that’s astonishing. I mean, if I had to ballpark guess it, there’s like maybe 200 people here and it’s so much more overwhelming then when you see hundreds of thousands of views on Youtube. That doesn’t really affect your life in an immediate way. Like, like being right in front of an audience and being like, Oh, these people are here and they’re thinking about me, they’re looking at me. It’s a completely different mindset. Doing ten second trauma is just doing the web series I was trying to get more eyeballs. There is so much of a limited amount that you can do with live performance even though it’s so much more intimate. I think I kind of just went from live to completely to Youtube to try to reach a bigger audience. I think it was Jim Carrey that like went to movies because he could reach 5 million people instead of 5,000.
TSENG: So when did you decide to start your own channel?
AKANA: My best friend at the time, if you ever go into Hollywood know that you’re probably going to get fucked over a lot. My best friend at the time was kind of crazy about contracts and legalities. Wanted me to sign over my rights of a bunch of stuff and it was just really weird. I was like, I’m your best friend. I’m never going to fuck you over, but this is weird. She was like, no, we’re business partners. You’re not my best friend and I was like okay bye. I have to learn how to clone myself on after effects. Now I like Youtube. Making your own shit. That’s what it was birth from tragedy.
TSENG: I THINK THE FIRST UPLOAD THAT’S ON YOUR SIDE RIGHT NOW IS THE STONER ANNA, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT?
AKANA: I did daily blogs for I think two months cause I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So it was just like my, me and my iPhone, like I’m going to the grocery store, look at me. I realized that’s terrible content and I don’t know who would want to watch that. I saw book of Mormon, which of you who haven’t seen you should totally see it. It was so awesome. So that I was like, I’m going to make a musical and be just like them. So I made one that was kind of about like the part of me that likes to get high and likes relax and be creative versus the disciplinary part of me. That’s like, no, you should work hard and be productive. It was kind of about balancing the two cause I feel like people tend to be either complete slackers or they overwork themselves and you never really find a medium. So that was fun too.
TSENG: I WAS WONDERING IF YOU COULD TALK A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT YOUR PROCESS OF MAKING THE VLOGS. I MEAN THEY’RE SHORT, BUT WHEN YOU LOOK AT THEM, YOU’RE PLAYING ALL THESE DIFFERENT CHARACTERS. EACH CHARACTER HAS THEIR OWN LOOK. IT SEEMS LIKE IT MUST BE A LOT OF WORK. IS IT REALLY YOU IN A ROOM BY YOURSELF?
AKANA: Like, yes, all of that was me in my house by myself. I guess the process for a blog is you always do it like the day before because I’m a terrible procrastinator. What am I going through this week? They’re all terribly personal. Like everything on the Internet is unfortunately true. I kind of think like, oh, what could I say today? That’s the most true for me now. I just kind of go through my journal or whatever and look at it to see what I’m feeling. Also, to see what I’m upset about. My most recent one was like how to deal with losing friends because I lost two of my best friends doing Miss Earth. It was really hard depressing time. I worked through it and then I made a video about it to kind of be like, that’s done now.
TSENG: WAS IT LIKE THE DIFFICULTY OF BALANCING A WORKING RELATIONSHIP AND A FRIENDSHIP?
AKANA: Well, when your friends, with people, friends have different expectations than when they’re working for you. What I’ve learned a lot these past couple of years as being a boss. Unfortunately when you’re a female boss, you are interpreted differently. I’ve had a lot of people call me a bitch or when I’m simply stressed out or, um, call me worst names than that. I can tell when someone’s talking to me that if I were a man you would never say this to me. It was a lot of self entitlement on their part and a lot of disorganization on my part. Unfortunately they weren’t kind of able to see pass that.
TSENG: YOU SORT OF TALK ABOUT BEING A WOMAN BOSS, RIGHT? ONE OF THE THINGS THAT IS TALKED ABOUT IN THE DESCRIPTION FOR THIS EVENT IS THAT, WHEN WE THINK OF ASIAN AMERICAN WOMEN MAKING CONTENT, YOU KNOW, LIKE A COMEDY OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT ON YOUTUBE THERE’S NOT THAT MANY. BUT A GREAT EXAMPLE OF A WOMAN WHO’S IN CHARGE. SHE WAS WRITING HER OWN MATERIAL AND I THINK WE’VE TALKED ABOUT THIS BACKSTAGE. BUT WHY DO YOU THINK THERE’S LESS?
AKANA: Honestly I think culturally we tend to be shyer. I think we tend to be raised by parents who are very practical and want you to go into fields that are like engineering or being a lawyer, being a doctor. I also feel like we don’t have enough people on TV. Like the only one I can think of is maybe like Lucy Lu, Maggie Q, if that’s like it. You don’t see yourself represented a lot. You’re not encouraged to be aggressive and go after what you want. Unfortunately when you do your kind of interpreted as a prudish bitch and nobody wants that. So we were like, okay, I’ll just be nice and make you this Bento box, whatever. It sucks because I know so many talented Asian American women who are just too afraid to go after what they want. Like the number one question I always get is how do I start? It’s like you just start like that’s really it. It’s always the simplest thing. I feel like a lot of us are too afraid to.
TSENG: WAS THAT SOMETHING THAT YOU NEEDED TO SORT OF LEARN AND GROW INTO? OR FROM THE BEGINNING WERE YOU LIKE, I’M JUST GOING TO START, I’M GOING TO GO?
AKANA: No, I was a terrible. It was really my sister’s death that motivated me to do it, which is unfortunate that like something that crazy had to happen for me to really go after what I wanted. I would never ever have had the courage to do stand up unless I felt so empty.
TSENG: So feel empty inside and then you can pursue your dreams.
AKANA: I don’t want anyone to get to that point but sometimes, you know, we’re so wrapped up in ourselves in our own lives and like being judged that it really does take something like death in your immediate family to really realize like, I don’t want to do this forever.
TSENG: YOUR CHANNEL IS PRETTY POPULAR, I WAS WONDERING IF THERE WAS A MOMENT WHERE YOU REALIZE HOW POPULAR IT WAS?
AKANA: I don’t know. I have a lot of conflicting feelings about it because most people would probably know I dated a pretty popular dude on the Internet. My popularity is often put into question because of that. People are like, oh, you only got to where you are because you dated that guy. Granted, he did give me some exposure and he did give me some tips along the way. I like to think it was me that put in all the hard work and it is ultimately my voice. I think it’s been such a long, slow process of getting subscribers that it doesn’t really hit you like, Oh yes, today I’m popular. Like today is the day. Hitting a million was pretty cool. So I’d say then it was like, oh, okay, that’s like a perfect high number. Now I can say I have a million.
TSENG: LET’S TALK ABOUT THE VIDEOS THAT WE JUST SAW. THE FIRST ONE, I THINK THAT’S YOUR MOST POPULAR VIDEO TODAY. CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT INSPIRED IT?
AKANA: I had that video idea for years and I never did it because I was like, this is stupid. Then one week I just couldn’t think of anything cause I think it was having a really happy, nice time in my life. So I was like, I don’t know what to talk about. I have no problems. I like sifted through my ideas and I was like, oh yeah, that beauty satirical thing. Well I guess I’ll do that. So it’s just surprising something that you think isn’t that good, is the most watched thing ever.
TSENG: WAS THAT WEIRD TO YOU THAT YOU KNOW, YOU’RE DOING THESE COMEDY VIDEOS AND LIKE A LOT OF THEM ARE ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS AND SOCIAL ANXIETY. THEN LIKE, EVERYONE STILL WANTS TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR MAKEUP?
AKANA: If I was a 13 year old girl I’d watch. But I never really tried to cater to that cause it always felt kind of sad to me that the number one stuff on youtube is about how to like paint your face, you know? So I just tried to stay away from most of that. If I ever did do it, I wanted to put like a spin on it. No offense to any of the makeup gurus out there because if I were 13 and Youtube was around, I totally would’ve watched every single video out there. Sometimes I still look at like how to get six packs abs.
TSENG: THE SECOND VIDEO IS ONE I PERSONALLY REALLY LIKE. I WAS WONDERING CAN YOU DESCRIBE WHAT INSPIRED THAT?
AKANA: That was a real thing that like happened and I was trying to give the guy every social cue possible. Like I turned completely around like this and was like constantly looking into my book. He just wasn’t getting it. Shame on me for not saying like, I’m reading. It also made me think about, why can’t I say that? Like, why isn’t that okay for me to just be like, you’re bothering me in this coffee shop and I have 30 minutes to read 50 pages. It happened pretty much word for word. That was a fun one because now I still am not able to completely do it. To tell people like go away. But it’s a lesson I’m constantly trying to learn.
AKANA: Well, it’s also like, no offense, but we like the bad guys because the bad guys have shit going on. Like yeah, you’re a nice guy, but that guy seems nice and he can play guitar. You know what I mean? Like I always feel like people who complain about being in the friend zone or like people are never interested me. I even checked me, it’s like, well what do you do? Like you don’t really offer anything. And like that’s why I took up like pole dancing and I like hoop. Because I was like, I have four cats. Like I’m not really datable right now. Like I need to have some pros that outweigh my cons because that’s what it comes down to. You know, every relationship is pro versus con. And when someone’s cons, I weigh their pros and you’re like, I’m not going to be a friend. I’m going to go be a girlfriend. Like a o daughter. It’s, yeah. So it’s like what are you really offering? Like we’re all products and I mean, you better be like a kick ass person if you want people to take you with all your flaws. And all your cons, you know?
TSENG: I MEAN WATCHING YOUR BLOGS WE’VE ALSO SEEN YOU GROW AND ONE OF THE KIND OF TWO PAIRINGS OF VIDEOS IS I LIKE IN THE BEGINNING YOU DID A VIDEO ABOUT LIKE AS A GIRL LIKE GRAPPLING WITH THIS IDEA OF BEING SEXY.
AKANA: I had to do a lot of auditions, especially being an Asian woman where I’m like the prostitute or like the sexy girl, like I had to do sexy hacker today. It’s like I wore this mermaid sparkly top because I was like oh lacquer. I have glasses on and I’m a sexy cause I have on a crop top. But it was really hard for me to do it because I didn’t feel like I was in my body. So I was like this is a problem. Like, I’m never going to be able to play this role unless I can actually feel like I’m a sexy individual. So I took pole dancing classes and it was great. There were grandma’s in that classes who like where like I just had my grand child so I’m trying to feel good. There were like women, a lot of women who recently broken up with a boyfriend and they were like, I needed to feel good.
It was all like a supportive community of women who just really wanted to feel good about themselves and their bodies and pole dancing is hard. If you have ever tried to lift yourself up on a pole, you will know it is hard. Next time you see a pole, try to lift yourself. I swear to God it’s like doing a pull up every time. People are like, oh you’re a stripper. Then it’s like try to do a fucking inversion and see if I’m a stripper then, it’s like is a gymnastics level sport. You bruise constantly. I get really motion sick so I get really dizzy doing it. Like you know, it’s a challenging sport and I think a lot of people don’t realize that because pole dancers make it look so effortless. Anyone who’s trying to feel better about their body, it’s like exercise. Like half of the time I wear crop tops because if I don’t feel like I look good, I’m motivated to exercise. Which in turn gives you like endorphins and fights depression. Therapy and exercise are the number one things that helped me fight depression and make me feel good about myself.
TSENG: TELL ME ABOUT YOUR DEPRESSION? I MEAN YOU HAVE THESE HILARIOUS VIDEOS, BUT YOU ALSO HAVE THESE VIDEOS THAT TALK ABOUT REALLY SERIOUS TOPICS LIKE DEPRESSION AND MENTAL ILLNESS. I THINK ONE OF YOUR EARLY VIDEOS WAS JUST CALLED DEPRESSION. YOU GOT A LOT OF VIEWS ON THAT. CAN YOU SORT OF TALK ABOUT IT?
AKANA: Well I was naturally depressed with like death and I realized I didn’t believe in God. All this crazy stuff when I was like 17, 18. Being in the business especially, it’s depressing because it’s so much about your looks and it’s facing constant rejection. Just kind of like finding yourself is a constant struggle. I’ve been really lucky that through years of therapy I realized what triggers my depression and I’ve also been lucky enough to realize how to fight it. I think that’s the number one thing is self awareness for both of those things. I have a friend who is constantly, constantly depressed, but she doesn’t know why and she doesn’t know what to do to make herself feel better. I feel like the better you know yourself, which can therapy can help tremendously with that, the more you can really combat it and it’d be a healthy person.
TSENG: WELL. YEAH, I THINK THOSE VIDEOS ARE PROBABLY REALLY HELPFUL FOR ESSENTIALLY YOUNG GIRLS WATCHING WHO PROBABLY DON’T GET, YOU KNOW, I MEAN, THEY CAN, YOU KNOW, WATCH A LOT OF VIDEOS ABOUT HOW TO MAKE THEMSELVES PRETTY, BUT YOU KNOW, IF THEY’RE DEPRESSED, YOU KNOW THAT, YOU KNOW, IT’S, I’M SURE IT’S REALLY HELPFUL TO SEE SOMEONE LIKE YOU UP THERE, YOU KNOW, LIKE I’M GOING THROUGH IT TOO AND WE CAN KIND OF GO THROUGH THIS TOGETHER. SO YOU DID THESE BLOGS FOR, WITH A TWO YEAR TO THREE YEARS. AT SOME POINT YOU STARTED MAKING SHORT FILMS. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT TRIGGERED THAT?
AKANA: I was gaining notoriety online to a point where I started being known as the Internet girl and it was starting to impact my acting career. I would go into rooms and casting directors would be like, Oh, you’re the Internet girl, right? You can’t act, you’ve never taken an acting class. Especially stand up for some reason people think people who do standup can’t act. I was like, oh man, I have like 150 videos online of me and my room dancing around doing stupid shit. I have like absolutely nothing that speaks to acting. Unfortunately I directed like most of the short films and my acting suffered quite a bit. But it also helped me discover a love for directing and like kind of remind everyone, like I was an actress first.
TSENG: SO I DON’T KNOW IF YOU GUYS NOTICED, BUT DURING THE CREDITS OF PREGNANT APOCALYPSE, IT LOOKED LIKE WE WERE TORTURING HER. SO WHAT HAPPENED?
AKANA: It’s just embarrassing to watch yourself in front of other people. Especially when you’re dancing and the pregnant.
TSENG: LET’S, OKAY, SO LET’S TALK ABOUT RILEY REWIND. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW THAT CAME ABOUT?
AKANA: Riley is something I actually just kind of wrote for therapy. It’s about saving a classmate from committing suicide. So it was obviously based on that moment in my life when I really wanted to time travel. I really wish I had more time to like work on writing it, but we almost immediately went into production. I think I’d only done like three passes. So now I’m terribly embarrassed cause it’s full of like cliches and archetypes. But it was a learning experience.
TSENG: CAN YOU TALK ABOUT PREGNANT APOCALYPSE?
AKANA: Pregnant Apocalypse. It was from like a nightmare I had, I was just like, aliens are going to come and like fuck us all man. Like I love aliens. I just, I love Richard Matheson and I was reading many Richard Matheson short stories. So of course after I wrote pregnant pocalypse I found out he had written like a similar short stories. I was like dammit. But it was so much fun to film and I actually forgot I was supposed to have a dress that day so that we didn’t have to worry about pants or any of the logistics of giving birth. When I forgot my dress because I was directing and producing, I was like fuck. I was like, who’s the strongest out of us? Kaji can you rip my pants off? So the whole thing was done in like one long take. So we did about four takes where she just like goes to town on that and it was surprisingly comfortable.
TSENG: IT WAS VERY REALISTIC DEPICTION OF PREGNANCY AND LABOR.
AKANA: That’s like the only thing I’ve ever done that I’m really proud of because when I was editing I had to like take breaks because I was laughing so hard. I loved it more than anything because I was like, this is so great.
TSENG: MISS EARTH IS ONE, PROBABLY THE BIGGEST ONE THAT YOU’VE DONE. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT?
AKANA: Oh my God, I Miss Earth. I don’t ever use this euphemism light like, cause it affects me a lot. Like how people are like, Oh I, if I had to sit in traffic one more minute, I’d kill myself or whatever. But I genuinely wanted to die with Miss Earth because it was the most stressful thing. I lost friends over it. I was employing 40 people for like every day that we were on set for like five days. I was producing, directing and acting. So I was doing three full time jobs and a lot of people were upset that I wasn’t as organized or as prepared as I could be. Yet it was like, this is the biggest thing I’ve ever done. They’re obviously going to be hurdles. I’m proud with how it came out because I think Greg Aronowitz who did like the alien makeup and the set design, I think that’s all beautiful and fantastic. I learned so much about myself as a filmmaker and I learned so much about the process because even after that like was all over, I was like, oh, I’ll do it again. You know? So it’s like if anything would murder me, I would hope it would be creating content.
AUDIENCE: WHAT KIND OF MAKEUP ARE YOU WEARING TODAY?
ANNA: I don’t know. Kolel kitten is the one who gave me like a bunch of freebies. So I’ve been milking it there.
AUDIENCE: DID YOU EVER NAME THAT BABY?
AKANA: Oh, that baby. What did we call him? We had like a stupid name for him on set. It was like Wilbur or something. He’s in Greg’s office now living forever.
AUDIENCE: HI, I’M BRIAN. I STARTED MAKING MUSIC VIDEOS AS WELL AND JUST WANTED TO ASK HOW AND WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS?
AKANA: From kind of everywhere, I read a lot. The more you read, the more you’ll be inspired. Don’t try to steal anything per se, but be inspired by it. I love Joe Hill, Stephen King, Richard Matheson and Bryan. For me it’s always science fiction, but whatever you want to excel and try to consume as much as you create.
AUDIENCE: WHAT’S THE GODZILLA DICK JOKE?
AKANA: Are you really going to do this to me right now? The Godzilla dick joke was not even a joke. It was like me talking about how penises were scary and I was like, a penis is like Godzilla. I pretended it was growing and then like on stage I started like screaming.
AUDIENCE: WHAT IS, WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR BIGGEST STRUGGLE AS A WOMAN OF COLOR IN THE INDUSTRY? WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO SEE FOR WOMEN OF COLOR IN THE FUTURE? ALSO, CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT DANIEL RADCLIFFE?
AKANA: I want to make my first answer really long. So you have to wait for the Radcliffe one. I don’t know, being an Asian woman has kind of worked out for me guys. I’d say it’s what you go out for. I’m always going for the geeky whatever or like the sexy whatever. Like whatever the stereotype is what I’m constantly going out for. That does suck because if, unless I’m a white woman, I’m probably not going to go out for lead roles. So that’s partially why I made Riley Rewind cause it was like I want to be a lead. Like why can’t I be a lead and cast myself. I think that has been the biggest struggle with that. You have ambitions to go beyond what you look like, but you also have to pay your dues. So I get that.
Daniel Radcliffe was amazing was amazing. He was so sweet. The moment he came on set, he introduced himself to every single crew member. You know, he has eyebrows out of this world, but he like pulls it off real well. He was a complete gentleman and uses Google plus he will not use anything but Google plus, and Google is not even paying him. He just likes it. I was like, you’re retarded Daniel.
AUDIENCE: I WANTED TO KNOW DO YOU DO YOUR OWN EDITING? IT’S KIND OF A SWIVEL TO DO EDITING ESPECIALLY FOR MISS EARTH BECAUSE IT WAS SUCH A LONG PROJECT. AS A FELLOW FILMMAKER, I’M CURIOUS ABOUT WHAT YOUR DRIVE IS TO MAKE YOUR OWN SHORT FILMS? WHAT WAS THE TRANSITION GOING FROM BLOGS TO SHORT FILMS?
AKANA: I do all my own editing. I edit almost everything. The only things I have not edited were, Here She Is and Miss Earth, I was initially going to edit Miss Earth, but Murphy’s law was in effect with that project. And I reformatted the hard drive. Luckily there was a backup, but it was that moment of like accidentally reformatted it. And you know, like when you do something so stupid that you like fall to your knees, I was like crying. So it was like that. So I was like, I’m hiring an editor. As far as like the drive to do short films, blogs became kind of tiresome. I think quantity within a focus on improvement and quality is like the key to everything. I always give myself crazy deadlines because if you produce so much content, you eventually get tired of it and you want to look to what’s bigger and what’s better. I think it was like a hundred episodes of a bunch of different web series and like 150 blogs. At that point it was like, let’s try to tell a story.
AUDIENCE: HOW DO YOU KEEP YOURSELF SET ON DEADLINES?
AKANA: It’s called an at a glance planner. You can get it from Office Max. If you really tell yourself like, this is what I want to do and I’m going to commit to it, like you know it, you know what I mean? Hold yourself accountable cause that’s the only way you’re gonna improve white boy. I mean, in a good way.
AUDIENCE: CAN YOU DO IT IN A JAPANESE VOICE?
AKANA: Do, what in a Japanese voice? Oh right, answer these questions. You can see that online bro.
AUDIENCE: CAN YOU TALK MORE ABOUT HOW CAT BENATAR STARTED?
AKANA: I ran away from standup. I totally did. I, I cowered it out. It got so anxious ridden that when I knew I had to do a show, I would seriously consider leaving the state. Or I’d be like, I’ll tell them my grandmother died just so I don’t have to do the show. It would be like days before show, but I’d be like, oh my God, what if I’m not funny? I ran away from that for like two, three years and just focused on youtube. Then when I got comfortable with Youtube I realized like, I should do that thing that I ran away from. I still didn’t want to go up by myself. So I was like, I’ll ask my friend Megan to do live music with me so that it’s not so scary. I approached her and I was like, I have like a bunch of songs saying like, would you want to be in a group? And she said yes. It’s been kind of hard cause Megan has like a nine to five job and she’s not as motivated to do it in the way that I because I’m like this really scary. I need to do this right now before I chicken out. It’s been good so far. We’ve had a lot of success with it.
AUDIENCE: YOU MENTIONED BEFORE THAT ASIANS ARE NOT REALLY REPRESENTED IN MEDIA. WHAT ARE YOU DOING AS A ROLE MODEL TO ENCOURAGE ANTICIPATION?
AKANA: I’m not going to really call myself a role model. I try to always have like a diverse cast. I mean, I hate to be like, yes, one black person, one Latino person, I’m the Asian. I always try to get people a roll who not only are the best people for that role is, but if they’re a person of color or like some diverse thing, then that’s a plus for me because it’s like we walk around every day and see all kinds of people and on TV it’s just like all these like really gorgeous white people. So I’d like to stay away from that. So I’m kind of conscious when I, when I cast. But ultimately you do have to go with whoever’s the best fit for that. Unfortunately like white people kind of outnumber us in the industry right now.
AKANA: Silk. So excited. I’m actually excited. I think silk’s is going to be dope. I talked about this I think on Angry Asian or whatever. They were all like all nitpicky, like why is it her name Silk? China’s export is silk and pillars. I was like, no, dude silk comes from spiders. It’s just awesome. I’m really excited. I think Marvel is definitely gonna make a movie or like at least a pilot, like maybe a television show. So I’m really excited that we’re finally being represented in comic books. There’s definitely going to be a silk porn though. Like let’s be real.
AUDIENCE: HOW HAS IT BEEN GOING OUT FOR AUDITIONS? SINCE, YOU SEEM QUITE BUSY. HAS IT PRESENTED YOU DIFFERENT OPPORTUNITIES?
AKANA: Auditioning is weird cause you normally find out a day or two before so you’ll get an audition and you have to clear your entire schedule because you have to memorize the lines. You have to pick out wardrobe because that does like some of the acting for you. I’m really lucky I have reps that get me out quite frequently at times that like fucks my routine and my schedule over. But obviously that’s the goal. So I make it work.
AUDIENCE: IF YOU’RE GIVEN A ROLE, DOES THAT CONFLICT WITH LIKE YOUR BUSINESS?
AKANA: At times it does. But the traditional industry is so slow compared to youtube. Like Youtube is like I can film a video edit the day of it’s up and it’s over. Traditional, it takes a lot longer and therefore you have plenty of time between things to do stuff. I have a terrible habit of saying yes to too many projects and so that can get overwhelming and scheduling can get stressful. But then again that at a glance planner, although I did just order the passion planner. Has anyone used this? Yeah. Is it awesome? I’m so excited. I’m so excited. But Youtube, my online numbers have only really helped me in the hosting area. It’s only ever opened doors for hosting because unfortunately a lot of people still hold the belief that if you’re on Youtube, you’re not an actor or you don’t know how to act.
AUDIENCE: HOW DO YOU HAVE THE CONFIDENCE TO TALK ABOUT THINGS THAT PEOPLE DON’T NORMALLY TALK ABOUT? LIKE DEPRESSION, BREAK UPS, AND DICK JOKES?
AKANA: I think everyone has confidence for a dick joke, but, I think it’s because I’m alone in my house. I control what goes out. So even though what you see online is, is pretty much me, I still can be like, Ooh, this is a little too much information. I’m going to take that out. So I don’t think it’s weird to me when people can’t record themselves and, and are afraid of Youtube because it’s like you can edit that, you know, you can do as many takes as you want until you think it’s perfect and live is so much different. Cause I can’t take back anything that I say to you. I can’t like go like wait a minute, delete that. Let’s redo that take guys. So I don’t feel like online it takes that much confidence. A lot of people think it does. But just remember like anything you record, unless you make it public or it’s on the cloud or something, like you can delete it and get it to where you needed to be.
AUDIENCE: HOW DO YOU UNITE THE DIFFERENT PARTS OF YOURSELF? HOW DO YOU CREATE THAT SENSE OF IDENTITY?
AKANA: I’m really bad at that actually. I tend to jump all over the place. For three months I’ll be all about music and I’m going to come out with an album and it’s going to be the best. Then the next three months I’m going to write this pilot about this cartoon. It’s so great. I think it’s just narrowing your focus down to whatever it is you feel like you really want to be versus like who you are per se. Being willing to work towards whatever it is, is your focus and what you do. Then that kind of becomes who you are.
AUDIENCE: BUT I WAS WONDERING IF WE COULD DO LIKE A SELFIE WITH THE WHOLE CROWD?
AKANA: Oh, I plan on doing it. Don’t worry about that. You have a selfie stick. Oh my God, I haven’t seen that since Breaking LA. Cool, we’ll do a selfie.
AUDIENCE: WHAT’S YOUR RESPONSE TO BEING RECOGNIZED IN PUBLIC?
AKANA: It depends on who’s recognizing me and if they’re crying. If they’re crying, I always say, don’t waste your tears on me. I ain’t Justin Bieber girl. It always gets a laugh. Normally I just try to be like, it’s great actually. Like, I don’t know why celebrities don’t like it. I’m like, this is a person who wants to be your friend and you didn’t even do anything. Like people like you. And I work so hard to get people to like me but I didn’t have to work for this. This is great. I really enjoy it. It can suck, like I really have to pee and they want to take a selfie. I’m like, can you do it when we’re walking to the bathroom? But like that’s about it. Like one time this guy gave me a discount on yogurt and I was like, you didn’t give it to me for free, but that’s okay. Thanks Bro.
AUDIENCE: HOW DO YOU PAY FOR YOUR PROJECTS?
AKANA: I take advertisers. So whenever I do the Japanese voice for audible or whatever terrible accent I’m doing I get paid for that. I’ve been taking all of that money and putting it into the short films as well as like my life savings into Miss Earth and it’s not a sustainable business model. It’s probably terrible. I opened up an IRA the other week because I’m an adult now. That’s what everyone’s trying to figure out is how do you make the Internet profitable? How do you make narrative content and still make a profit?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: WITH YOUTUBE, WILL YOU STAY ON THE PLATFORM AND IF NOT WHAT DO YOU WANT?
AKANA: My goal is to like have a TV show and to be in movies, but I really like Youtube too. I feel like Youtube is kind of like a social network. I just had to turn down a talk show. One of the things they wanted was for me to not do my youtube channel anymore. It was weird because that’s like someone telling me to not update my Facebook or like you can’t do it anymore. I do have like regular jobs, as long as my schedule permits and my sanity permits, I’d still like to do it because at this point it’s kind of a sense therapy and helps me personally process things that I’m going through. I feel like I’ve moved away unfortunately. I used to be really funny and now I’m just kind of like, this is what I learned guys. But I still like to do it.
AUDIENCE: THE CHARACTERS YOU PORTRAY FOR IN A FILM OR IN A ROLE, DO THEY AFFECT YOUR PERSONALITY? ALSO, DO YOU PLAN ON CONTINUING TO DO YOUR PODCAST?
AKANA: The characters I portray or typically aren’t psychotic enough to affect me. Like if I was playing the joker and like shelving at night, I’d probably go crazy. But playing like the Asian blog girl who helps Sally get across the room really isn’t doing anything. I would like to have another podcast. I was going to ask my boyfriend to do it. I haven’t yet, but yeah, I really like podcasting and I kind of miss it tremendously. So I’ve been thinking about it. It’s just time consuming.
AUDIENCE: WOULD YOU LIKE TO GO ICE SKATING WITH ME?
AKANA: You’re putting me on the spot lady. I can’t say no now. I’m really bad at ice skating. It depends when, cause I leave Sunday. If you can tweet me which one then I may show up drunk.
AUDIENCE: IN THE FUTURE DO YOU SEE A COLLABORATION WITH WONG FU?
AKANA: I love Wong Fu. If there anywhere they can cast me anytime. They just finished their movies so I don’t know what exactly they’re doing. They actually approached me because one of the friends that I lost from Miss Earth was the DP who did all of my short films. I talked to him about it, Philip in particular, and he was like, we’re always down to be a DP Anna. So I was like okay, Phil I’m going to take advantage of you. So hopefully soon.
AUDIENCE: HOW MUCH FUN DID YOU HAVE TEACHING PHILLIP HOW TO POLE DANCE?
AKANA: Oh my God. Philip. We had to change like three times because he’s like, these pants are too baggy. I don’t like if I go upside down, they’re going to ride up on my thighs. Then he had this other one. He’s like, he’s like too tight. It was scary because they were just like laughing the entire time. I was like, don’t fall down. This is serious. But it was great. They’re so nice and they’re so cute. If I could like Wong Fu video and throw money at them. I totally would.
AUDIENCE: WHAT KIND OF PROJECTS ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW AND DO YOU PLAN TO DO A MEET AND GREET AFTER THIS?
AKANA: For the projects, I’m working on a film, I really want to do a film next year. I feel like I’m ready. Like I’m ready to do that crazy stuff. It’s like wedding crashers with women, super sarcastic, super sharp. I want to direct it and have a supporting role. As far as a meet and greet, I’m down to take pictures and talk to you guys, but I have to pee first. So if you want to stick around I pee really fast, so if you just here I will come back and then we can totally take selfies.
AUDIENCE: IF YOU COULD GET A SPOT ON ANY T.V. SHOW THAT’S RUNNING RIGHT NOW?
AKANA: Orphan black. I would take Tatiana Maslany’s job. I had an idea for a clone show and now I can never do a clone show because of Orphan Black is too good either that or game of Thrones, but they’re never going to go on the west side. So what do we know?
AUDIENCE: WHAT’S YOUR OWN FAVORITE YOUTUBE VIDEO?
AKANA: A short film wise, Pregnant Apocalypse. Regular video, the Wishing McCall. It too late for a comeback when the old lady at the gym was a total bitch and I realized all of the great comebacks after the fact to shut her up in my video.
AUDIENCE: EARLY, YOU TALKED ABOUT LOSING SOMEONE. HOW DID YOU COPE WITH THAT AND WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU OFFER?
AKANA: Do you lose someone recently?
AUDIENCE: YEAH SO I CAN RELATE TO WHAT YOU WERE SAYING EARLIER.
AKANA: Aww I’m sorry. Well look, I’ve moved around every two and a half years. There’s going to be so many people that you meet so many friend groups that you’re going to be in like love everybody, but be attached to no one. Because you go through a big phases in your life and like people you were friends with, like in middle school or high school, you’re probably not friends with now. Right? The people who mean a lot to you will last and everyone else just wish them well. Just try to learn from it. You know you’ve got this.
AUDIENCE: WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER, DID YOU EVER THINK YOU’D BE WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?
AKANA: I thought I’d be more famous. You know what I mean? Like I’m 25, I thought I’d be so tall and have breasts that are bigger than this. I dreamed about it but I didn’t ever actually think I would pursue it. If you were me and I was 11, I’d be like go into the business now. Work at it now because this is a long game. Like people who are overnight successes are, have been in this business for like 10-20 years. You could be Jennifer Lawrence in 10 years, girl. Like, seriously, it takes 10 years. Get into it now. Whatever you want to do. Do it right now. Okay. Do it genius.
AUDIENCE: YOU ALWAYS SEEM SO CONFIDENT. HOW DO YOU BECOME THAT PERSON? WHAT DO YOU DO?
AKANA: Lie to yourself. No, I’m for real. Lie to yourself. Like the more you act at the more you will become it. And I’ve kind of like become like this, like out of necessity of like making friends, moving a lot and sort of just wanting to make people feel comfortable. Uh, when I feel like someone’s uncomfortable or shy, like I can turn it on because I’m like, oh no, I want you to feel good. Um, if I’m just like me and myself at a party and I don’t know anyone, I’m like, you know what I mean? So no one knows what you’re thinking and no one knows really like who you are. So you can be whoever you want to be. You just have to be a really good liar. And even if you’re not a good liar, if you’ll be like, so if you want to be confident, just pretend, pretend so much that you eventually start believing it. And then you’ll be good at it.
Pacific Arts Movement presents Asian American Pacific Islander and Asian international media arts for San Diego residents and visitors in order to inspire, entertain and support a more compassionate society.