AU's Student-Run Internet-Only Radio


AU's Student-Run Internet-Only Radio


AU's Student-Run Internet-Only Radio


Stephanie Hsu at AU: “All I’ve ever wanted to do is make sh*t that makes change”

Stephanie Hsu poses with members of the student media panel that interviewed her during her February trip to American University. Photo credits: Julia Gibson

Web Director Zoe here! This is the first of my two-part series for WVAU this semester highlighting the amazing interviews with artists I’ve gotten to do this past semester. The story starts with me sitting at a table at the Washington College of Law with a few other student media members as well as the award-winning, Oscar-nominated actress, Stephanie Hsu.

The Feb. 21 event, “An Evening with Stephanie Hsu,” was hosted by the inaugural Spirit and Traditions Board, part of AU Student Government’s Student Activity Council. Hsu spoke for an hour with School of Communication professor Pallavi Kumar as the event’s moderator. 

Prior to that February night, I was most familiar with Hsu’s work in musical theater, in roles such as Karen the Computer in “The SpongeBob Musical” and Christine Canigula in “Be More Chill.” Obviously, I knew her breakout, megastar role was on the silver screen as Joy in “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” but, truthfully, I’d never seen the movie all the way through (until I went home and finished it that very night — amazing, iconic, we love). If that evening showed me anything, it’s that two years after the film’s release, its messages and everything it’s come to represent are more relevant than ever. 


A night of audience participation

The event was not merely an audience watching two people onstage having a conversation; even before the Q&A portion at the end, Hsu was interacting with the audience and prompting lots of laughter throughout the talk, in between discussing serious topics. At the very start, Hsu wanted to get a gauge of what majors were represented in the room, and students “woo’d” for everything from political science and journalism to history and music.

The laughter-inducing singular “woo” representing the music major in the room came from Graziella Gulli, a sophomore and jazz saxophonist. Aside from that humorous moment, Gulli also said she loved getting to witness the emotional connection that Hsu’s work had struck with many attendees.

“It was so clear how impactful Stephanie Hsu’s work has been in their lives,” Gulli said of “all the people that cried while asking their questions.”

Part of Hsu’s answers, multiple addressed to students of color studying film, pertained to the exclusion of marginalized people in media and arts and entertainment industries like in Hollywood.

“It’s not a normal way of existing to also constantly wonder if you should be existing,” Hsu said


Stephanie Hsu, the music and art enthusiast

Prior to the start of the event, each writer from AU student media got to ask one question of Hsu in a private mini-press conference. When it got to be my turn, I had to ask Hsu about the role music plays in her life even as she’s recently been more involved in non-musical acting roles. Hsu spoke about being inspired by the group known as the New York School— poets, painters and dancers of 1950s and 1960s New York City. They were peers despite being creatives of different media. Hsu, who moved to New York City from Los Angeles to attend New York University, said the movement has inspired her to be open-minded in her approach to being an artist.

“I never want to be the type of artist or actor that just thinks about acting and acting only,” Hsu said.

Hsu also shared her listening habits as of late, saying she feels an appreciation for the album as an art form with a clear story comprised of beginning, middle and end, even in the current age of putting songs on shuffle and accepting whatever plays. As for who Hsu’s been listening to lately, she said that Labi Siffre, who has written poetry and theatre as well as music, is a prominent artist for her right now. I definitely recommend his 1972 album Crying, Laughing, Loving, Lying. The title track got on my radar when it was featured on the soundtrack of my new holiday favorite, The Holdovers, but it was Hsu’s shout-out to Siffre that prompted me to listen to the full record, and I approve.


“You guys, AI is weird, OK?”

During the main event, Hsu also  insights about artificial intelligence and its place in art—namely, that it can’t compare to human creativity. 

“Your mind is so remarkable,” Hsu said to the crowd. “Only because we can dream up things does a device or an infrastructure like AI exist, so continue to challenge yourself to use your mind and make mistakes and feel what that feels like, and know that that is actually maybe a rigorous, beautiful, remarkable human muscle that you have that should be cared for.”

Aside from each person’s individual capacity for creation, Hsu also spoke highly of the collaborative process when making art.

“I fall in love with people artistically all the time, and for me that is the thing that keeps me going,” Hsu said. “The power of falling in love with your collaborators is so powerful.”

This is especially relevant with Hsu’s in-the-works series, “Laid,” which she is executive producing. The Peacock comedy, which Hsu will also be starring in, was announced this past January.

“I’m really excited. I love friends and I love scheming ways to bring more friends together, which is one version of producing,” Hsu said.


“All I’ve ever wanted to do is make shit that makes change” 

At the crux of this talk was the theme of changemaking, as has been AU’s brand for the past few years. Hsu’s perspective brought a refreshingly subversive take on improving the world around us. Hsu, 33, recognized the less than ideal sociopolitical circumstances younger generations are facing and affirmed the sense of frustration many feel. However, she made sure to also share her faith that young people, such as those students in the room that evening, can and will work to create an equitable society.

“It is my deepest hope that we can collectively imagine something better for us,” Hsu said.

To put it quite frankly, this is the kind of speaker that AU students connect with, who is both relatable and inspiring. As I prepare to graduate, it is my hope that the student government and the administration, headed by a new president, John Alger, makes it a priority to present more speakers like Hsu. Not for representing any particular partisan point of view, but for the atmosphere in that room in the WCL before, during and after the event. AU may not be known for school spirit in the traditional sense, but everyone can get behind a simultaneously successful and down to earth speaker who wants the best for our generation.

To end, here is a quote from Hsu (transcribed to the best of my abilities to convey the humorous tone) that sums up what this wonderful event was like:

“I’m a horrible influence and I LOOOOVE IT…this is actually, like, my strategy for creating new worlds.”

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