Ashley Eckstein talks ‘Star Wars,’ Her Universe, and More!

Her Universe

Tomorrow, at 6:00 PM Pacific standard time at San Diego Comic-Con, the annual Her Universe Fashion show will take place. Fandomize just had an opportunity to chat with Ashley Eckstein herself, the founder of Her Universe. We discussed the excitement leading up to the fashion show, and everything else that Ashley has been up to recently! Check out the interview below!

Shaun Hood: What does the Her Universe Fashion Show stand for to you in terms of both personal meaning, and what it’s like for the designers and fandom as a whole?

Ashley Eckstein: Well, the Her Universe Fashion Show, to me, stands for inclusivity and celebration. At its core, I founded Her Universe with the mission to create a community and a safe space where fans could step into the spotlight and be themselves and be celebrated for that. So, the fashion show is just an extension of that, and, a literal interpretation of that, where fans are going to get the opportunity to step into the spotlight and be celebrated, no matter who you are. We are such an inclusive fashion show. We have had every different type on the runway, and we celebrate everyone. It’s not just the designers. We also have the fans. During our intermission, one of my favorite parts of the show is that the fans get to walk the runway. The show is just a celebration, and I cannot wait that to have it return in person again.

SH: I know that Her Universe as a clothing line has always been very important to you; how did the idea of a fashion show come into play?

Her Universe

AH: Well, the fashion show was inspired by the fans. I’ve been going to San Diego Comic-Con since 2007, and I remember just seeing fans and their original designs and couture level designs walking the aisles of San Diego Comic-Con. I remember thinking, “These designs are so stunning, they deserve an actual runway to walk on, not just an aisle at a convention hall, they deserve an actual runway!” So, that was really my purpose and drive for the fashion show, is just to create a celebration of the fans’ fashion and also to shine a spotlight on this incredible talent at San Diego Comic-Con. I then teamed up with Hot Topic, and that’s how we were able to turn it into a competition show. I’m just thrilled that we’re returning for our eighth annual show.

SH: Has the concept of the fashion show deviated year-to-year from the original premise, in the sense that it keeps becoming more and more of a large-scale event every year?

AH: At its core, the show has remained the same. We have anywhere between 24 and 26 designers that we select that come to San Diego Comic-Con and compete for the chance to win the opportunity to design a fashion collection with Her Universe to be sold at Hot Topic stores. But, of course, we’ve added things to the show every year, in terms of the entertainment aspect of it. Some things have come about naturally. For example, the audience also gets to walk the runway during the intermission, and that kind of came about naturally during a time when we needed to fill the time as we were counting votes. It ended up being one of our favorite parts of the show.

This year, I have a co-host, so it’s really the first time to truly be co-hosting the show with someone. I’m thrilled because that co-host is my very dear friend, the drag queen, Nina West. So, I’m excited to share the stage with Nina this year, and we’re going to have so much fun. I promise an incredible show.

SH: Give us an overview of your online series of videos, Star Wars: Mindful Matters.

AH: So, Star Wars Mindful Matters is a new video series that we just released this year, although, it’s been a passion project of mine for the past five years. I got the idea about five years ago, where, as a fan myself, I oftentimes am inspired by Star Wars, and also other properties that I love with these very important mindful lessons. Star Wars especially – it’s so full of extremely important mindful lessons. Jedi Master Yoda teaches us that a Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind, essentially teaching us that training our mind is just as important as physically training our body. And so I wanted to take these very important mindful lessons and combine them with clinically-based mindfulness exercises in one video. So, not only are we being inspired by the stories that we love and the characters that we love, but we’re learning the same lessons that these characters learn.

They’re two to three minute videos, and the exercises themselves only take a minute to do, but when you do them, they make a powerful difference in your day, because being mindful matters. We collaborated with Citrone 33 to make them happen, as well as Lucasfilm. Lucasfilm has been the biggest supporter and advocate with me of this series. Then I also collaborated with Nationwide Children’s Hospital and their On Our Sleeves Movement and their doctors and child life specialists to make sure that these videos were appropriate and safe for children as well as fans for all ages, and clinically based. So, I’m very, very excited that I was finally able to share these videos with the fans. I was able to also collaborate with Lucasfilm. I worked with Matt Martin and the Lucasfilm story group. I personally wrote all the episodes, and I worked with Lucasfilm video production, and we filmed these episodes together. And I’m just so excited that we were finally able to bring these to life.

SH: Something I love about Mindful Matters is the mere concept of relating the artistic messages and lessons that Star Wars gives us, to the lives of kids, and everyone else. Have any of these storylines within the Mindful Matters series always stuck with you in a way that felt real and made you want to do something like this with them?

Her Universe

AH: Oh, absolutely! These are all lessons that have impacted my life and these are all exercises that I personally do. So I’m not suggesting something that I’m also not doing myself. Particularly, one that really, really helped me recently, was the Cave Challenge. All of these exercises are meant to do daily. It’s not something you do once, and then you’re like, “Ok, I did it.” They’re meant to be exercises that you incorporate on a regular basis. The Cave Challenge was one where I was being really fearful and doubtful of something, and I was really bringing a negative attitude to it. It was coming from a place of fear. It was just like a light bulb that went off when I realized, “Oh my gosh, I’m failing this Cave Challenge.”

The cave is your mind. I was bringing all of this fear and doubt and anger and aggression into my mind, and I was not able to execute what I was trying to do. I had to take a step back. I had to exit my cave, take some deep breaths, and then realize I needed to bring in positivity. I needed to bring in a hopeful attitude, a calm attitude. I slowed down the moment. I broke it down into small steps. Then I was able to achieve what I was trying to do, but it was by using and doing the Cave Challenge, that I succeeded.

So, yes, I use these and do these exercises on a regular basis. And I’m just excited to share with fans, a piece of my fandom, because I am motivated by my fandom. I am more apt to do something if I feel like I’m training to be a Jedi, rather than just, let’s say, being told to do a breathing exercise.

SH: Nice. I love that last part, what you just said, you’re more motivated when you think of yourself as a Padawan or someone who’s training to be a Jedi. It’s like Star Wars is not necessarily just movies, it’s everything, it’s a lifestyle.

AH: Yeah, Star Wars is definitely a lifestyle.

SH: Exactly. To me, it’s the things like this that prove to all of us that Star Wars is meaningful in so many different ways. What is it like for you to not only originate such a fan-favorite character through voice acting, but also take on the role of just being such an important icon in the fandom on social media and beyond? After all, we’re all members of Team Tano!

AH: Aw, thank you. Well, after about the season five finale of Star Wars: The Clone Wars that was when I really started to realize that Ahsoka was changing lives, and in some cases, saving lives. She transcended beyond this character that we just watched on screen, to this character that was inspiring people’s daily lives. o that’s when it really hit me, and not only has Ahsoka changed my life in the same way, she’s impacted my decisions and how I think, and my motivations, but that’s when I realized that I, so badly, wanted to be a real life version of Ahsoka Tano, because this was bigger than just an acting role, that Ahsoka was a lifestyle. That’s why I say, “Ahsoka lives in all of us,” because after almost 15 years with this character and her stories, she now lives inside of us in our hearts and in our souls. She guides our thoughts and our decisions and our choices. I recognize how much she means to people. I also recognize that, as the voice of Ahsoka, I’m an extension of her, and I feel so privileged that people would trust me and feel safe with me to share their stories with me, and take that very seriously. I honor them, I see them, and I value the importance of this character and of our fans, everyone in team Tano. So, it is a team and we all make up team Tano, and Ahsoka lives in all of us now.

SH: Is there anything else that you’re working on or that you have coming up that you’d like our readers to know about?

AH: Yes! I’m excited to finally share Tales of the Jedi. So, stay tuned for that. I will be voicing Ahsoka in Tales of the Jedi. I also had the chance to write a Star Wars book. So, that comes out October 25th. You can currently get it on pre-order, but it’s called Star Wars Everyday, and it’s a Star Wars lifestyle book. It’s how you can live your best Star Wars life all year long. So, I’m very excited to share that with everyone. Then, Star Wars Mindful Matters – the videos are all available on my Instagram page, which is just @AshleyEckstein, but stay tuned because we’re getting them out everywhere. They’re currently available in all Walt Disney World resorts, but we’re going to be getting them into schools and children’s hospitals, and we’re just so excited. We’re also going to do more videos. So, stay tuned, because this is just the beginning.

Ashley Eckstein can be found on Instagram at @AshleyEckstein.