As a comedian, Anastasia Washington’s goals go beyond making audience members laugh. The BIPOC film creator, comedian, and curve model is constantly striving to weave difficult topics into her creations. She utilizes her platform to mix discussions around colorism, police brutality, and eating disorders with humor. The Los Angeles native incorporates advocacy into most of her projects. Her award-winning short film “What are you?” looks at the struggle of expressing a mixed-race identity. While her short “He said, She said,” tackles sexual assault. Recently, Washington performed at the Lysistrata Comedy Festival in New Orleans, where she was empowered by fellow women performers and their talent.
The Untitled Magazine sat down with Anastasia Washington to talk all things comedy, activism, and her modeling career. Read on for the full interview below.
You are quite the multi-hyphenated performer, crossing over from acting to stand-up comedian, host, singer, curve model, and director among a number of other talents! How did you get your start in entertainment?
I actually got started when I was three. My mother saw that I just wanted to perform and helped me pursue it. I grew up in LA so it was in the culture of my community for sure and my mom was a huge support and found me my first audition with a manager.
Were your parents in the industry as well? What was your life like at home as a kid?
My mother was a dancer at clubs in the 60s, including the whiskey a gogo, but eventually she became a professional and a mother. My father had artistic inclinations but being a Black man felt he couldn’t fully pursue them. My house was pretty strict when my parents were together. We were expected to excel in arts academics and sports. Arts were only allowed to be taken if we excelled at the others. I do think it made me a hustler with endurance. I wouldn’t change it.
Did you study acting and performing or what were you into at school?
I went to schools that focused on performing arts right off the bat. Like P.E. had dance classes. So I loved it. I loved performing. Making up songs and making people laugh.
How did you get into doing comedy? Can you share one of your earliest experiences on stage? Were you nervous at first?
I think I always fell into the comedic roles just being WOC in the industry, it seems to put us into the sassy best friend role. But I think once I embraced my comedic inclinations I really started to soar. I started with improv and was in a few improv groups including a touring dnd based one. But when I took the stage for stand up I started feeling myself truly come out of my shell. When I first started out doing stand-up and I was so nervous. I used to do a lot of material on my weight, and I hated it. Now I don’t focus on self-deprecating humor.
What topics inspire you the most as a comedian and why?
I talk a lot about being bi-racial. I think I have so many things to explore there for my own personal health but also it’s amazing to come off stage and have people say I made them feel less alone. I also explore mental health a ton, I think honesty and love are what I try to bring to my comedy. And the honesty of it all is it’s hard out there and we have struggles but we don’t need to be stigmatized and alone. I hope my comedy helps bring people together and start amazing conversations.
You recently performed at the Lysistrata Comedy Festival in New Orleans – can you share some highlights from the performance and visiting New Orleans?
The biggest highlights for me were the amazing women I met. I even did an all-woman improv strip tease, it was so fun and empowering. But honestly, it was great to do comedy in my moms home town with her in the audience. It was truly special.
Tell us about “50 Shades of Mixed: Confessions of your Ethnically Ambiguous Best Friend” your one-woman show that you produced, wrote, and starred in at the Black Voices Festival and Solo Fest?
Yes! And also for the Wayward Artist Solo, Duo, Trio fest, and next stop is Curtis Theatre’s Amplify and then Edinburgh next year. It’s about the first 10 years of my life and it explores a lot. ‘What are you?’ And “50 shades of mix: Confessions of your Bi-Racial Best Friend” spills all the tea on the shady moments of a Bi-Racial Woman’s life. Anastasia shares real-life heartbreaking and often hilarious stories. You’ll laugh, learn and wake the hell up.
You also direct short films, many of which have an activist message – such as your award-winning short film “What are you?” which touches on the struggles of expressing one’s identity as a person of mixed race. Can you share more about the film and some of your personal experiences that motivated you to create it?
I wrote “What are you?” and made it during the AT and T createathon. We had about three hours to film it. I had the most amazing badass crew and cast, we all knew how important the conversation was, and knew how it felt to check the other box in some way. The script came from the questions that I and others experience all the time. I tend to write based on things that affect the world of the WOC. I feel like it’s my way to reach out and hopefully start important conversations and change.
Tell us about your short “He Said, She Said”? Was that also inspired by your personal experiences?
It was unfortunately. And I think a lot of women have been there. It’s about a sexual encounter from two sides. The side of the man and the side of the woman and how there can be miscommunication and ambivalence to signs and partners feelings a very different way about an encounter. It was a hard project and I think it’s hard for people to watch. It’s not easier but more of an understandable situation when things are clear-cut. He is a rapist and she is the victim. But my film discussed the blurry situations a lot of us have been in and brings up a lot of questions to the watcher. Men hate it. They want the male to be a straight-up villain and distance themselves from misconduct. But the reality is that it’s not always like that. And I hope that it causes people to communicate better
with each other.
You also work as a curve model for a number of fashion and lifestyle brands – how did you get into modeling?
I started modeling as a kid. And continued at every single size I have been. I used to be a “normal” model and now I’m curvy. I think it confuses people that I can model at any size or stage of my life. But confidence and talent is not a size or age. And so many people will try to shove you into a box and try to keep you there. Do what’s healthy mentally and physically and the right gigs will follow. I am blessed to work with brands that think boxes are dumb and that beauty lays outside of it.
How do you find the industry has changed over the past few years?
I think the biggest thing that has changed is how much is in your own hands. We used to have to wait for phone calls to green light anything in our careers. But now more than ever you can hustle and create your own content and opportunities. It is truly a beautiful and empowering thing.
How do you find the time to balance it all? Do you have any tips on staying balanced for our readers?
You know. I haven’t always been the best on balancing stuff. I am a giver and for a while, I was giving to sources that we’re not reciprocal. I think that’s the most important thing to balance. It’s okay to be generous and generous with your time, but be smarter. Hustle smarter. You only have so much energy and if you give the energy too freely you will not have enough and add that with the bitterness of being used up it is not pretty. Protect your energy. Focus it where it is loved and nurtured and don’t work against yourself. It’s a hard lesson but one I wish I learned sooner.
What other performers inspire you most and why?
I love performers who hustle in multiple areas, Jordan Peele, Issa Rae, people that make content with humor, love, and honesty. That’s what I hope to be as well.
Top 5 streaming shows you would recommend right now?
Stranger Things because it’s epic. Killing it, is such good show, it’s funny and has heart. Ghosts, both UK and USA, great comedy and cast and also ghosts, history and comedy, whats not to love. Severance is such a great show and the finale I couldn’t even breathe. Abbott Elementary is sooooo good. I love it so much.
What progress would you like to see in the entertainment and fashion industries from your perspective?
Inclusion is the obvious answer but it’s also true. I think we are seeing more of that. And I guess empathy. We are so quick to judge each other and attack each other. I wish us the chance to make mistakes and grow and change and support each other.
What advice would you give to an aspiring female comedian? What else can we look forward to from you in 2022? Any upcoming performances you can share?
I would say, be you. Don’t force content on yourself, the content that makes you shine is the one that is specific to you. Protect your talent, and build a community that has your back, and can grow together. As for me! Demon Juice, a horror-comedy I was in is at festivals all over the world. Free to be, a documentary I co-produced is gonna be shown at some events during LA pride. My one-woman show is coming to the Curtis Theater amplify in November. And I am doing a monthly comedy show at Stone Street cafe every 4th Wednesday, Cake Wednesday Comedy – which is a free diverse show of stand up.