We had the good fortune of connecting with Julie Phan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Julie, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk is not only a necessity for success, but for me, it’s the exhilaration of life. Being a woman of color in the entertainment industry is entirely built on risk-taking. My identity itself can be seen as “controversial.” Every move forward I take can be considered a risk. It takes a lot of courage and confidence, for me especially, to step into spaces that have never been walked by people like me. The thought of just making myself comfortable in spaces not meant to include me can be scary. A huge risk I took was stepping into the entertainment industry at all. I strive to be authentic and true to myself, which can be very difficult and carry large consequences. This industry lives off the backs of marginalized folks but will never allow for their flowers to bloom. So in short, my entire career was a leap of faith, but I wouldn’t be here without the support of my close ones and the blessings of my ancestors.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Being an artist is a lifestyle. Art is not just a hobby, an interest, or a career. It’s a lifestyle that allows a person to embody their soul through different mediums. As a writer, my intent and goal is to embody my reality and stories of others into imaginative spaces where audiences are free to explore as much as they please or simply enjoy the artwork at face value. It’s quite philosophical really. I love researching and diving into the human psyche and the way we move socially in communities. It’s these subtle crossroads that are often overlooked or taken for granted that I love exploring.
Within and outside of my creative work, I focus on community work. The communities that I have been a part of have played a huge part in supporting me and helping me create the person I am today. I owe it to the people who have raised me to give back to the next generation. For me personally, it’s very important that I include the community in my creative work and represent them respectfully and authentically.
As of right now, I am still climbing the ladder up to success. However, success is not definitive. Even just getting to where I am professionally was a struggle and should be seen as a success. Many believe that affirmative action and hiring have improved and provided space for many to grow. A huge issue I currently see in the entertainment industry is the lack of non-white people in executive and director positions. Many of us are stuck at entry-level with little to no opportunity to grow and expand. This is the struggle that many unknowingly will have to face. Something that a lot of people, especially students, will have to experience is the amount of networking and mastering multiple talents just to be considered equivalent to your white male peers. You have to exceed all expectations just to be considered. It takes patience, resilience, open-mindedness, endurance, will stronger than titanium, and learning how to handle discrimination to make it in an art world dominated by white people and their tears. The path to success can be extremely destructive, internally and physically. It is vital to learn how to take care of yourself when you start this journey. I spend a lot of time in solitude reminding myself of my value and my worth. This process I’ve created for myself allows for me to grow as a person, and consequentially my art also. Self-care is important but not in a capitalistic sense. Face masks and foot scrubs will not dissolve the stress and pain you experience on this path. Finding your own way of soothing and maintaining yourself will guide you through your journey in art. For me, it’s taught me how to stand my ground and infiltrate white-dominated spaces. Everyone’s way of healing is different but it will be vital to growing not just as an adult, but as a creative. It’s extremely easy as an artist to rely on your art as an outlet and coping mechanism, but if you cannot find the value in yourself and your life, it could become destructive. I think these small periods of time where I take space for myself and recalibrated my mind and soul have been momentous in my growth and continuous success.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
When everyone visits LA, they’re obsessed with going to the Hollywood Walk of Fame or visiting the west side of LA. Everyone likes to go to Santa Monica or Venice Beach. Of course, everyone goes for the rooftop brunches and bars in DTLA. To be honest, the hidden gems in LA are hidden outside of those spaces. I’d recommend going to beaches south of Santa Monica. In terms of food, if you want good Mexican food, go east. If you want good Caribbean or soul food, go south. If you want good Asian food, go to Chinatown or Little Tokyo. People are so often scared about walking into Black and brown communities. As long as you don’t walk around with a colonizer mindset and are respectful, you should visit and support these small mom-and-pop shops. These shops are the center and soul of these communities. I’m not going to name these places because I don’t want this information to get into the wrong hands. It’s really frustrating to know that people want to gentrify these communities and rid the community of these gems. I would say, do your research or link with someone from the city. There are many different neighborhoods to explore, each with its own cultural identity. Be mindful when you walk into a different community, and remember that you are a guest. Do your research. If you want to just walk around, go into a restaurant or bar where you see folks hanging out and laughing. Have fun and don’t be afraid to explore LA outside of DTLA and Hollywood. LA is a rare cultural phenomenon so don’t limit yourself on your explorations. Also, when doing your research, look on Instagram instead of Google. You’ll find many more hidden gems and cool places that way.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
So many people deserve flowers for supporting me along the way. I could have never done this without my closest friends who have become my family. Special shoutout to my best friend Jazmin, my neighbor Janeth, and my best friend in the industry, Obinne. Y’all are my rocks and I am blessed to have such beautiful, wholesome women in my life.