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Ashley Eckstein on Return of The Her Universe Fashion Show, Playing Ahsoka Tano, Plans for Upcoming Nonfiction Star Wars Book

July 21, 2021 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Ashley Eckstein

Ashley Eckstein is best known to fans as the original voice behind the fan-favorite character, Ahsoka Tano, of the Star Wars franchise. Besides being an amazing actress, she’s also a multi-talented entrepreneur, burgeoning author and influencer. In 2010, she founded the fangirl fashion and lifestyle brand Her Universe. Later this week, Her Universe will be returning with its 2021 edition of The Her Universe Fashion Show. The show has been a repeated fixture of San Diego Comic-Con. Unfortunately, the show had to take a hiatus in 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic, but it’s coming back in a big way for 2021 as part of the virtual [email protected]

For this year’s show, Ashley and the Her Universe team have brought back their fashion show with the theme of “Community” in honor of the individuals who make up the Comic-Con world and Her Universe community. Ashley herself will be debuting a new look at the fashion show this week paying tribute to Ahsoka Tano. The show will feature both a judge-selected and audience-voted winner. The designer selected by the judging panel will team with Hot Topic to create a custom line of apparel for the Her Universe brand.

411mania recently got the chance to sit down and speak with Ashley Eckstein about the return of The Her Universe Fashion Show, its message of inclusivity, her work as Ahsoka Tano, her book projects and more. She also shared with us that she has a new nonfiction Star Wars book that’s in the works that will be debuting later in 2022. Here’s what she had to say about her work with Her Universe, the Star Wars franchise, and upcoming projects:

Jeffrey Harris: As the founder of Her Universe, how does it feel to be able to bring the Her Universe geek couture fashion show back for [email protected] for the first time in two years?

Ashley Eckstein: I am just so excited that we were able to bring the show back this year, and I have to give all the credit to our Her Universe community. The theme of the show this year is “Community,” and that’s because I truly believe we wouldn’t have a show this year if it weren’t for our Her Universe fashion show community. Last year, I think just like everyone, I found myself sitting at home questioning everything, questioning what’s really important. What am I doing? What should I be doing? And when the date of what would’ve been Her Universe Fashion Show 2020 came and went, I did ask myself, is anyone going to miss the show? Is the show really that important? Does it mean anything to anyone? Maybe the show will just naturally fade away, and nobody’ll miss. And all these thoughts ran through my head.

And then to my surprise, I got on my doorstep one day the most beautiful gift I’ve ever received in my entire life. Unbeknownst to me, our Her University community of fashion show designers came together, and they were bummed the show didn’t happen last year and they still wanted to come together as a community. So, they made a unity quilt. All of the past designers, over the past six years, they had the option of making a square for a quilt inspired their couture design. And then, they sewed all of those squares together to make one quilt, and they sent it to me and the Her Universe team as a surprise. I just sobbed just happy tears. It was literally the most touching and humbling gift anyone has ever given me, and after receiving that gift, we came together as a Her Universe team and said, “We have to bring the show back this year no matter what. This show has to happen.”

And so that’s what we did. We found a way. I said, “I don’t care if it has to be virtual. We’re gonna find a way, and we’re gonna do it because this show is not about the competition.” Yes, we pick two winners, and those two winners get to design a collection with Her Universe for Hot Topic, but it is truly about the community. And thanks to the designers, they reminded us of that, and that’s why the show is happening this year.

Jeffrey Harris: Tell us more about the theme of Community because I think right now it is important to forth a show of togetherness, which we need right now, and also still doing the show virtually and safety measures?

Ashley Eckstein: Well, I will say health and safety is our number one priority, not only for our community, but also our Her Universe and Hot Topic team. So that’s actually why the show didn’t happen last year. We just felt that there was no way that we could safely produce the show last year, and so this year, we are proud to say we were able to figure it out and safely produce the show. But the thing with community, it goes beyond the Her Universe fashion show, it goes to literal foundation of Her Universe. From Day one, I said Her Universe is two parts. It’s a merchandise line, and a fashion and lifestyle brand, but more importantly, it’s a community. I’ve said to fans, “I don’t care if you never buy a single thing from us.” That doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me is they join our community, and they feel a safe place; a bully-free zone, a place where they can be themselves and be supported. And that’s why as a community we’ve done things like the Her Universe Fashion Show, or Mental Health Monday, or Fan Girl of the Day, or things that are community-based to support everyone. And that’s what it’s really about. It really is important that that always be at its core what Her Universe Is.

Jeffrey Harris: At the 2018 fashion show, you had a Nightmare Before Christmas Jack Skellington outfit. In 2019, it was She-Ra. This year, you will be sporting a look inspired by Ahsoka Tano from Star Wars. How interesting and appropriate it’s an Ahsoka Look! But tell us about that outfit, which you will be modeling yourself this year, correct?

Ashley Eckstein: Yes, I have an Ahsoka Tano inspired look made by, once again, the incredible Andrew McClane, who has designed my looks for the past six fashion shows. And it’s very personally to me. It’s inspired by my favorite quote, my favorite Ahsoka quote that she says in Star Wars Rebels, where she says, “This is a new day, a new beginning.” And it’s very personally to me, it’s very to Andrew McClane, which he shares a bit about in the fashion show. And I think it will speak a bit to everyone who watches the show this year because I think after the past year and a half, we all can relate to that quote, “This is a new day, a new beginning.” I think we’re all coming out of this global pandemic that we’ve experienced looking at things differently. There’s all sorts of new beginnings, and whether they’re good or they’re bad, we have all sorts of new beginnings and fresh starts, but with new beginnings, there’s always hope. Ahsoka reminds us that even in the darkest of times, there’s always hope, and there’s always light. And so that’s what I hope people will see when they see this design.

Jeffrey Harris: When designing the outfits with Andrew McClane, do you offer him ideas for the outfits, and is it a collaborate process, or does he come up with them himself?

Ashley Eckstein: This year’s design, I was a bit more hands-on. In previous years, I usually pick the theme, but Andrew comes up with the design completely on his own. This year, I was a bit more hands-on. I did have the vision for this design, and we collaborated pretty heavily on the final look. But I will say that it’s — Andrew is a very, very good friend of mine. And this was personal for him too. Andrew had some losses this past year that were very personal to him, and as his friend, I wanted to come together and do something that was a symbol of hope and a symbol of light. And his friendship is very, very important to me. And as Carrie Fisher says, “Use your broken heart and turn it into art.” Then I think this design is very much a collaboration of friendship.

Jeffrey Harris: How was the process of writing your first Star Wars book, I Am a Padawan, which is also about Ahsoka?

Ashley Eckstein: Oh thank you. That was a dream come true. That was literally bucket list level for me because I grew up reading the Little Golden Books. That’s what I learned to read on, literally. I had a giant bookcase full of nothing but Little Golden Books, and so to have the honor of writing a Little Golden Book, and have it be about Ahsoka Tano, was just a dream come true. And you know, Ahsoka has inspired me so much and people all over the world. And I wanted to share those lessons that Ahsoka taught me, and share them with a new generation of Padawans; lessons of hope, and friendship, and trust, and patience. And it’s been a very proud moment to be able to read this book to my nieces and nephews and godchildren and friends. It’s definitely a bucket list level item.

Jeffrey Harris: Would you ever like to write another Golden Book, or maybe a novel or script in the future?

Ashley Eckstein: Oh gosh. Yes, I will say it terrifies me, but it’s definitely a dream of mine to write a novel in the future. I can share with you that I am just now starting writing another nonfiction Star Wars book, so stay tuned. It’s not gonna be fiction, so it’s not going to be another Ahsoka story. It’s going to be a nonfiction Star Wars book, but I’m very excited about it. And I’m just now starting to write it, so look for it in 2022.

Jeffrey Harris: I’m going to ask you a vague question, so I think you can answer it in a yes or no way, so we’re all good here. We’re just talking. Have you been filming a set recently or recording in a booth recently?

Ashley Eckstein: *Laughs* No, I have not.

Jeffrey Harris: Speaking of other nonfiction books, you wrote your own autobiography/advice book, It’s Your Universe: You Have the Power to Make It Happen. How did that project come together and what was it you wanted to share with It’s Your Universe?

Ashley Eckstein: That was another kind of surprise moment. And I will say, talking about moments, that was a moment I am proud because it was one of my greatest fears. I once said I would never write a book because I didn’t think I could. As a kid, I had a dream of writing a book, and every time I tried to sit down and try to write it, I ended up with an essay, and I could never go beyond that. So, at some point, doubt crept in my mind, and I just said, “Well, I just don’t have the talent to be a writer, and I’m never going to do it.” And I was OK with that. I was like, OK, I accepted it. I’m very grateful that Disney approached me and gave me the opportunity to write this book, and I said yes, not thinking that I was capable of it. And they paired me up with an author. Her name is Stacy Kravetz, and she’s amazing. And we worked on — we talked for about two and a half months, and the goal was that she was going to write it, but it was my words as I was talking to her. Well, when the first manuscript came back, it just wasn’t in my voice, and it was very, very important to me — it was an important lesson to me because I realized if I wanted this book to be in my voice, I needed to write, but what I was so, so grateful to Stacy Kravetz for teaching me is that I didn’t know how to do an outline for a book. And she taught me how to outline a book and how to put my thoughts down into an outline and structure of a book and give a book structure. Had it not been for Stacy, I never would’ve believed that I could. And after that, I decided to write the book myself, thanks to Stacy’s help. And I did, and I overcame this huge fear that I said that I wasn’t capable of doing it.

The book is all about making your dreams come true, and if I can actually have a finished book that I wrote, truly, anything’s possible! That book is a really a manifestation of a dream coming true, and from the bottom of my heart believe that anything you put your mind to you can make happen. And the book is a step-by-step guide of dreaming it and doing it. It’s a roadmap on making your dreams come true, and I hope it’s — I share my story, but I really only share my story of here’s what I did, here’s why I believed I could, and here’s how you can do it. The book is really supposed to be a journal and a guide for the reader and their dreams.

Jeffrey Harris: As much as we get to see of Ahsoka sometimes, I think my favorite Forces of Destiny short was “Unexpected Company” because I think it showed a different side of Ahsoka and Anakin Skywalker’s relationship, along with Padme Amidala. But do you think this short proves that maybe Ahsoka knew about Anakin and Padme’s relationship, and kept their secret and kept their confidence?

Ashley Eckstein: *Laughs* Yeah, you know what? Not too many people have asked me about that, and I’m glad you did because now that it’s out, I can talk about it. When I recorded it, I was like, “Whoa! This as a Star Wars, this is major! This is like a major spoiler here!” And I wondered how many people are going to miss this because they’re going to write off Forces of Destiny as like, “Oh, these are just little shorts for goods.” And I’m like, “No! No, no, no! As a Star Wars fan, this is big information that they just dropped!”

So, in my opinion, I think yes, I think Ahsoka knew. And I’m speaking purely as a fan based upon what has been released, not only in this short for Forces of Destiny, but also I thought that going way back to the Season 5 finale of Clone Wars, if you go back and rewatch that final scene of where Anakin says, “Ahsoka, I understand. I understand more than you know,” and she looks back at him and says, “I know.” I think that was Ahsoka telling Anakin, “Anakin, I *know*. I know about your struggle. I know about you and Padme. I know all of that. I get it, but I have to do this for me.” I thought that way back when from the Season 5 finale, and I think the short from Forces of Destiny just confirms it in my mind! You’re gonna have to ask Dave Filoni for more specifics, but yeah, that’s my takeaway.

Jeffrey Harris: What was your reaction to Grogu, and what was your reaction to seeing Rosario Dawson play Ahsoka Tano reacting to Grogu in The Mandalorian?

Ashley Eckstein: I mean, of course, I’m like everyone else in the world, and I find Grogu absolutely adorable. I’m very proud — I have friends at Disney who created — it was actually named Toy of the Year, the interactive version of Grogu that you can buy at Disney. And I mean, Grogu’s just adorable. But I will say, getting to see Ahsoka’s story continue in any medium, I’m just a fan of Ahsoka. I will always celebrate more Ahsoka stories, and it’s very cool to see Ahsoka playing such an important role in Grogu’s story. It’s very cool because for the longest time, Ahsoka was this side character that nobody knew about, except the hardcore fans. But when someone typically wasn’t a hardcore Star Wars fan, I’d have to explain who Ahsoka Tano was because they didn’t know. Now, Ahsoka has entered kind of the bigger world, and it’s always just kind of exciting and sometimes surprised when people know who Ahsoka is. And I was wearing an Ahsoka shirt to the grocery store yesterday, and I was getting all sorts of compliments. So many people knew who Ahsoka was. So yeah, it’s just exciting to see that Ahsoka just played such a big role in Grogu’s story.

Jeffrey Harris: How great was it when the whole gang came back together for that final season of The Clone Wars, and did you ever imagine that would happen all those years later?

Ashley Eckstein: So, the word that comes to mind when I think of the final season of Clone Wars is “gift.” It was truly gift because I think everyone knows by now that Clone Wars was cancelled unexpectedly at the end of Season 5. We were well into recording Season 6, and nobody was expecting a cancellation. And we never got to properly wrap up the series, and it was sad. It was devastating. And I’m a very positive person, but that was one thing that if you ask me if we would ever go back to Clone Wars and finish it, I would’ve told you no. I would’ve said, “No, there’s no way. We’re never going to go back and finish it.” And I think that was me protecting my heart a little bit because I was so devastated by it that I didn’t want to go back there and get my hopes up and be disappointed. So, when it did get announced that it was coming back, I was so grateful. It was such a gift, and I didn’t take a single moment for granted. I savored every recording session, every time we came together as a cast. It just was really a blessing. Sadly, we didn’t get to see it through in the sense that when it came out on Disney+, it was during the pandemic. And we had premieres and screenings scheduled, and all of those had to be cancelled. But I have to tell you, I believe that that happened — there’s a reason for everything, and the timing actually couldn’t have been better because at the time when the world needed Clone Wars, at a time when we needed hope, leave it to Ahsoka and leave it to Clone Wars to bring such inspiring stories of hope to all of us when we needed it most. So, I’m actually grateful that we had this final, beautiful season of Clone Wars when we were all sitting at home looking for inspirational stories.

Thank you to Ashley Eckstein for taking the time to speak with us. The Her Universe Fashion Show 2021 will be held as a virtual event this year as part of [email protected] on Friday, July 23. You can check out more details at the official website. Her books I Am a Padawan can be found at Penguin Random House, and It’s Your Universe: You Have the Power To Make It Happen can be purchased at Amazon.com.

You can also check out Eckstein as Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, Forces of Destiny and Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker on Disney+.