I have been saving this story for quite some time. How does one go about writing a story on someone they’re inspired by in every way? When I first saw Ashley Cizek hoop, I had no idea she was a music journalist. I had never in my life seen such skill. To be honest, I still haven’t seen a hooper I fancy more than her. The music media industry has some extremely unique individuals, and if you’ve had the pleasure of being interviewed by Ashley, I’m certain you’ve been moved by her ability to ask the tough questions. In our scene, she is legendary. Self-made, self-taught, and not just here for the story, she’s here for the music.
A few months ago, I realized a dream I never knew I had. I put my heart and soul into this publication, and because of you wonderful readers, I’ve found a forever home. I found a place to be content, to pour out my soul, and realize the legitimacy of dreams I never knew I had.
It seemed this was the perfect time to tell the story of Electric Forest sisterhood. Ashley, whether she knew it or not, was present to impart some words of wisdom on my very first media coverage event. Her energy is always warm, professional, courageous, and extremely motivating. Without her whispers of encouragement, I’m not sure I would have persevered in this dream as fervently as I have. Ashley could easily be an Instagram influencer, but instead, she has chosen to influence the people around her in the most positive of ways. After years of working next to her at events, I had the immense pleasure of finally sitting down and interviewing the girl who interviews some of the most famous artists in the industry. I wanted to hear what she had to say about life, hooping, being a female in the media industry, and, of course, her
FMF: Ashley, when I saw another woman covering as media at Freaky Deaky, I thought, how wonderful! I know you had run into an issue at the last festival we were both covering, and it was the first time we’d shared more than just a hello. That moment was truly special.
Ashley: Yeah, it was.
So sorry to stop the interview so early… but we definitely need to talk about that moment, so please allow me to give you some background. Ashley is not just your hobby hooper, in my book she is a super hooper. Think Wonder Woman, with LED’s and superpowers. If you have seen her at a festival, you know this. Someone felt it was a distraction for her to have her hoop as media, and this interview is the result of a bond we formed of true sisterhood. That’s when she said to me: “You must absolutely come to Electric Forest.”
When I was approved to cover Electric Forest, I knew that this was the venue for this moment. Who wouldn’t love to get the story from someone who has seen it all, and likely hasn’t been interviewed much herself? The irony is not lost on either of us… The first day, no cell phone service was to be had. I had never been to the Forest, and I
Now back to your regularly scheduled interview:
FMF: I know you wanna talk about that moment. I want to talk about it in this story (that I’m writing). Your passion for festivals, your passion for being a media team member, how you got started, and how you feel about being a female in this industry… faced with some adversity, because it is difficult.
Ashley: Yeah, what I’ve experienced is that sometimes when people sit down for an interview and they think that… when I first started there was this video that was viral on YouTube. And it was this chick who, she was a cute girl, and she’s interviewing. (I can’t remember who she was interviewing). It’s this big festival thing. She’s got the video… I don’t know what publication she was with. So she sits down with this guy and she was like, “okay, so how was your set at this festival?” And he’s like, “I didn’t play that festival”. And she was like, “well what about this collaboration you had with so-and-so”. And he’s just like, “I think you are talking about David Guetta or something…I am not that person”. And she was just sitting there… and she’s on YouTube… and she’s struggling so hard because she obviously has no idea what the fuck she is doing.
To me, watching that video was so eye-opening, because you never wanna be that girl. You never wanna be that person that’s like, oh I’m cute and I’m on video, so I’m just gonna ask you a bunch of questions… and you don’t know what you are talking about. So, I made a point when I first started doing this that I never wanted to be that girl. Every interview that I go into, whether it’s generic questions that I don’t know who they are… you start and you dig and you dig and you dig. The more that you dig then the better questions you’re gonna have. So this girl that I interviewed at Mamby. I didn’t know who she was. She’s brand new, nobody knows who she is. I just dug through her Twitter, she was all into astrology and all these things that she was talking about. She doesn’t find friends in L.A. So I’m talking to her about that stuff and I felt that was a better interview than say, meet somebody and like, “oh, what are your influences or whatever?” And, you know, digging in and getting those questions was huge for me. Sometimes I sit down with these interviews and they think that I’m going to be that girl. You know, it’s happened when I first started [in the industry] where they think that I’m going to be like that girl and then I ask them a question and they’re like, Oh shit, WOW those are really good questions.
Ashley: You know, because you’re digging deeper. Well, I mean me with the writing, it fell into my lap, literally fell into my lap. I started abroad in Holland.
FMF: How exciting!
Ashley: It was great. I spent the last five months of my college career in Holland and I went to this
[We both laugh]
Ashley: So I met this other girl who was the only other hula hooper there. And we were just like instant (connection), her name’s Kristen and we were just instant friends you know? Like “Oh my God, you are so cool.” She was from New York studying abroad in France. And we ended up at the same festival. A year later I’m living in Minneapolis and she hits me up and she’s like “Hey, so there’s this
FMF: Oh, no!
Ashley: And he did everything. He did. He sent out whatever press releases… it was first
FMF: Wow. And how did that make you feel? As a female boss bitch (and not only like emotionally) that you took your people and your gifts somewhere else?
Ashley: I mean, it wasn’t about being a female, or not, or anything, it was just I already have an in with these people. Let’s just do this.
Ashley: You know, so that wasn’t me being a female, because Kristin was the co-owner of the website.
FMF: I see.
Ashley: And she’s very active in you know, a lot of female stuff. LGBTQ. She’s really into it, she’s actually left the website. I kind of took over her spot for being the most prolific writer that they have. She’s very involved and that kind of stuff,
At this point in the interview we are interrupted. Not only does this particular festival cater to the experience as a whole, but the entire team is there for support. Truth be told, it was likely pretty apparent that we were in the “girl power zone” so to speak. It’s nice to know there are still great people in the world, especially in such a magical environment.
Electric Forest Staff: Hey girls, how’s it going?
Us: We’re okay. Happy Forest.
Electric Forest Staff: Hey Happy Forest! Where are you guys from?
EF: Oh nice. I’m from here.
It’s been a very long time at a festival that I have actually been offered water for no reason in the middle of the day. Well, this particular weekend of Electric Forest was one of the hottest on record so other than us completely melting, the nice gentleman only wanted to make sure we were ok, on an emotional level.
FMF: People are so nice.
Ashley: Yeah. So basically he was just like “lose the hula hoops” or whatever. I have a lot of people tell me, well you should put your face out there. They’re like, oh, well you’re so pretty, you should put your face out there. And for me, I don’t want it to be my face that sells things, and, in a way, I also am not confident enough in myself to deal with the trolls. So I feel like it’s better for me, especially as a female, and one who is seen as attractive. I don’t consider myself a hot chick by any means but for somebody who pushed me and was like, “Oh you should put your face out there…put your face out there and take a bunch of Instagram videos.” Or “What’s your Instagram when it comes to hula hooping” and things like that.
Ashley trails off. You can tell that for her, beauty gets in the way of being taken seriously. It gives her no validation. Her words are her makeup. Her interviews are her fashion choices. Her hooping is her soul.
FMF: You are so beautiful.
Ashley: Thank you. It’s like embedded in this thing whereas being a female where you’re pretty, you should put your face out there and everything like that… and that’s not what I am about. I would much rather have my interviews that are really good interviews to be just in print vs in my face because it’s not about my face! It’s about what I’m talking about and it’s about the artist.
Ashley: So that’s kind of where I’m at with that. As a female that’s basically what it is. I don’t want to put my face out there because I’m a chick or because I’m attractive. I want my content to be out there. Which is what… you helped me with that, when it comes to like, no don’t lose the hoops, because if I show up with my hula hoops and I’m just a ditz, that’s one thing. But if I show up with my hula hoops and I do great interviews, then that’s what I want to be known for…the chick who gives great interviews with the hula hoops, instead of some cute chick who gives mediocre interviews.
Ashley: Basically that’s what it is.
FMF: I felt so blessed to have had that moment with you, because I followed your career since I met you. I read your articles and I read your interviews. And it’s inspiring for me as a female in the industry… I’m more of the organizational, behind-the-scenes… and I write. There are many other writers that are much better than me.
Ashley: I’m not the best writer ever, but that’s why I bank on those interviews, because I’m not the best writer ever.
FMF: I do love telling stories and it’s unique. Could I interview somebody and put the questions out there and have their answers? Absolutely, but I would rather tell somebody’s inner truth and inner story and not have it be all about, look at this picture, look at this picture…unless that’s exactly what they’re wanting. I don’t know anybody who would not be completely struck by your beauty. And then seeing you hula hoop, it was the first time I’ve ever seen a hula hooper that was really proficient. And not just proficient, it moved me when I saw you dance. You got lost in the music, I’m also a dancer, I know you know.
Ashley: Yes, [LAUGH].
FMF: We just have different styles, I just can’t use a prop.
Ashley: I can only use a prop. [LAUGH].
FMF: Yeah, I cannot. I tried the hula hoop and I’m like, “what do I do with this thing?” And so to see somebody be so great at something and to also have a voice in the industry…and quite frankly, to do it all by herself, really. I mean everybody got their start from somebody, I got my start with Festival Squad, you know, an accident. I went into Ultra and I said hey, can I write this article, I really loved this festival.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah.
FMF: And she said sure, but
FMF: So now I prefer to help edit, post, this and that. I’ve learned a whole lot with that. But you’ve done this really
Ashley: I went to school for psychology, I never went to school for any kind of journalism. I took two writing classes in college.
Ashley: English 101 and creative writing, and I wasn’t very good at the creative writing part of things. But yeah, I mean my English 101 class taught me a lot. Edward Dudley I think was his name? I can’t remember, but I know Dudley was his last name. He taught me a lot about just like structure and things like that. I was already pretty decent at
FMF: But you have a gift for it. And not everybody who’s trained and went to school for journalism can do what you do as a natural, and be just completely gifted. Everything that I’ve done in my life has been just trained. A trained weapon. It’s all studying and training, dance included. I’ve never been a natural at anything. And, so, to find somebody that is really and truly a natural is just so inspiring. It’s beautiful to watch.
Ashley: Yeah, my editor at Crust Nation during the end of things, I mentioned I never went to school for journalism. Nobody’s ever done anything like that to me, and he just said “you know what? That’s probably a good thing because what you do and the voice you have is unique and that’s to you. And if you were to take the voice that you have and go to journalism school, you’d find that one teacher that is going to suppress you and do something that will push you in a direction that’s cookie cutter and not exactly what you do. It might have ruined you as a writer. It’s better that you never did any of that, because what you are doing right now is exactly what you are, and it’s who you are. And it’s It’s better
FMF: Andrew Ward. Would you say that he’s the most inspirational person you’ve met that’s pushed you to find your voice in this industry?
Ashley: At the beginning, yeah, I would say so, for sure. He always had an appreciation for everything that I wrote. He definitely, whether it be for Sensible Reason… I was into it. I’ve been into it this entire time. I’ve been a person where I just jumped straight in. When I first started writing for Crust Nation was like, “Oh my God, I’m a published writer.” When I first started, Krewella retweeted something that I wrote. I had this MDMA article that I wrote that had 7,000 hits on StumbleUpon. I was just like, “Oh my God, I’m a published writer, this is fucking awesome.” And over time, which is like you’ll get used to it. It’s not as “Oh my God” as it was before. But yeah, some of those pieces when I first started writing it was just like, “Do you want to go to this free Wolfgang Gartner concert?” “No sorry, I’ve got this Tyler the Creator music video that just came out and I need to write about it. I’ve got to finish this before I do anything cool.” Having that passion when I first started was like, yeah, I’m a published writer, Oh my God. It was so surreal to me! So now doing all these things… G
FMF: They’re the only dubstep artists I really truly enjoy.
Ashley: Yeah, they’re something else! I still have those oh my God moments… even hula hooping at
FMF: [Laughs] On their video cameras.
Ashley: Well they’re just like…so they’re sitting there like this. [Holds up her phone in the universal “I’m videoing” stance] I was gonna stop… And they’re all like no keep going, keep going. I was like all right. It’s still surreal to me, it’s still just like… okay, this is cool.
FMF: Well your tag name is Hooper.
Ashley: Yeah. [LAUGH] Hooper, for sure.
FMF: Yes, and to see it done the way that you do it is incredible. And it doesn’t matter the style of music that you’re dancing to because I’ve seen you hoop for several festivals over many years. And there were some that I’ve seen you at, and I felt, too, you were in the zone and I was like, I’ll catch her in the next set and we just sit we just didn’t connect.
FMF: What do you feel when you get inside that hoop? What moves your soul? I don’t wanna know how you learned, I know it’s a gift. I wanna know what moves your
Ashley: Yeah, I mean when I first started hula hooping, I couldn’t do it. That was
Ashley: And it was just like I miss it, I missed it, I missed it. And it became this obsession. You know you have something crazy when like your friend’s are like, “hey, you wanna go
Ashley: I’m sober and just flying so high. Because the whole world falls away, and nothing else matters. And that’s what broke my heart. Because dudes like him would say “drop the hula hoops,” and it’s like you’re dropping the one thing that like…
At this point, the tears are both flowing from both of us. Much like when she hoops or when I dance, we are flowing together as the unique individuals that met 4 years prior at a Halloween event. Although now she is not dressed as a cat, nor am I dressed as the most ridiculously looking post-pubescent Rainbow Brite. Our masks are off. It truly is a magical moment of understanding.
FMF: That makes you, you.
Ashley: It’s my life. The whole world falls away and nothing else matters. And it’s just pure joy. It’s like heaven on earth.
FMF: I am so happy to hear that. What connected me to you, other than being fellow media members, is watching you do what you do, along with the fact that I have a craft that I do that I feel. I feel you when you’re doing it.
FMF: You’ve made me cry on multiple occasions watching you. The hardest was probably at Sasha and Digweed. And I made everybody in my group stop. “You must watch Ashley hoop. Just for a moment. I know you’re into this music, but I want you to witness the most beautiful hooper I’ve literally ever seen”. They all stopped, and then you were watched for the entire time. They couldn’t even take their eyes off of you. We both make it to many festivals in a year.
FMF: We’re very blessed. We’re lucky that we have a gift, a craft, an organizational, a hoop and whatever it is to get there.
FMF: But watching you in your element, I can only imagine after watching you hoop and it making me emotional, what it’s like watching you get up to an interview.
We are still those sappy chicks in the Forest. Trust me, it’s worth it.
FMF: When we ran into each other at Mamby, I was just so excited to see you.
FMF: I could tell something was wrong. And I know that we’ve connected online and we’ve connected at fests and we had some nice conversations. Not deep conversations… but I always want to get to know you better. I like to reach out to people, but when I saw you, and I saw how you were feeling … and when I asked you what it was, I could not believe what you had to go through! In the dance industry, I am one of the few females who has lasted this long. This (music journalism) isn’t my career, I don’t make money for this.
Ashley: Exactly, exactly.
FMF: I spend my money to try to even get there…my plane ticket or whatever, because it’s worth it.
FMF: For the experience and the love and the joy that you get from listening to music and dancing and being with your friends and new people. To me, it’s all about the connections. I’m just so humbled you were willing to talk to me a little more about it at Mamby… to share yourself because it’s hard to share yourself with somebody else.
FMF: I must have caught you directly after that situation.
Ashley: Directly after.
FMF: So, you know…how could you ever give up the one thing that you love so much, just because you are in the industry.
Ashley: Mm-hm. I don’t understand how anyone would ever feel.- I don’t want to just wear all black and look super serious and not give a fuck about anything anymore because I’ve been in the industry for 15 years. Now if I’m gonna be in the industry for 15 years it’s because I love the fucking music, and I love the camaraderie, and I love everything that’s going on at that festival. I’m not gonna keep showing up just because it’s work, I’m gonna keep showing up because I love it. And you have to be happy in your life, to be happy in what you do, you have to be happy in your job. If you’re not happy in your job, if you’re gonna harp on other people for doing things that they’re passionate about because this is work for you, then get out of the fucking industry.
Ashley: Get out. Just leave. Go work in your office job and sit your nine to five and sit in
FMF: Don’t you think that we all came into music in general with a passion for it and sometimes we forget?
Ashley: Don’t lose your fucking passion, man.
FMF: And that’s what’s so inspirational for me to speak to somebody like
FMF: So, You say that Forest is your home.
FMF: And you love it more than any other festival.
Ashley: It’s my
FMF: It’s wonderful.
Ashley: All right.
FMF: Thank you so much for sharing yourself with me Ashley.