At San Diego Comic-Con earlier this year, The Verge caught up with Ashley Eckstein to talk about Her Universe, Ahsoka Tano and find out what’s in her bag….
A decade ago, the Star Wars franchise expanded in a new direction with an animated series called The Clone Wars. The series followed the Jedi Knights and Clone Troopers who were fighting in the war that started in 2002’s Attack of the Clones. It also introduced a young Jedi Padawan assigned to Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano, voiced by actress Ashley Eckstein.
While the series got off to a rocky start, Ahsoka quickly became a popular and enduring character in the franchise who grew up to become a wise, strong leader for the growing rebellion in the next animated show, Star Wars Rebels. Next year, Eckstein will reprise her role when The Clone Wars returns on Disney’s upcoming streaming service, Disney+.
Since the show ended back in 2013, Eckstein has not only established herself as a voice actress for the franchise. She is also a fashion designer and champion of the franchise’s female fans, launching a woman-focused brand called Her Universe.
At San Diego Comic-Con this summer, I met up with Eckstein to talk about her work at Her Universe, and what she carries with her in her bag. Her enthusiasm is infectious: on her way over to meet with me, she spoke with a fan who recognized her. Upon hearing that his daughter was a fan of her character, she had him pull out his phone and record a voice message — in character — urging her to practice being a Jedi and to keep her head up.
“We’ve been able to find success with [Her Universe] because the numbers are on our side,” she told me when we found a quiet corner of the hotel lobby. “The sheer fact that half of all sci-fi and fantasy fans are now woman and girls, and I knew that the women were there, and I knew that I was one of them. I was like, ‘I’m a fangirl, and I will buy this if you make it.’ I think it’s just the fact that we’ve always been there, but we’ve never been catered to until now.”
Her Universe started out because she wanted more Star Wars apparel for herself. “I honestly thought more existed, but when I came up empty-handed and found out that there was really nothing — and then was told that I should be happy with a men’s size small — I was like, ‘Okay, this is a problem.’ More importantly than even the lack of merchandise, I found that women and girls were being bullied for just being who we are. So I wanted to make merchandise so women and girls could be comfortable being a fangirl.”
Eckstein speaks from experience, noting that she’s been the subject of cyberbullying, even recently. “It hurts, I’m not going to lie. Of course you read the comments, and you pull those out. But I have to keep in mind that it’s still a small minority of fans, and most of the fans are supportive and positive,” noting that her online Her Universe presence works to add to that positivity and create a safe space for fans. Her character, Ahsoka, she notes, is one that she’s able to draw guidance from. “I ask my self on a regular basis: ‘What would Ahsoka do? Ahsoka would stand up for fangirls.’”
After that, she excused herself, noting that she had to run to a panel — during which Lucasfilm announced that a new season of Clone Wars was coming — and we met up later that day to chat about what she carries around in her bag.