By: Rashida Ashley
Photos: Ben Cope
In 1789, Marie-Antoinette is famously known to have stated in the French dialect “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”â€” “Let them eat cake.” Many have fathomed that she stated this oblivious remark upon learning her peasant subjects had nothing to eat. Antoinette’s callous remark was said because she had no understanding of the conditions and daily lives of the ordinary people she governed. Consequently, she became the most hated figure of her time.
Although studies have found otherwise, it is this statement which has led some to believe was the cause of the revolution that made her lose her head. While comedian Anastasia Washington is no Marie-Antoinette, this particular queen not only gives the same sentiment (albeit for different reasons), but has a solid understanding of the people she comes in contact with. Indeed, we may not be starving peasants, however, Washington offers a new meaning to the solution of eating cake, on Wednesdays in particular. Washington is an Actress, Comedian, Podcaster, Writer, Director, Singer, Curvy Model, Comic Con Panelist, and Dancehall Queen. As one reads on, one can clearly note that this bi-racial boss lady with curves, curls and sass utilizes her many talents for good by breaking down barriers and giving a voice to those who need it. Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too?
Rashida: In your interview with Edward Sylvan, when asked what your movement would be to inspire the most people, you responded that you celebrate your wins by eating cake on Wednesdays. You went on to say that it was a “re-narration of trauma.” Can you talk more about that narration (the experience you had)?
Anastasia: When I was about six years old, I went to a birthday party. It turned out that the people there were Neo Nazis. I’m light skinned, so they weren’t 100% sure of what I was until my dad dropped me off. Then they were sure that I was half black, and obviously that was a very awkward situation to be in. They actually let me into the party but wouldn’t let me experience the party. The worst part was watching everybody else eat cake. I am a huge cake person, so it was just the audacity of them not giving me cake. Later on I realized it was the racism that was a big part of it but when I was that age, it was the cake. I talk about it in my one woman show a little bit more in depth – there was a word stream with the parents and then there was an altercation between me and the kids. Later, when I would go to an event I’d be so hurt if I didn’t get a slice of cake. It made me go, “What is this?” Then I realized it was that incident. I decided that I wanted to celebrate my wins and I didn’t want trauma to be represented. That was something I found to be very special for me. That’s when Cake Wednesday really happened, and it’s been great. I get to celebrate other people’s wins too. I like to try to find places that are local, or black owned, or just different, and try to highlight them and just take something that’s so negative from my childhood and I try to turn it into something positive.
Rashida: You kind of touched on how you’ve carried that trauma with you up until the point where you decided to celebrate. How has that kind of trauma showed up in your life and how have you dealt with it?
Anastasia: I think it showed up in a variety of ways. I started acting when I was really young, and have also had an evaluation of my body at a pretty young age. So I’ve been there with eating disorders and stuff like that. I think with trauma, the way I dealt with it was to become a comedian and make myself and others laugh about it, and discuss it and not be afraid to discuss it and feel safer. It’s not that I’m making a joke of the trauma but I’m trying to go, “it’s cool.” We can talk about this, you know, it’s cool to experience this. It’s cool that I experienced it; yeah it sucked, but also if you’ve been there, I’m here. I do that a lot in my stand ups. I talk about my experiences. I try to give the audience moments where I talk about my family, and a lot of the time the audience goes “Oooh!” I go, “it’s cool, it’s fun, it’s dancey!” and then they get relaxed and they come up after the show and say “Oh gosh, my family went through stuff like this too!” or “Being biracial I finally feel like I can talk about this too.” I feel like that’s how I dealt with it, so I decided to make it a hobby. I decided to discuss it in a lighthearted way. I think a lot of people of color do that. I think it’s harder with certain audiences that don’t understand people of color. You can’t take it all, so you’ve got to make jokes about it for survival. I think that really resonated with me as a person, and now I think I use it to start discussion and to hopefully make changes from those discussions.
Rashida: That is such a beautiful and healthy way, even though it’s cake, of celebrating. So I really admire that!
Anastasia: You can do a carrot cake!
Rashida: Yeah, or even a fruitcake, or angel fruit cake! Listen, there’s options.
Anastasia: Whatever cake you do, you have to do it wherever you’re at!
Rashida: Thank you so much for that! Going along with that topic, can you talk about the specific moment when you decided to make Wednesdays your celebration space? Where were you in life, how old were you? What were your thoughts?
Anastasia: It was pretty recent. I started writing a one woman show a couple of years ago. I did it during the pandemic, which was an interesting experience to perform during this time. I was writing a pilot about my family and spent a rough five years writing it and, you know, it brought stuff up. I felt I needed to do this for me. It is a way for me to feel gratitude and feel like a winner.
Rashida: How has that moment impacted your views on discrimination throughout the different aspects of your life, and your thoughts on being placed in the “other” category? Anastasia: When I was a kid, my mom was really good at not hiding it, but making the discrimination we were seeing a positive. We’d walk into a room and everybody would stare at our family. My mom would go “Oh my gosh, it’s because we’re so good looking.” So I thought we’re just so cute, everyone thinks we’re so cute but nothing weird happened. I think this incident really told me that people can hate me for just existing. There’s nothing I literally can do. I think it did affect the way I like to be entertaining and try to amuse people, and that’s probably a psychological thing. I’m going to change their mind. I’m cool and you’re gonna love us. I also think I already knew I was “other.” I knew that when I was walking in a room, I was already different. I could make it entertaining and fun, or I could make it a very lonely experience. I’ve had those moments where, being biracial, I felt like I was kind of a bridge. Sometimes it sucks because there’s a lot of traffic on it and a lot of views, but at the same time it’s like, I can have those conversations. I can make it an easier transition for somebody else, and I hope I can do that. I think being an “other,” it made me feel responsible very young.
Rashida: Wow, I love that analogy! I’m a person of color, I’m not biracial by any means, so I can’t even imagine that position of feeling like you’re a bridge and just seeing and experiencing all that “traffic” going through. That kind of made me think, especially at a young age, how it must have felt to feel like you had that kind of responsibility. At the same time there’s power in that too because you have the power to bring people from all walks of life together. That’s such an interesting thing. Were there any boxes that you attempted to fit yourself in order to gain an audience that you had to let go of?
Anastasia: For sure I do! You know, I’m a curvy girl. I’ve had a lot of people encourage me to talk about, and make light of, you know, being qualified. So I used to make jokes about being a femme model and how it was so much better to be a plus size model. All this stuff and it was funny, it was great and people liked it, but at a certain point I felt like I didn’t feel it anymore. What I felt was that I was a person. I don’t want to make being curvy and cute funny. What if I’m just a cute comedian? Why do I have to highlight that? So I stopped.
Rashida: What were some boxes you struggled with accepting that you fit into? How do you think you’ve grown into these boxes?
Anastasia: I had trouble checking boxes. I kind of grew up in a generation where we had to choose what box to pick on applications. We didn’t have a multicultural example of biracial. You had to choose what you identified with and I always identified with both sides of my family. I always identify myself as a person more than a side. Although I think what I had a problem with certain boxes is that you had to be in a session, and then you had to be in a discussion. I had to remove the stigma for me, no matter what people say. You’ll see on a casting list “currently seeking attractive” or “slightly overweight.” Those things can get to you. I’m sure, on the other end of the spectrum, if you’re checking another box and you’re skinny or whatever they’re certainly words I’d probably hate too. I realize that boxes are there to sort us out, especially for casting. At the same time you don’t have to live in that box. You could be checking in any and that’s okay. That may be confusing. When I check both boxes, people would ask, “Why are you checking both boxes, you should just take a lead?” I’m like, no, I’m not going to do that. I’ll be over here in this lane and this lane and in this lane and you can choose one or you can just drive on.
Rashida: How has your mission to furthering the conversations of colorism, discrimination, and true crime stories been refined through each of your projects?
Anastasia: Yeah, I think it’s just become super personal. When I first started I was just talking about different things that were conducive to different world experiences. I realized the more personal and the more I told how things happened to me or how it affected me, the more I see other people go, “Yeah I felt like that too.” When you don’t open up about your own experiences, I think that’s really where you start shrinking. We really do have to tell our stories from our perspective. I mean there’s nothing like it.
History.com Staff. (2012, October 24). Did Marie-Antoinette really say “Let them eat cake”?
History.com. Retrieved October 14, 2021, from
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