Girl Friday: Brittany Ishibashi

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Photography by: Janis Nicolay

[blockquote]Brittany Ishibashi is an actress, seen most recently as Anne Ogami on USA’s Political Animals and soon to be seen on the CW’s Emily Owens, MD, but truly, she’s more accurately described as an artist. It was apparent at our first meeting more than a decade ago, that we were long lost twins. We bonded over a shared appreciation of corny jokes, dark chocolate and deep familial ties, and in return, she brought out the best in me: patience, generosity, and a joie de vivre. Upon meeting her, one is immediately struck by her bubbly charm and grace. However, what’s truly inspiring is her commitment to being an artist in all aspects of her life, and her dedication to keeping that spirit of play and childish wonder alive every day.[/blockquote]

You’re a newlywed. What has been the best part of year one? The most challenging part?
I truly felt a change once we got married: Empowered. It was a very tangible confirmation that I have someone in my corner who loves me so completely. It makes me feel like anything is possible. The best part of year one has been our active support and endorsement of each other’s dreams. We’ve been lucky.[quote_right]I truly felt a change once we got married: Empowered.[/quote_right] I’ve been able to travel a lot for work; he’s been busy with a clean energy startup company, and therein lies the most challenging part of year one: negotiating our time spent together working on our marriage vs. time spent apart–physically and emotionally–to work on our work. We both realized that we have to make time to work on our marriage just like we reserve time for our jobs.

Family is very important to you. Are you looking forward to having children of your own? How will you balance your career with motherhood?
For me, creating familial bonds in all areas of my life is necessary. I cannot wait to have children with Jeff. I’m inspired by my girlfriends who are raising their children with such grace and style–I see the struggles and I marvel at the solutions. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that a) I’m friends with some pretty kick-ass women, and b) that it’s okay to ask for help when it’s needed. It truly does take a village. I’m so grateful that my village is so full of amazing and inspiring women! How will I balance my career with motherhood? Hopefully with compassion and honesty in both areas. I look forward to that adventure and all the challenges that come with it—step by step.

How would you describe your family and how that dynamic influences your creative life?
Haha, the Ishibashi household is a wonderfully unique one.  We’re kind of the Asian Partridge Family.  I’m not kidding– dad plays guitar and sings in a rock band, mom sings and is launching a jewelry line, my sisters sing, dance, act and write… We’re a family of artists!  I’ve become increasingly grateful for this built in support system.   [quote_left]At the heart of it all, I really just want to make them proud. Do good work, work hard, and, as our family says, “Leave it all onstage.”[/quote_left]It wasn’t until my sisters and I were all adults that we realized what an incredible feat it was for our mom and dad to nurture the three of us and our artistic dreams. As artists themselves, it was sometimes a “gig to gig” household, and yet they always managed to keep us all in acting, dancing and voice classes, martial arts, and send all three of us to college.  I draw strength from my family on a daily basis, whether it’s that breath that centers me before I step into an audition room, or begin a scene, or if I have to find new meaning and gratitude when I start to feel like a show pony jumping through hoops in this town.  At the heart of it all, I really just want to make them proud. Do good work, work hard, and, as our family says, “Leave it all onstage.”

I hear you’re tackling a remodel on your first home. How does it feel to put on a hard hat and play the role of a homeowner?
Honestly? I feel like an adult is going to come by at any moment and take it all away from us, haha! Like, “You had your fun playing… You can have this again when you’re a grown up.” In between the exhilarating construction phase and the creative, time-consuming design part of it, I still kind of feel like I’m a kid who totally got away with something and it’s just that no one’s noticed yet. That being said, I’m having a GREAT time playing. It’s incredibly fulfilling to actually be designing and building our home together.

Both you and your husband are very committed to an eco-conscious lifestyle, how do you incorporate your choices into your everyday life?
In big and small ways! [quote_right]Living in an eco-conscious way doesn’t have to be expensive or uncomfortable. It really is just an awareness.[/quote_right]We’re a Prius family, proponents of solar, and while we’re not 100% vegetarian, our meals do tend to be local, organic, and full of vegetables. Living in an eco-conscious way doesn’t have to be expensive or uncomfortable. It really is just an awareness. Checking in and asking yourself how your actions directly affect the environment. It can be as simple as recycling, using a BPA-free, filtered water bottle, (Water Bobble is a great inexpensive one), unplugging appliances when not in use, and driving less. Every little bit counts!

Brittany Ishibashi Interview by Jenn Wong

How would you describe your style? What role does fashion play in your life?
When I was younger, fashion was such a wonderful way to voice different aspects of my personality. The Type A side of myself was super happy to catalogue my closet and painstakingly document each day’s outfit so that I wouldn’t dare repeat it in a 30-day period.[quote_right]The artist in me was happy to see what I could get away with[/quote_right] The artist in me was happy to see what I could get away with–tutu over leggings? How about cutting the sleeves off a blazer and wearing it as a tunic? I even went through a Roaring Twenties period–I amassed a killer collection of dresses, jewelry and wigs!  My day-to-day style now is probably best defined as “relaxed elegance,” timeless and chic. Put-together without being fussy. I love the magic a well-tailored shift dress and great heels can make; it even makes a fancy adventure out of going to the grocery store.

Do you have a favorite quote you live by?
My dad has always said, “Honor people when you can look ‘em in the eye.” It’s taken on a deeper meaning for me as I’ve developed a greater understanding and appreciation for life as a beautiful and finite thing. There have been many times where I’ve thought of wonderful qualities and traits that I appreciate about people, how grateful I am for a gesture they made or how inspired I am by their actions, and yet I don’t tell them personally. Memorial services celebrate what an impact a person made while they were alive here on earth…why wait until a person has passed to share instances when they’ve made your world a better place? Every moment is precious and we don’t know how much time any of us have here. Honor someone when you can “look ‘em in the eye” – it will brighten both their world and yours.

What do you consider to be your hardest won or most treasured life lesson?
Growing up, I was so intent on being “good”…on being “perfect”, whatever that is, that I was losing myself to what I thought other people thought I should be. It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t have to try and make everyone happy – directors, peers, family, society.[quote_left]It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t have to try and make everyone happy[/quote_left] I worked so hard at trying to figure out what other people wanted from me and then judged myself harshly for what I thought was falling short of their expectations. I thought that I was being generous and giving, but I had blinders on. By focusing so much on pleasing others, I was neglecting to nurture and take care of myself! It may sound funny, but I had to actually give myself permission to listen to what I truly wanted to be and how I wanted to live. And it was scary at first, because when I took a quiet, introspective moment, the scope of what was possible was staggering. I’ve found peace and beauty in the understanding that I’m always changing, there is no “perfect” and that’s okay. And in the acceptance of that, my heart is happier and my spirit is free.

Brittany Ishibashi Interview by Jenn Wong

In light of your recent role as Anne Ogami, a politician’s fiancée harboring a secret eating disorder, has being an actress affected your body image and relationship with food?
Playing Anne in Political Animals was a scary, yet ultimately wonderful thing for me to do. I understood so much of her desire to present as ‘perfect’ in a world that you feel like you are trying to understand.  [quote_right]The pressures of dance and my desire to fit in led me down a scary calorie-counting path. I recognize it now as an overwhelming need for control when everything else in my life seemed to be out of my hands[/quote_right]My hyper-awareness of body image started back in high school when I was dancing a lot. The pressures of dance and my desire to fit in led me down a scary calorie-counting path. I recognize it now as an overwhelming need for control when everything else in my life seemed to be out of my hands–what college I got into, who got the lead in the musical, etc. I remember clearly staring at a Power Bar wrapper, knowing that it was the only thing I ate that day, and punishing myself by dancing extra hard and extra long to burn off those 210 calories. My return to a healthy relationship with food was a long road, but it came with the help of friends and family.  I am lucky to be able to count on them to keep me honest. Even though I feel that I now live a healthy lifestyle, I am still susceptible to the demands and pressures of this business. As an actor, I have never had a director or producer tell me that if I just lost 5 lbs I’d be perfect, but to be completely honest, it’s difficult not to put the pressure and that standard onto myself. I’m immersed in a world that has a lot of eyes on me. It’s hard when I hear, “You look great!” to not hear, “Stay skinny and you’ll keep working!” It’s a slippery slope.

I know you travel a lot for work, filming in Canada, on the East Coast, and even living in Philadelphia while filming for part of the year. Do you have any essential travel tips?
Pack lightly! Haha. But seriously, pack lightly. It sure was hard, but I’ve learned to really narrow it down to the essentials. And if you find there is something you really need, it makes exploring your new city even more of an adventure. What’s in my in-flight carry on? A large bottle of water, my iPad, earbuds, lip salve, hand cream and Caudalie’s Beauty Elixir. I’m a nervous flyer, so I make sure to upload some good books and relaxing playlists before I leave. And I also close the little air ducts above my seat…I’ve found that the recycled air just makes me more prone to colds. Blech.

How do you cope with being away when you’re filming?
I cope pretty well I think. Sometimes a job will take me away for months at a time. While I cherish this time to do my work and have ‘me’ time, I also really miss family and friends. [quote_left]I journal a lot when I’m away– that keeps me honest with myself.[/quote_left]My husband and I have found that three weeks is the absolute longest we want to go without seeing each other. That seems to be the magic number for us. It’s the right amount of time to focus on our work and be independent, then we reconnect with fresh perspectives and get to share our new adventures and discoveries. I journal a lot when I’m away– that keeps me honest with myself. And I also like to take walking tours of my temporary neighborhoods– exploring new environments is so invigorating and stimulating. In between visits, Skype is very helpful!

What are your must have items when you’re far from home?
It helps me a lot to make my temporary stay feel as homey as possible. Even if it’s a short trip, I like to pack yummy travel candles and a few small framed pictures of family and friends. Fresh flowers always help too! I love venturing to a local farmers market and bringing home some colorful, happy arrangements to brighten up the place!

Brittany Ishibashi Interview by Jenn Wong

What are you most enjoying learning about yourself lately?
I’m really enjoying the continual discovery and ripening of my voice as a woman and as an artist. I’m developing a greater trust in myself as I learn to relinquish control. In relaxing my hold on life, I’m letting a lot more of the world inside!

What advice do you have for younger women who may be following in your footsteps?
Keep your spirit of play! It’s vital! This is a rigorous field of endeavor and it will constantly test your will, your passion, your sanity…Whenever I find myself disillusioned or stagnant, I get back into an acting class, take a dance class, go see some live music, or theatre, or watch a movie…stat! It keeps me flexible, makes me happy, and reminds me of why I do what I do. Take the time to check in with yourself on a regular basis and honestly ask if you’re having fun. Because if you’re not, what’s the point?

How do you see your future?
Oh! There’s so much! I’d love to have children soon and be able to travel as a family from an early age. I’d love to do more theatre and take on the challenge of immersing myself in a play while also having a vibrant life at home. I’m looking forward to the continued design of our home remodel, to collaborating with my sisters on writing projects, to relearning how to play the piano and getting back into dance… And I’m so excited to learn how all of that deepens my craft as an artist and nurtures me in all of the roles I play in life.

Brittany Ishibashi Interview by Jenn Wong

Girl Friday is a phrase more common to the 1940s and 50s, defined as “a female employee who has a wide range of duties,” and is most recognizable from the film His Girl Friday. Here at Move LifeStyle, we’re resurrecting its saucy vibe for the title of our last column of the week which profiles inspiring women in the workforce.

Photography by: Janis Nicolay