Most of you know Ashley C. Griffin as the face of MACG Productions LLC, a woman who’s influence in the music scene, particularly as it relates to the Hallyu Wave, has made ripples in the Korean music industry — though her humility would move her to argue to the contrary.
Whether in music or in business, Griffin has a passion and exuberance that pervades every single thing she does: making beats, hosting concerts, moderating panels at KCON and breaking down the intricacies of her favorite artists’ work. There are few in this wild and oftentimes dysfunctional family known as the K-pop fandom who share her fortitude to take a vision and years of experience to make their dreams come true.
However, there’s more to the woman than what you may see when she wears her entertainer persona, a small facet of the prismatic YouTube personality. In our interview, we dug a little deeper, allowing her broad fanbase a closer look into what it is that makes Ashley C. Griffin the driven entrepreneur that has built her own company and established a brand that grows ever recognizable as the the Hallyu Wave crashes onto American and European shores.
The Road Less Traveled
Our Skype conversation is casual. If you know Ms. Griffin personally, you’ve been lucky to experience just how warm and welcoming she is. The questions are simple, but her answers are always thoughtful, oftentimes introspective and 100 percent honest.
As the first face people associate with MACG Productions, clearly the business takes up a great deal of her energy and time. But it’s certainly not the only commitment on Ms. Griffin’s plate.
“So tell us, what is your job outside of MACG?”
“I’m an early childhood education teacher. I basically teach toddlers. I will be certified as an ESL instructor soon. I do teach ESL, but I’m not certified. I needed in-class learning, so had to stop.”
“With that in mind, are you currently going to school? If so, what for and how far along are you?
“I am currently going to school, Southern New Hampshire University. Two of the MACG staffers are going as well. I’m getting my BA with a concentration in communications. I’m now four months from graduating.”
*Note: As of this interview being published, Ashley’s 14-year journey to getting her BA finally came to an end. She has officially completed work for her degree in Communications, and she will be graduating in September.*
Well, that certainly is quite a bit on her plate. Given her time in school, I wonder if she’s much of a reader. Certainly the requisite reading of her classes may take some of the fun and mystery out of just enjoying a good read, but I’m always intrigued to learn what books and authors fascinate people.
“It’s not exactly reading,” she begins. “But I’m reading a lot of résumé writing books.” That’s definitely a surprise to me, though as I would find out during our conversation, much of what propels Griffin is surprising. She continues, “I’m preparing to submit for work outside the country, so I want to make sure my résumé is impactful.”
Obviously, she has a larger goal in mind, using résumé books to put her on that path. “What’s a goal you want to accomplish that has nothing to do with your job or MACG?”
“I’d like to live outside the country for an extended period of time,” she says. “I’m not sure I’ll stay an expat, but I have a very deep desire to travel freely, do random freelance jobs, struggle to sustain and have a story, a very unique one.”
Certainly, with so much in her field of vision, she can’t have time for everything she wants to accomplish from day to day. “What’s one aspect of your life you wish you could make more time for?”
Without even taking a breath, she says, “Sleep!” There’s a chuckle in her answer, but it’s as serious as any she’s given so far. “There’s something so amazing about quality rest. When you’re a full-time teacher/business owner/entertainer, there’s no sleep. It would be great to get some of that. A few more hours in the day would be nice, or a shorter commute so can I get more of that.”
Seeds of Inspiration & A Thirst for Knowledge
Everyone knows just how much Griffin adores music. From her projects available on Soundcloud and YouTube, to working with various producers, to explicating the things many may miss or oversee in their favorite artists’ songs, she has a deep appreciation and ardor for the craft. It’s only fitting we find out who some of her favorite artists are outside of K-pop. When I first ask the question, she lets out a half wail, half cackle.So I add one parameter: “Let’s say your top five that you absolutely can’t live without.”
She pauses for only a few moments and proclaims without trepidation, “George Maple! She’s Australian, amazing …” Then she lets fly one of her more recognizable catch phrases, “Touch her face!” After taking a breath, she continues, “I almost had the opportunity to build a website for her early in her career. I just adore her. She’s amazing!” She next lists Skrillex (an artist fans of hers would’ve offered from the moment I asked the question), Gorillaz, Adele and Corrine Bailey Rae.
With her aspirations to leave the country for an extended period of time, there had to be some impetus for her to arrive to the conclusion that being overseas was the move for her. “What’s a trip you took that’s still fresh in your memory as the best you’ve ever taken?”
Again, she answers with conviction and not the least bit of hesitation. “My trip to Korea was amazeballs! I did everything I wanted to do in four days, and I didn’t have to pay for it. I was truly blessedt!”
And, yes, she did punctuate that fact with a hard “t.”
She continues, “My flight and lodging were fully paid for, and some of the meals thanks to some solid friendships and my ability to speak some Korean, which I needed for an assignment.”
Upon reflecting on her desire for more sleep, I think to myself we could all use a few more hours in the day. It’s not easy running an empire, going to school, maintaining a day job and still having enough time to create content and music. So I ask
, her what takes up the most time in her life. I assume I know what it is. After all, she is a businesswoman continuing to grow and nurture a business she started with her sister. Giving and sustaining life to something like a business is no light task. However, she again proves that she’s more than what people know of her, adding more credence to the moniker “Multifaceted.”
“Actually,” she begins, “structured learning. Long before Google, people used to call me the living Google. I’m insatiable with a desire for learning, a desire to acquire new knowledge, to be the point person for people when they have questions. You can almost always ask, and I will know the answer or can point you in the right direction. I am consumed by it,” she stress emphatically, a breathy surge of energy coloring her words. “I’m the only one I know that reads ‘Fortune,’ ‘Entrepreneur,’ journals about acquisition.” She goes on to explain some of where this admitted obsession for knowledge stems from. “The presentation of yourself is where the power is.” Again she says, “I’m consumed by it. Religious studies, language, food, travel, social interactions, reactions. I love knowledge. I hate school, but I love learning.”
With such a strong urge to devour any and all information in the world, it can no doubt become draining trying to filter everything in a way that allows her to utilize it functionally. “What do you do to completely take your mind off that one thing that takes up most of your time?” I ask.
It takes her a moment. Her thirst for knowledge is obviously something that takes over so much of her time she has a bit of a task finding a way to turn it off. But we have all been witness to that one thing that can take her mind off just the sheer glut of information swimming around in her mind, that thing that can put her in a place of bliss. “I make beats. As of June, I’ve been making beats for a year. Some beats have been sitting around since I was 14 years old, beating my knuckles on the desk in a classroom.”
Her desire for more — more time, more knowledge, more music — isn’t by accident. There’s always somebody (or somebodies) that influence the way we think, see the world, and wish to interact with it. Griffin is no exception. Something that always fascinates me is who influences people to be who they are and do what they do. No one is born knowing in non-abstract terms 100 percent who they are and what they want out of life. We all have met, seen or known tangentially someone who’s made us realize, “This is what I want.” Who does Ms. Griffin count as that one (or perhaps several) catalyst who helped her realize her vision? Helped her propel herself to reach for more?
It’s not a simple question, thinking about who, not what, actually set you on your journey to self-discovery and self-realization. “Russell Simmons,” she says after about 15 seconds. “My goal is to be the female Russell Simmons,” she says with zero irony. “I find him absolutely phenomenal because he decided to do something everyone thought was stupid. I can relate, people asking, ‘What the hell is K-pop?’ But you can’t do much in this country without coming across someone who’s worked with me. That’s God, drive tenacity, focus.”
The awe in her voice is restrained, but it’s there, unmistakably and unabashedly. “That man has done a lot, and he’s another one and done. I think of myself as one and done. His passion is the lives he touches through his work, and that’s what I get to experience. On a very, very tiny scale compared to his empire,” she says with a chuckle but none of the rue of someone comparing themselves to a bona fide mogul. She says, “I impact lives. And I’m grateful for that.”
She pulls it back from the inspirational story of Russell Simmons and brings it a little closer to home. “On top of that, my sisters,” she says. “I have a lot of sisters, but no brothers. I’ve got a lot of half-siblings, and they all look up to me or look toward me for different reasons. I’m not as available to all of them as I would like,” she laments. “But it does motivate me. I don’t want them to feel disappointment. When they think of me, I want them know they can do anything, and even if it fails, they can still learn. Failure is contextual,” she adds. “I know my family’s proud, regardless of if they understand. I’m very much invested in the impact what I do has on my sisters. They’re all younger except Jess. Whether sisters by blood or so close that we are sisters, I genuinely do have six sisters.”
Ashley Griffin’s is a life to be emulated. Not because of what she’s accomplished, though I’m sure most of us have at least some small desire to have had a fraction of her experiences. However, it’s not the material that one should admire, but rather the substance. She has such drive, such passion and such a profound sense of who she is and where she’s going to end up, it ought to inspire people to push for more of themselves. But even in all that, Griffin is a paragon of humility and graciousness. Though our interview was short, it was certainly enlightening. It was amazing to actually learn firsthand the origins of the Multifaceted in the ACG.