Allyson Toy makes me proud to be Asian. There's been this slowly growing sense of pride in my heritage within me since I started my twenties, and I've been seeing it in so many of the other Asian American women that I've been running into as I find myself burrowing further into the music industry. Seeing these inspiring people flourish and thrive has motivated me to keep working as hard as all of my beautiful sisters are. Allyson though, she's taken it to a whole other level.
I got an email roughly one month ago for an invitation by Allyson to Naomi Watanabe's LA debut show. I knew I had to go- for one, I love Yoshimoto (the comedy company in Japan that handles Watanabe's career), but secondly, and more importantly, I was going to get to meet Allyson in the flesh, something I was decidedly more excited for. We definitely knew of one another through mutual friends we had in New York and LA, but getting to meet an intra-continental friend is always worth stepping out into the LA night for.
Watanabe's show was held at Union Nightclub, and when I get there, it's packed way more than I thought it would be. The show, in a nutshell, is Japanese humor to the max and only a certain crowd could appreciate its weird simplistic style; nevertheless, a sizable crowd had shown up to the Tuesday night show. It's 90 percent Beyonce covers, partnered with one-off tricks like a donut throwing competition. I brought my incredibly non-Asian friend to the show and I definitely laughed at the confusion I saw dripping from her face. The mostly Japanese crowd was absolutely eating this shit up.
I run into Zeena first, and then to Allyson, who upon recognizing me gives me a hug like we were old friends. 'The internet can be a great place sometimes,' I think to myself at meeting a friend I felt like I already sort of knew.
I somehow convince Allyson to talk to me for this website, and find myself sitting in front of her outside of a coffee shop in Santa Monica a day later.
She asks a lot about me, which was a surprise, and I realize it had been a while since anyone took so much time to talk to me about me. She's a great listener, and she knows how to truly hone in and get to know a person.
In general, I knew some basic things about her before sitting down at the coffee shop, like that she was at The Fader, she DJ-ed, went over to 88 Rising, and was moving on to Red Bull, but her actual start began way back in the Bay Area, where she found her love of music in piano. "Like a good Asian," she notes to me cheekily before mentioning that becoming an artist was never in the cards. Nevertheless, this lead to university in New York, and like any good New Yorker, she found herself hustling for money (as a DJ) and a being damn good one at that.
After college, she began working at WME's mailroom and eventually worked herself up to become the infamous Cara Lewis' assistant, right around the time Lewis transitioned from WME to CAA. Allyson actually moved with her during that transition as well- "I was escorted out of the office with a box of stuff, and took the train straight to CAA and just started working there that day."
While there's probably a million kids out there dying for that experience, she quickly found that the agency life wasn't for her, and found a place at The Fader/Cornerstone Agency Group. She wasn't a writer, but she quickly became one of The Fader's most recognizable faces because of her DJ past. Thanks to her network of promoter friends who could get her into nearly every venue, she showed up representing The Fader for some of the best events NY could offer. Friends can take you places in this life, and she definitely befriended the right people.
The Fader gave way to an opportunity at 88 Rising, the spot to know if you're Asian and into Hip Hop. The group there have been behind some of the biggest Asian artists out at the moment - Rich Chigga, Bohan Phoenix, Higher Brothers, and more have all had some collaborative work with the team there.
At the time of our interview, she was just about getting ready to start her new job at Red Bull and was visiting the Santa Monica office for a little prep beforehand. Like the hustla she is, she's nonstop but managing to enjoy life in the process.
Other than just her day-to-day work, she's proud to be Asian and knows how to show it with her fashion sense, musical choices, and in everything else that encompasses her life. She tells me about traveling to China with Bohan Phoenix and learning about the small but budding hip hop scene there, and taking her family on a vacation to China and rediscovering their roots together.
I honestly wish that when I was younger, Asian American women like her were in the public eye so kids like me would know what being young, Asian, intelligent, and proud truly meant. I grew up in a series of incredibly white neighborhoods. Although I spent my younger years in Japan and the Bay Area, I spent a considerable amount of time in Scotland and in a small pocket suburb of Sacramento that was roughly about 90% white. There wasn't anything about pride in being different than everyone else, and there weren't people to look up to, but hanging out with Allyson that day showed me just how far things have come and how much change is coming our way. She was comfortable in her skin and was kicking ass in music and thriving in culture, and it felt like every person should strive to feel like she did.