Now, she's thankful for the awk moment that brought her to Hollywood.
In Elite Daily's series At The Moment, celebs dish on their current projects, pop culture hot takes, and everything taking over their group chats. In this piece, The Bold Type and Look Both Ways star Aisha Dee discusses her love of acting with “weirdos” and how she’s living her best life.
Aisha Dee will never forget her first audition... because it was kind of a mess. Then 8 years old and completely inexperienced, Dee had asked the casting director whether she was supposed to read the script’s stage directions out loud — a question that could get an actor (yes, even a child actor) laughed out of a room.
“I didn't really know what I was doing,” Dee, now 28, tells Elite Daily. “I had always really loved TV and movies, but never had the resources to take an acting class; I found my first agent in the Yellow Pages.” Luckily, the casting director was understanding, and Dee ended up landing the role of Desi Biggins in the iconic kids’ show The Saddle Club. The job set her up for a long, increasingly successful career for the Australian actor and singer. “That was a really pivotal moment for me ... it really hinged on the fact that she believed in me and and showed a lot of faith.”
“What if” moments like these are top of mind for Dee right now, thanks to her latest project, Netflix’s Look Both Ways, which she co-stars in alongside Lili Reinhart. The film follows Reinhart’s character, Natalie, whose life is shown diverging on two potential paths — one in which she gets pregnant and becomes a mom, and one in which she’s childless and moves to Los Angeles to pursue her dream job. Dee, who plays Natalie’s best friend, Cara, feels the film’s message on a spiritual level.
“Maybe I'm a bit of a hippie, but I really believe in this idea that we're living multiple lives at once,” Dee says. “Sometimes things happen that are so out of our control that we have to take a different path — that's a pretty universal feeling of looking back and wondering what could have been if just one thing had been different.”
Had that Saddle Club audition fallen through and her acting career never materialized, Dee thinks she could have been happy pursuing her “other great love,” which is food. “I would love to review food — to get paid to eat food all around the world,” she says. But for Dee, acting comes natural. “[It] really comforts me and helps me deal with my anxiety.”
Dee was feeling anxious just before finding out she’d landed Look Both Ways. “I was actually in the middle of a therapy session — probably in the midst of being like, ‘I don't know what comes next for me. I feel lost. Where do I go from here?’ — and my team was calling me [with the offer].”
What followed was a summer of filming with coworkers who quickly became friends. (“I guess working in film and television is how I make friends now ... It's like the circus. Everybody is a weirdo, not just me.”) When they weren’t working, Dee, Reinhart, and co-star Danny Ramirez spent their time eating chicken fingers and having dance parties. “I think someone probably has some really embarrassing video footage of me,” Dee says. “My favorite type of dancing is like, interpretive. I throw up a lot of butterflies.”
For Dee, the friendship she developed with Reinhart is especially inspiring. “She's producing her own stuff and has gone on to create such a wonderful career for herself, not just in terms of what she's doing alone, but also in advocating for other people and other films.”
The latter can be said of Dee herself, who is known for speaking out about representation in Hollywood — specifically on Freeform’s The Bold Type, which she starred in for the series’ entire run. While the show was airing, Dee publicly criticized the show for its shortcomings surrounding diversity and representation, both onscreen and off.
Looking back, Dee is aware of the risk that comes with publicly criticizing your employer, even the industry as a whole. “I was definitely nervous about how that would affect things moving forward, because it's not something that's typically done,” Dee says. “As the young actress, you're supposed to just sit down and say the lines and don't be too opinionated.” But that’s not how Dee rolls. “I had to say something. Not just for myself, but also for the communities that I was representing, communities I'm a part of.”
It paid off. The show altered a problematic arc for Kat, and although the situation was not “without its complications,” Dee has no regrets — especially considering how booked and busy she is for the foreseeable future.
But with a tiny break after promoting Look Both Ways, Dee is currently trying to get her zen on. “I can't think of the last time I just had a week to chill, so I'm attempting to do that. I'm going to take a lot of baths,” she says. “When the universe offers me rest, I think my lesson in life right now is to take that rest.”
Here’s what else is going on in Dee’s life at the moment:
This section has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What is your biggest relationship dealbreaker?
If you're not passionate about music. If you don't have some music that really makes your heart soar to the heavens, then I don't know what we're going to talk about.
Favorite app on your phone?
This is going to be kind of embarrassing. I like this game called Dots. Whenever I get really anxious, I just play this game where you connect the dots that are the same color.
The smiley face one with tears in it. It most accurately represents me.
Who was your first celeb crush?
I remember watching Pocahontas and being so conflicted. Like, was it Pocahontas or was it John Smith?
If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Any kind of nut butter.
Who was the last person you texted?
My friend Alisha; we're organizing girls’ night — a nice backyard little dinner.
What’s your song of the summer?
“Mr. Morale” by Kendrick Lamar. It's a f*cking great song.
Favorite nostalgic movie?
Sweet Charity with Shirley MacLaine. It's my favorite. I love it so much.
What is your sign?
I'm a Virgo [sun], Libra rising. I don't know what that really means. I mean, chaotic b*tch. I own it.