I received the new book “It’s Your Universe: You Have the Power to Make it Happen” by Ashley Eckstein to review just a couple of days ago, it is now out at Amazon and elsewhere! Before I dive into the review, I just wanted to give a one-sentence summary: This is a fun read if you love Disney or are a fan of Ashley or need some general motivation – I wasn’t sure what to expect but it’s a very well written and enjoyable book for me.
On a personal level, it’s exciting to see how far Ashley has come since we first met her about 8 or so years ago. She was part of Star Wars Weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios each year, being the voice of Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars: The Clone Wars at the time. We were behind Ashley and her Guest Relations guide at the former Writer’s Stop counter location and spoke for a few minutes, and we gave her the inside scoop on the Carrot Cake Cookie (note: you can find it at the Trolley Car Cafe and earn Starbucks points for it now!). During that conversation at the Writer’s Stop, she mentioned she was creating a line of Star Wars clothes for women called Her Universe, because there weren’t really other Star Wars clothing options for females. And while it seems like the transition to clothing designer was easy, it wasn’t (that story is detailed in the book). We’ve interviewed and seen Ashley every so often through the years, and I am glad she’s been so successful with Her Universe.
On to the book…
The book itself is pretty and purple and has a soft cover – just a nice overall feel to it. The words are more of a larger print size and there are quite a few photos and illustrations (beautifully done by artist Ashley Taylor). Between the word size and images, I expected it to be a relatively quick read. Looks can be deceiving, it’s almost 200 pages so it wasn’t quite *that* quick. It’s maybe 2-3 hours hours from cover to cover if not jotting notes down – and there are areas to do that, to put down your dreams and goals.
It’s Your Universe: You Have the Power to Make it Happen is an inspirational book that I thought was going to be geared more toward the younger Her Universe audience. But anyone really can pick up inspiration and tips from it, and Ashley’s life is rooted from a young age in Disney more than I realized – so it’s a fun book for general Disney fans as well. Ashley grew up in Orlando from the age of 2, her dad was a Cast Member and she spent a lot of time at Walt Disney World. Fireworks for her were something to be wished on.
The chapters in the book include the titles “Dream” and “Believe” . The text throughout is intertwined with Disney, whether it is referring to Mulan, Hercules, Alice in Wonderland (she says she is obsessed with the latter, Alice is her favorite character) and so many more. Ashley talks about the hard work and determination that it took as she worked as an extra occasionally in Orlando while still in school. Soon she was working a job she hated until she landed a parade performer job at Walt Disney World (Disney’s Hercules Zero to Hero Victory Parade at Disney’s MGM-Studios). After high school, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of acting on the Disney Channel. To an outsider, her career trajectory might seem quick but she started very young and went through a lot of rejection in between landing the parts and jobs she wanted. It took her maybe a couple of years between arriving in L.A. and getting a job in “That’s so Raven”, which was where she wanted to be – The Disney Channel. The story about Ashley receiving the role of Ahsoka Tano on Star Wars: The Clone Wars is fun as well, especially in that it was the one audition she particularly didn’t feel good about.
Starting Her Universe wasn’t so easy either, even Lucasfim at first turned her down – a rep telling her that women wouldn’t buy Star Wars clothes designed for them. Obviously that wasn’t the case, likely it was more that the right designs just hadn’t come along. I still remember her first shirts when they arrived at Walt Disney World, and soon I was seeing them everywhere. Her Universe also has other brands now, I bought a Doctor Who tank for my niece a couple of years ago.
Ashley also talks about meeting her husband, and why her favorite number is 22. And as I mentioned, most of the book is rooted in Disney in one form or another. Almost every story has a Disney connection or she relates it to a Disney character and she has an idealism that reminds me more of Rapunzel I think than any other character.
When I started reading, I was not expecting the book to have much to do with me. I’m 51 and felt that her tips would be more geared for those starting out their adult lives and looking for motivation and inspiration. But really, I am inspired too. It helps to know that even when it looks like something happened easily, it may have taken years. I am very fortunate that professionally, I am at the point where many doors open easily. But not all the ones I would expect do, and persistence probably is something I need more of.
I do recommend It’s Your Universe: You Have the Power to Make it Happen. It is an enjoyable, easy read that has a lot of fun stories, but also a lot of encouragement.
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