Q-and-A: Nikki Muller ’05, YouTube sensation
Nikki Muller ’05, creator of the viral YouTube video "Ivy League Hustle (I Went to Princeton, Bitch)," has made it big. Muller spoke at a discussion titled "Feminism in Action" on Friday and will perform her popular rap at various sites during Reunions. In between, she stopped to talk with the ‘Prince’ about life during and after Princeton.
Q: What was your inspiration for this video?
A: Everybody avoids saying the name of the school [like Princeton], especially girls and especially when you first meet a guy. And when you live in a place like LA, people react very strangely to it. It immediately causes a silence in the room, and it’s just really awkward. I was listening to a lot of hip-hop and Kanye West. You know how Kanye West is always like “I’m the best?” I thought, that’d be really nice to say “I went here and I’m amazing.” Just for fun, just like a silly idea.
Q: What has the reaction been so far?
A: There’s the occasional negative response, but on the whole that’s been a pretty small part of it. If you look at my stats, it’s about 95 percent thumbs up on YouTube. I wanted people to relate to it, and I didn’t want people to take it as I’m arrogant because I’m really not. I really don’t think I’m better than anyone and that would make me really sad if that’s how they took it because it’s supposed to be fun. Generally they’re taking it in a positive way.
Q: Have any Ivy League alumni approached you about the video?
A: I’ve gotten a huge flood of emails. I like it when people write me and tell me “I went to Penn and I think it’s hilarious.” I’m like, "Thank you. I wasn’t trying to insult you.” I’ve gotten a lot of thumbs up from a lot of Ivy League schools.
Q: Where did you learn to rap?
A: The creative writing department. [Laughs] No, I mean, I like hip-hop, but I don’t have such a great rap voice. I have a high-pitched white girl voice, but I can come up rhymes well enough, and I like wordplay, so sometimes I just write silly raps in my head.
Q: What activities were you involved in at Princeton?
Q: I did the Glee Club all four years, Theater Intime and people’s thesis shows. I wrote for Tiger Magazine my first two years. I was a head writer freshman year and the only girl. And I was one of the arts chairs at Terrace [Club]. I took voice lessons and I was in the creative writing department.
A: What did you write your thesis on?
I wrote a creative thesis. I wrote a book of poetry called "Daughter of a Refugee" about my father who was an East German refugee. It was sort of semiautobiographical with a 50-page analysis of it. It got very bipolar insofar as I was talking about myself in the third person.
Q: Were you interested in feminism as an undergraduate?
A: If you’re just a woman who does her own thing, then you’re a feminist. I don’t think you have to have an agenda. Anyone could say Tina Fey was a feminist, but if you ask her I’m sure she says, “I just work.” And that’s what I do. I write what I think is funny, and I write for myself to feature what I can do. But I’m not going to write myself into a stereotyped corner. I’m going to write fun and different things, so I guess that winds up being feminist, but I’ve never felt limited by my gender to a certain thing. Obviously I’m not very demure. I wasn’t in an overtly feminist program, but I guess I am just through actions.
Q: What was your post-graduation year like?
A: I graduated, and a month later I went to grad school. The program [Harvard University’s American Repertory Theater] was an accelerated MFA, so it starts in July, and it goes for 11 months, then it has a break and then you finish your second year. It’s really overwhelming because when you graduate you’re like “Who am I?” Here I was, not knowing who I was and deconstructing it even more.
Q: What was it like going into the “real world” and having to find a job?
A: It was really tough because I also moved across the country. My family’s from New York, so I was in a totally new area with a new game plan. Not being in school, not having any sort of "Now you do this" is really disorienting. You figure out you have to do things for yourself. Unfortunately there’s no way to learn that without a little bit of a struggle. But I wound up making enough money with whatever random jobs I found to make a living, and that was very important to me.
Q: What are you up to now?
A: Still working random jobs, but I’m producing a lot more material, collaborating with a lot more people and auditioning. I’m doing my best.
Q: In reference to a line in your video, who do you think are the “leaders of tomorrow"?
A: It could be anyone. It doesn’t have to be someone from Wharton or Princeton. It doesn’t hurt [being from a school like Princeton] because you do make connections, as arrogant as the guy in the video’s comments sound. But there are many people that go to many schools that are fully capable of it. It’s just character. Lots of people don’t do anything with their lives, and they do go to Princeton.
Q: If you could date a guy from any Ivy League school, not including Princeton, which would you pick?
A: If I could ... lucky me, right? I wouldn’t want to date someone because of their school, so it’s a hard question. Preferably Columbia or Brown. I like funny guys so whichever school has the funnier guys. Everyone would say Harvard, but I disagree politely.
Nikki will be performing at the 10th Reunion at 10 a.m., the Fifth Reunion at 11 a.m. and the 35th Reunion at 12:15 p.m. on Saturday, June 2.