Street: How does it feel being back on Street?
Alex Sternlicht: It feels great to be on the other side of this, but I also realize how nerve–wracking this is. Even though I’ve been doing Street forever, I’m still nervous about the Ego interview.
Street: Why did you join Street in the first place?
AS: I joined Street because I knew Nina Wolpow, who was the Editor–in–Chief before Chloe. Nina was friends with my cousin and when I came to Penn, I met her at A’s date night and she was like, ‘What do you want to do on campus?’ and I was like, ‘I don’t know, I love 34th Street.’ She was like, ‘Really? I’m Editor–in–Chief; you should come by one of our meetings.’ So then I came by, and I was like, ‘Okay, I want to do highbrow.’ From there, I started writing gossip, and my life has been changed ever since. Nothing has been the same. Once you start writing the Round–Up, you can never go back.
Street: Why do you say that?
AS: I was banned from a fraternity my sophomore year. It sort of changed who my friends were. I wrote about a certain frat doing certain illicit activities, and they were unhappy with me, so they told me not to come back. I got some choice texts, and then I was like, ‘You know, I’m gonna fully commit to Street because I like these people.’
Street: Was it worth it?
AS: It was probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I was talking to my friend about this last night. She said it made me a lot more interesting after I was banned because I was forced to make new friends.
Street: What is your response to people’s criticisms of highbrow?
AS: As long as people are reading it, I don’t care. People will read it because they love to hate it. But they love it. It’s not the kind of thing that people will read in lecture; they’ll go home or go into the carrel in Van Pelt and turn down the brightness all the way, and then be like, ‘I love this,’ and then later be like, ‘I’m so mad, this is so annoying.’
Street: What are you most proud of during your time at Street?
AS: I made Word on the Street into a new section. I reorganized the staff. And I’m also proud because I taught Corey Fader, who is the current photo director, what a tampon is and what happens when a girl has her period. So I’m pretty proud of that.
Street: If you could do anything differently, what would it be?
AS: In the beginning, I would have taken myself less seriously and realized it’s just a magazine. And even though it feels like the whole world, it’s just a magazine.
Street: Why do you think a publication like Street is important?
AS: I think it’s important because at a place like Penn that’s so big, and there’s so many different communities, and the chances of interacting with people who do different things who are in different circles is so small, it’s maybe the only uniting factor that’s fun that people can get around. Even if it’s people uniting over a pornographic food review, at least it’s something. We need that sort of fun.
Street: Was there any moment that made you realize the power Street could have?
AS: I wrote a feature my sophomore year after Madison Holleran died about what it’s like to grieve at Penn and the loneliness that that entails. That feature became really important in the conversation around death at Penn. The title was Left to Grieve Alone, Together and how even in this moment where everyone’s alone, we make our own communities and through writing, we’re connected.
Street: How have you seen Street change since you’ve been there?
AS: Every single year, it really depends on who’s writing what and who’s in charge of what. It’s changed a lot. When I was on staff, I was one of the few people who was in a sorority. It was a lot of Elmo and Pilam people. And then it sort of became more bitchy girls. But obviously, it’s been fabulous all the way through. It used to be much more about West Philly and little niche arts scenes and now it’s more about a snarky take on campus, which I’m personally more a fan of.
Street: Tell me about your senior thesis.
AS: I’m writing about drag queens, so I’ve attended over ten hours of drag shows. I’ve been to Atlantic City to get my hair blown out by a drag queen, and I’ve taken lots of photos and become well acquainted with the drag community. I’ve had a drag queen cry into my arms. But I’m writing about women in drag. It’s basically about how people think that drag is very gender–liberating, which it is, but in practice, it’s also still very male–dominated.
Street: So you wrote about women that dress in drag?
AS: Yes, women that dress up as women. I think there’s a bit of a drag queen in all of us. In some ways, I think we all have this hyper–sexual hot woman who’s deep down inside of us and given the right venue, that drag queen comes out. It’s about women who are expressing different forms of femininity.
Street: Can you talk about the piece you wrote about having small boobs?
AS: I’ve had really, really small boobs for my whole life—like, child–sized boobs. And I wrote a piece about that. I actually got really interesting feedback on it. One boy asked me, ‘Did you write about that because you want people to be looking at your shirt the whole time you’re talking?’ Or, ‘I actually didn’t notice that you had really small boobs until you wrote about it.’ I’m glad I wrote that piece. It was awkward when my parents found it, but whatever.
Street: What do you say to people that are not happy about being in the Round–Up?
AS: I try and make sure that everyone that’s written about in the Round–Up is really purposefully vague so you can’t single them out because that has been a lawsuit in the past. And also verify the stories because this is a college campus; we’re not writing People Magazine or Us Weekly. We all go to school with each other, so I always say it’s more important to keep your friendships than to write a salacious gossip story in the Round–Up.
Street: How do you strike that balance?
AS: If someone’s going to be upset, don’t write it.
Street: Are there any horror stories?
AS: There was one time when I was Editor–in–Chief and someone wrote about a frat and public urination. It got taken to their nationals, and they got investigated. I’m not sure what happened to it. I felt kind of bad that the Round–Up is the source for a national fraternity investigation.
Street: What advice would you give to your freshman–year self?
AS: Burn your Lilly Pulitzer sheets.
Street: What do you love the most about Penn?
AS: I love the sushi at Van Pelt. I’ve eaten it every day for the past four years. I’m honestly shocked I’m alive.
Street: What do you miss most about being Editor–in–Chief?
AS: I miss feeling like I matter. People asking me questions that want my opinion and who think that what I say has some sort of weight.
Street: What will you be doing on this day in ten years?
AS: I see myself being verified on Facebook.
Street: What’s your spirit animal?
AS: I think it’s a teacup Pomeranian. Or a pygmy goat. It changes by day. They’re small, but at the same time, their dwarf status brings them a lot of power. Even though a teacup Pomeranian can’t walk up stairs, everyone wants to pick it up and carry it because it’s so adorable.
Street: Is that related to your boobs?
AS: Maybe subconsciously. No one’s picking up my boobs and carrying them up the stairs. That would be weird.
Street: What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?
AS: ‘You look like Russell Brand.’
Street: What’s something most people don’t know about you?
AS: I had braces for six years, headgear for eight, and 16 teeth pulled out. I made my dentist cry. I wore my headgear for a Shakespeare play and called myself ‘headgear Helena’ from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Street: If you were going to be famous for something, what would it be?
AS: I’ve always wanted to be a Snapchat celebrity. Although that’s coming along a lot slower than I thought it would.
Street: There are two types of people at Penn…
AS: Those who interrogate me about the Round–Up at Smokes' and those who are not frat boys.
Street: What’s the most ridiculous thing someone’s said to you about Street?
AS: One that comes up a lot is, ‘Oh my god! I didn’t know Street was in print.’
Street: Tell us something we don’t know about Street.
AS: How many people have had sex in the Street office. Don’t sit on the couch. It’s covered in semen.
Street: If you could have a drink with anyone in history, who would it be?
AS: I would have a drink with the cast of Rent, because I would want to ask them: 1) How do they get by not paying rent, and 2) What’s it like breaking into song when your friends are dying?
Street: How long has that been weighing on you?
AS: I’ve always loved Rent, but I’ve recently started wondering, how did they think they weren’t going to be able to pay their rent? It’s like finding out that Santa Claus isn’t real.
Street: What’s one question I forgot to ask you?
AS: I thought you were going to ask me about the DP.
Street: How do you feel about the DP?
AS: Love the DP. Was on the board of the DP. Miss the DP. It’s amazing and important, but sometimes I just want to hold it in my arms and be like, ‘It’s okay. Things are gonna be okay. The lights will turn on in the morning.’
Street: How do you feel now that your final task as Editor–in–Chief is over?
AS: God, that’s so sad. I feel depressed. I’m an emotional wreck with graduation coming up. I get emotional about things I didn’t even know I’d get emotional about. Like I went to go see Arts House and I didn’t even know the people in the group, and they play a little slideshow for the seniors, and I started crying. Like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe you’ve been in Arts House for four years!' Slideshows get me.