Name: Natasha Allen
Hometown: Beverly Hills, CA & Stockholm, Sweden
Major/Minor: Economics and Political Science
Activities: President of Phi Alpha Delta, Vice President of SPEC, Penn Indoors Club, Kite and Key, Sphinx
You were raised between Stockholm and Beverly Hills—what was that like?
I moved to the U.S. when I was fourteen and a half. I was pretty ingrained in Swedish culture and I had never tried to speak English much before then because I felt bad about my accent. I guess it disappeared somehow. Now my family in Sweden ask what happened. They tell me I’m speaking broken Swedish because I’m starting to operate like Google Translate. With my mom, back in L.A., I speak 'Swinglish.' I’ll be speaking English and then in the middle of the sentence switch to Swedish. For friends and people who listen to us it’s really weird. At Penn, I’m here undercover, masquerading as an American. That’s a kind of a not–so secret part of me, because if you ask me I’ll tell you.
How did you get involved with SPEC (Social Planning and Events Committee)?
I joined SPEC freshman year, fall semester. The only reason why I did was because it has no applications. I was the kind of person like “I won’t get rejected if I don’t apply to anything.” I thought, 'ok, I’ll join SPEC Spring Fling and get a free Spring Fling ticket and SPEC Connaissance I’ll join to meet celebrities.' That was the main appeal for me because I was very scared as a freshman. Sophomore year I realized I really enjoyed SPEC and wanted to change certain things. I applied to become director for SPEC Connaissance and got to have say in who comes to campus. Last year I had two sold out events with Trevor Noah and Hasan Minhaj, who were my choices. I was really proud of myself because I picked them and they ended up being great. Afterwards I realized I wanted to do more for overall SPEC and ran for vice president.
How was the process of organizing events with Trevor Noah and Hasan Minhaj?
Stressful. The weeks leading up to it you just end up thinking about everything to do with the event. So in class I would be on my email making sure agents knew what was going on and making sure the budget works out. When Trevor Noah’s agent tells you he wants a cheese platter backstage, you make sure there’s a cheese platter. Finding a moderator for Trevor Noah was fun because it was one of my favorite professors here at Penn, Mark Pollack. It was funny because I told Mark Pollack I wanted him to be the moderator for the event before I told him who the speaker was. However, we had already had the posters up. Right before the meeting he was walking around and found a poster of Trevor Noah and he was like 'Oh Trevor Noah’s coming? Oh gosh I’m going to get tickets for me and my daughter, we love him.” Then he realized “Oh wait, that’s the date I’m moderating. Oh wait...' He was just geeking out. That was one of my favorite moments. He was so excited but also very nervous. He was like 'Why me?'
On Trevor Noah:
In person, he’s very reserved like he’s not as animated as he is on stage. He’s just a chill guy. Backstage he was with two of his friends, looking at a picture on his phone, just an interesting photograph. I was like “Oh what’s happening there” and they showed me and I was like “cool”. I got to hold Trevor Noah’s phone. He had like an 8 or an X, right when it was released. I was like “Damn, Trevor’s on top of things.”
On Hasan Minhaj:
Hasan Minhaj was very nice, he was very likable and tried to be very accommodating even though he had a newborn child. That’s why he had to leave early. But he still wanted to be there and talk to people after the event. This was a week or so after an incident regarding the Muslim community being under attack. I was like oh let me get in contact with Muslim Students’ Association because Hasan Minhaj is also Muslim. MSA had a meet and greet with Hasan. They (MSA) were really happy. I think I like SPEC because I like making people happy.
You also founded the Penn Indoors Club, how did that start?
It started out a joke among friends. I was talking to my friends and they were like, 'I keep on getting emails from the Penn Outdoors club' and then one of my friends went, 'Penn Outdoors club? Why is there no Penn Indoors club?' I was making a joke like, 'yo we should start that' and then nothing came of it. The next week my friend and I were hosting a lemonade stand on Locust Walk because that was our childhood dream. We had never had a lemonade stand growing up. We were told by the administration that we were not allowed to take money for it because we were not a recognized student group. Then I realized if we registered as Penn Indoors club, we’re technically allowed to make money. That day I made Penn Indoors club official online with a listserv and everything. It went really far, now it’s an actual group. We’re trying to do a real event so that people will join and think it’s not just a joke even though that’s how it started out. We have a Facebook page with 200 likes but we’re aiming for 1,000 because that’s what Penn Outdoors club has.
How did you get involved with Phi Alpha Delta?
When I was younger, being a lawyer was on my list of ten things I wanted to be, alongside being a writer or an actress. I got involved with PAD sophomore spring. I thought I was going to do it before but I was very scared and introverted. It has definitely made me more outgoing and willing to try new things. Joining PAD made me confident enough to test the waters for other clubs. It shaped my experience because I got some of my closest friends out of it, which is a cliché thing to say, but that’s what happened.
If you could go back and tell your freshman–year self something, what would it be?
I wouldn’t say don’t worry–because that’s not what you say to someone who’s very nervous and anxious. I would say don’t be afraid to do what you want. Don’t worry so much about how you will be seen, but how you will feel by doing things that you want. That’s something I didn’t start doing until junior year. I just told myself to do things I want to do, not to worry about rejection, which is not how I thought freshman year.
Do you have any plans for after graduation?
If anyone has a job for me, I’ll take it! I’m taking a gap year or two before law school. I want to take a break and study for the LSAT.
Favorite Philly Restaurant? Abyssinia, an Ethiopian restaurant on 45th [Street]. I try to go there once a month, brings me back to my roots.
Favorite Class? Modern Political Thought with Loren Goldman (even though I hate philosophy)
Go-to coffee order? Grande caramel macchiato—iced—no matter the weather
Pet peeve? When people are dismissive
If you were an animal? Cheetah
There are two types of people at Penn… Those who join SPEC and those who wish they did.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.