Communication alum Ashlee Mitchell forges career as music writer and TikToker


Photo courtesy of Ashlee Mitchell

After interviewing K-pop boy group ENHYPEN for The Grammys, Ashlee Mitchell (Communication ’22) met them in-person on Oct. 4, 2022.

Jenna Wang, Assistant A&E Editor

Freelance writer and TikToker Ashlee Mitchell (Communication ’22) has already interviewed big names in the music industry, including BTS, J-Hope, NCT 127, TWICE, NIKI and Saweetie — all without any formal journalism training. 

Her journey into K-pop started when she first watched an online performance of BTS at the American Music Awards in 2017. The following year, she attended a BTS concert in Chicago.

“I bought a ticket the day of, and I’m like ‘Wow, that was the best concert experience I’ve ever had,’” Mitchell said. “From then on, I got super obsessed.” 

After attending more than 10 K-pop concerts while studying abroad in Korea for a quarter in 2019, she said she wanted to find a way to work in the music industry while simultaneously majoring in communication studies and African American studies at Northwestern.

Mitchell began volunteering behind the scenes at K-pop concerts before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Amidst Black Lives Matter movement protests in 2020, she received help from K-pop journalists on Twitter looking to mentor Black writers, allowing her to start her own column with The Kraze and land her first byline at Teen Vogue.

From there, Mitchell pitched and accumulated as many bylines as she could at publications like The Grammys and MTV. The more celebrities she interviewed, the more she realized her position as a K-pop fan had changed, she said. 

“I don’t think I can be a fan in the same way that I was before,” Mitchell said. “With a fandom, you need this level of fantasy and separation that I don’t have, so I can’t see (celebrities) in the same way that I used to.” 

She recalled her first K-pop interview with Taemin of SHINee in 2020. Since then, she said she’s met him multiple other times, and each encounter has been different. 

Conducting so many interviews began feeling like a business exchange, according to Mitchell, because she felt artists displayed a different version of themselves to media publications versus their fans. 

“A lot of K-pop companies are super strict,” Mitchell said. “A lot of (the interviews) feel rehearsed and not super authentic, which is part of the reason why I don’t view K-pop the same.”

One of her most memorable K-pop interviews included BM of KARD, who wished her luck on her finals during an unmonitored conversation, she said. Mitchell also said she enjoyed her first in-person interview with J-Hope at his Lollapalooza performance where she said she sat on a couch next to him and felt the authenticity in his answers. 

Despite the opportunity to interview idols, Mitchell said she isn’t disillusioned by K-pop’s notoriety with the cultural appropriation of Black culture and decided to stop working with artists she found problematic.

“I expanded to work with other people like Saweetie and UMI and Black artists that are relevant as well,” Mitchell said. “I try to think, ‘How can I do this article different from how a white writer would do it?’”

Mitchell also began an online consultation service to help others break into the entertainment journalism industry. 

As a client, University of Illinois Chicago graduate student Mahveen Jahan said she looked up to Mitchell as an inspiration in finding opportunities outside her own path in the medical field. 

“You don’t see a lot of people of color doing what she does,” Jahan said. “It’s inspiring to see how she started so young and was able to break into the field working with these big name artists.” 

Writer and aspiring record label executive Daryn McElroy (Communication ’22) also credits Mitchell with her interest in music journalism after studying communications during college.

After the two met their freshman year and connected over K-pop, McElroy said they have remained friends throughout college and beyond. 

“I’ve done a couple of interviews with K-pop idols as well, and I don’t think I would’ve had that opportunity if I didn’t witness her doing it first,” McElroy said. “That definitely helped move my way into the industry.” 

Mitchell said she realized being a journalist was never a career goal but a means to get in contact with her favorite artists.

She has since acted and modeled in Los Angeles, Calif. and Seoul, Korea and created a TikTok account, where she has amassed more than 200,000 followers. In the future, she said she wants to act in movies and host her own show where she interviews celebrities on-camera — something she’s unable to do when writing articles.

For now, Mitchell said she prioritizes forging her own path beyond the educational system or others’ advice.

“People always tell you, ‘You have to go this way,’” Mitchell said. “I’m stubborn, and I don’t like to wait. I just dove headfirst.” 

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