Houston native Liza Koshy is an online superstar.
Photo: Netflix / Netflix
Liza Koshy says it was “super purposeful” that she caught a flight home to visit her parents almost three months ago. But the actress, host and YouTube superstar didn’t expect to still be in Houston.
“I feel like I’m in high school again,” says Koshy, 24, who graduated from Lamar High School and spent a year at the University of Houston’s central campus. She grew up in South Braeswood. “I did not expect to still be here, being a parasite on my parents’ couch again. But it feels great.”
The unexpected, extended stay is particularly sweet because Koshy is celebrating the success of “Work It,” a dance-fueled Netflix comedy co-starring Sabrina Carpenter and Jordan Fisher. It’s currently one of the streaming sites’ most popular titles.
Koshy’s varied resumé includes her YouTube original series “Liza on Demand,” returning next year for a third season; hosting gigs for the Nickelodeon reboot of “Double Dare” and the Met Gala; original content for her two YouTube channels; and encouraging young people to get politically active as part of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote.
Starring: Sabrina Carpenter, Liza Koshy, Jordan Fisher
Where: Now streaming on Netflix
She talked about her blossoming career and local faves.
Q. Is it strange being home at the same time “Work It” rolls out?
A. Being home in Houston, watching it and dancing around the living room where I got my start, it feels like the right thing. All of my auditions and personality building up to this moment was made right at home. We had Pappas Bar-B-Q and just sat and watched it. You can hear my smile when I speak. I’m so, so happy that I get to celebrate this with my parents.
Q. What do you love about Houston, aside from seeing family and friends?
You’re just framing this question so my answer can be Whataburger. I get it. It’s the Honey Barbecue Chicken Strip Sandwich. It’s the Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit. It’s the Patty Melt. It’s better than In-N-Out, there’s no doubt about it. Go ahead and write that in there because the world needs to know. I have tried freezing it and traveling with it in my suitcase back to L.A. Oh my God, stupidest thing I’ve ever done. I just wanted to prove to my friends who talk all this (expletive) about how In-N-Out is better than Whataburger that it wasn’t. I proved to myself that I’m an idiot instead, and my entire suitcase reeked. I used to eat it after football games, and body odor mixed with Whataburger is a familiar but also comforting home smell. I think I still ate a couple of fries.
Q. Was dance a part of your life in Houston?
A. My mom threw me into ballet, jazz, tap when I was like two or three, without my consent, and was just like, ‘You’re gonna move a lot.’ And I thank her for that so much. It’s because of her that I’m in this movie at all. I started with the Houston Ballet when I was five, and I think I went until I was eight years old. In high school, I lived my ‘Friday Night Lights’ dream and performed every football game on the field as a Lamar Rangerette. My junior and senior years, I stepped into being one of the captains. We had like six captains on our dance squad, and I became Lt. Liza Koshy.
Q. What excited you about ‘Work It?’
A. The dancing, 100-percent. I was so excited to dance again. I’ve always wanted to act and dance in one project. Jas is just a cool character. Her name is cool. Growing up, I wanted to be Princess Jasmine from ‘Aladdin.’ It was like the first time I saw myself onscreen, a beautiful brown woman.
Q. Speaking of Netflix, what have you been binge-watching with so much home time?
A. I love ‘Pose’ so much. The representation is amazing. The stories told are ones that I didn’t see on television growing up. It just makes me proud to see those stories told. Billy Porter, I’m just madly in love with, as the world is, too. I’ve been literally watching ‘Work It’ on repeat. It’s not a narcissistic thing to say if I’m saying I watch it for the other people involved.
Q. What’s the key to being a great host?
A; (Original “Double Dare” host) Marc Summers is the one that gave me the biggest piece of advice, ever. He said, “Just listen to who you are speaking to and be present with them. And respond.” That’s exactly what I’ve done ever since — and hopefully what I was subconsciously doing before ever hearing it. That’s exactly what you do with acting. That’s exactly what you do as a human being. Remaining present is the ultimate goal for me. Meditating, grounding myself with my family and my friends, journaling is so important to being just a good person who wants to live in the moment.
Q. You’re part of an iconic line of current Houston talent: Travis Scott, Megan the Stallion, Beyoncé and Solange, Normani. Why are we so awesome?
A. I feel like the South kinda raises you to lean into your faith, your friends, your family. Home is wherever you are, but you always take that Southern comfort and that Southern hospitality with you. When you’re that happy, it just leaves so much room for creativity. When you have other things aligned in your life, I feel like the South kinda provides.