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In this next instalment of our 'Where are they now?' alumni series, we're excited to introduce you to alumna, Defne Gencler (class of 2010). In the 12 years since she left ISH she sure has PACKED in a lot. Defne studied in NYC, has become a an acomplished comedian, a TikTok sensation and she is now back in Amsterdam sharing her love of words in her very own successful business as a Freelance Copywriter. We have have also recently had the priviledge of having Defne come in and share her inspiring energy with some of our students. 

Let's begin! Life beyond ISH, can you tell us a little about yours … 

"After graduating from ISH, I went to a liberal arts college in upstate New York. I majored in Philosophy but took a whole range of classes from Comparative Literature and Computer science to Jazz Vocal and Painting.  

After graduating with my Bachelor’s I spent another five years in NYC, working in digital media during the day and doing stand up comedy at night. I performed at some of New York's top comedy clubs, scored an acting agent, and even got to be in a commercial."  

We’re sure you must have excelled in your Jazz Vocal class, we just love your Lana Del Ray quarantine madness parody.

 

Wow though! Where do we even start chatting about your post ISH dynamic college life? How did you find yourself in stand-up comedy? 

"I found myself doing stand up after I had moved to New York City after graduating from college in upstate New York. I realized that my life after graduation consisted of going to work, going home, and watching TV… Which is great but I was craving more adventure, especially being in my 20’s and living in New York. I had always loved writing and acting, and my childhood of moving around gave me a sarcastic sense of humor. So I decided to combine all of that with stand up, especially since the comedy scene there is really rich. I loved learning all about the art of it and watching myself improve the more time I dedicated to it. And of course, you become part of the community and the scene, so it’s all very exciting and addictive in a sense. Of course, there was also the thrill of writing a new joke and having it work on stage. And the shame of having a terrible show. But I like when the stakes are high."

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After 5 years in NYC what brought you back? 

"As incredible as NYC was, I returned to Amsterdam where I see myself living more long term. I have just set up my own business as a freelance writer. I still do stand up comedy, but I have also gotten into TikTok where I have a community of over 20K followers. I talk a lot about my cross cultural experiences and that seems to resonate with people."  

Many of our students can identify with cross cultural experiences and for sure they can identify with TikTok! What are your cultural influences and where can they find you on TikTok and do you have a favourite clip we could share?  

"My cultural influences are all across the board. There are too many to name and my memory is terrible but here are some I can think of. Musician: The Weeknd. Movie: Mean Girls. Director: Steven Lynch. Comedian: Carmen Lynch (Look her up. And, no, they’re not related). 

They can find me on TikTok at @omgitsdef. Here is a clip I’m not too embarrassed to share."

We are celebrating Turkish as our language of the month in school so we thought we'd share this one too.

You’ve studied and worked internationally and we wonder how this influences your cultural identity?

"My parents are Turkish, I was born in the Netherlands and I lived in the US for half my life. I feel like a combination of all three countries in one person."  

This then does bring up the important question of ... baklava, donut or drop?  

"Baklava for sure."

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You recently came in to ISH to share your insights with some of our students who were looking to create a discussion group around feminism to empower the students of ISH. How important is it to you to be able to be a role model and mentor for issues that matter to you? 

"It was honestly such an honor to be called in. That was my first time being in a mentor role and I really enjoyed being able to talk to students and help them out. I would love to continue being a role model for others -- do you know where I can get a gig like that?!"

This sounds like an excellent idea! Let us talk to our people. To let you know these students Lore and Tiara, together with Nsama were super inspired by your converation with them, and they have infact set up a CAS project the ISH Magnolias. A group for all genders and ages who meet monthly at school to discuss feminist empowerment issues. 

Do you have a particular teacher from your time at ISH who inspired you? 

"My favourite teacher at ISH was Mr. John. Not only because he was a wonderful drama teacher and brought theatre to the school, but also because he helped me understand Shakespeare, especially MacBeth, on a deeper level."

We asked Mr. John to share with us how he remembers you as a student and his words give us a real sense of the fun and engaging energy you brought to ISH as a student. 

"Defne was a truly wonderful student here at the ISH. Intelligent and committed, she was always 'involved' in aspects of school life, be it performances, plays and service as action activities. I taught her Drama and English and was always impressed by her open-mindedness and quick thinking - the way in which she could impress you with a spontaneous turn of phrase or display of wit. One moment she could be working like crazy on an English commentary, the next she'd be ripping the microphone out of your hand at the winter performances and belting out Mariah Carey's 'All I want for Christmas'... Believe me. This happened.

Indeed, I am not surprised to see her develop and prosper in the way she has. An astute, academically focused young woman - with an ability to stand in front of a crowd and challenge them with a comedic social commentary. That's Defne."

Tell us a little about your new business and how are you finding life as an entrepreneur?  

"I started my new business, Defne Gencler, Freelance Copywriter Amsterdam in September of 2021. The services include copywriting and voiceover for various clients. I am absolutely loving life as an entrepreneur. It’s similar to stand up where the stakes are high… So the good moments feel more rewarding, and the low points of course hit harder. But I have a lot of energy to put into projects, and because I have a background in performing, I’ve become pretty good at putting myself out there. It took me a few months to get up and running but now I have steady clients and am finally seeing profits… I’m looking forward to seeing where it all goes." 

It seems you have a plan a, b and c and loads of creative energy. How do you combine your freelance writing with stand-up comedy and Tiktok sensation?

depne 3"At the moment, I’ve definitely put my comedy and TikToks in the backseat. Starting a business was pretty time-and energy-consuming. Maybe now that I’m up and running I’ll continue but at the moment I’m also prioritizing other parts of life. I didn’t prioritize my social and personal life much while I was doing stand-up in New York so right now I want to enjoy going out and being with my friends in Amsterdam."

  

How do you stay inspired?  

"That’s a good question. I don’t really think I have to work too hard to stay inspired. I honestly get bored if I haven’t done something creative so I guess I don’t have a choice!" 

And lastly, with so much happening, do you have any leisure time? And how do you enjoy spending this time?  

"I do have leisure time, yes. I like doing a lot of different things with it. I’ve been dedicating more time to my health this year, so I work out quite a bit now. I’m also a big fan of movies and reading so I try to do that whenever I can. I’m also kind of a social butterfly, so you’ll often find me hanging out with friends and looking for the next party. But don’t get me wrong, I can easily spend several days in a row at home, too. I got a lot of practice during corona."

Defne, an enormous thank you for taking the time to share  your beyond ISH life with us. What a priviledge it is for us be able to share your story with our students and community. It is such a pleasure to catch up on were our alumni are now. and we look forward to hopefully seeing you in school again soon!

Find Defne here:

 
 

 

Previously featured in our 'Where are they now'? series ... 

 

Where are they now? Marieke Bigg (Writer).

Where are they now? Abbie Wiggins (Author).