When MTV brought back the home-exploring docuseries Cribs, it also welcomed the return of its familiar voice for many past seasons, SuChin Pak. The MTV News alum served as narrator for the popular series where celebrities open up their often wacky (or totally swanky) abodes, refrigerator doors, and bedrooms to show “where the action happens.”
The series is a trip down memory lane for Pak, who first joined the network in 2001. She has come a long way since, breaking new ground for representation and learning from each experience throughout her career. These days, viewers can not only hear her on Cribs or past episodes of True Life, but on a podcast, the journalist hosts with comedian, writer, and director Kulap Villysak called Add to Cart from Lemonada Media. We caught up with Pak for a nostalgic and thought-provoking chat.
How was being a part of Cribs once again?
SuChin Pak: It’s funny the number of times I would be on the phone with customer service or an airline. I would start talking and they’d say, ‘Wait, are you the voice of Cribs?’ MTV had a huge year celebrating 40 years and bringing Cribs back. It brings such a warm, fuzzy, nostalgic feeling. As we are all trapped in our houses we get to see the houses of famous celebrities. I love that they called me for that. It’s just so fun and light, which is all I want to watch these days.
Do you have a favorite house you’ve seen on the show?
I had no idea who [former NBA star] Nick Young was because I’m not a sports person. As soon as I saw that episode, I’m like, ‘Are you guys getting him his own show?’ He was so funny, charismatic, down-to-earth, and hilarious. He has that perfect swag MTV’s Cribs needs, but at the same time, he has kids running around, which is a delight. I also have a soft spot for Ashlee Simpson and Evan Ross. I think that they are the cutest couple with their home and their very outspoken child who is with them on the tour. That’s also really funny. I think Rick Ross could be the biggest in terms of square footage. Maybe Martha Stewart rivals, but I think it’s just a massive Cribs that is opulent and really fun. Past Cribs… the one everyone references was the iconic Mariah Carey. Didn’t they do a spinoff of just her closet? It’s all the right mix of over-the-top opulence with a celebrity’s refrigerator.
Hard to believe it has been 20 years since you first started working for MTV. How do you look back on your time there?
There was one episode of my podcast where we had to explain what a VJ was. Some may not even know there were VJs and videos and a whole shift. I’m thinking about how much MTV and its audience have changed. How much media has changed, in the context of everything shifting around us racially, politically and financially. [And] with the pandemic? I feel like we’re living through something historic. We say that a lot, but I feel like I actually mean it this time. I think this past year and a half brought up a conversation of what really matters. For me, it’s about finding different ways to talk about different stories and create conversations. Now, there is an audience for it.
When I was at MTV, I felt very alone. There was no place for me to feel like a [part of a] community. I think the rise of the internet and social media is giving me a real connection with the community of Asian Americans, women, and overall people from all walks of life. It has been a really emotional and satisfying year of my life in a lot of ways.
And then you see that the No. 1 movie in the world is Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. It has to feel like progress.
I remember the first time I saw an all-Asian cast in a movie was Better Luck Tomorrow. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it was possible or that I needed to see that cast of superheroes. I can’t help but feel optimistic, even though there are so many terrible things going on, and we’ve paid such a price, especially in the past year and a half. I didn’t think we could ever go back. I hope not.
Tell me about your decision to start a podcast during the pandemic and how it has evolved.
We came up with the idea of Add to Cart, which basically talks about the things we buy — the things in our carts and things we are taking out of our cart and what it says about us. On the surface, it is about the products we are obsessed with. I think that serves a purpose and what it allows us to do is talk about what is going on in our lives. This is the first time I really sat behind the microphone with no script and talked about my life in a deeply personal way.
Every week I struggle if I want to open up my life. It has been really scary and made me self-reflective, and it has also been really great. When everything was escalating at the beginning of the year, the violence against the Asian American community was something we couldn’t ignore. That was really dark. I cried myself through many episodes. I remember feeling so vulnerable. It has been eye-opening for me.
If you could tell yourself 20 years ago any piece of advice, what would it be?
I would tell myself to have fun. I never enjoyed my time at MTV or my 20s or 30s because I was so focused on my career. I was at the biggest party in the world on MTV. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I stopped for a moment and looked around. There is a lot of pressure to say the perfect thing or to have something to say, to know exactly what the right answer should be. It took me 20 years to figure it out. I get to control the timing of my story, and what I want to say and say who I am. I was always in a rush to figure everything out. I realize I needed all this time to get to this point in my life. I’m glad I waited this long. I think about how if I’d done something deeply personal in my 20s or 30s like a podcast, I don’t know what that would be. It would be embarrassing because I didn’t know who I was. Now I do.
Cribs, Wednesdays, 9:30/8:30c, MTV and streaming on Paramount+