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Sunday, April 21, 2024 — Houston, TX

Vivian Phillips ​​takes center stage

Amelia Davis / Thresher

By Hongtao Hu     2/27/24 10:36pm

Vivian Phillips is polyphonic — whether writing a story, performing at the Riot Comedy Club or competing at the Miss Bayou City pageant, she knows just what to say. She first found her passion for English at Vassar College, a liberal arts college in upstate New York, before transferring to Rice her sophomore year.

“I made the decision to be an English major while I was at Vassar taking a class called ‘The Essay Form’ under my instructor, Professor Amitava Kumar,” Phillips, a Wiess College senior, said. “I felt so privileged to be working under him and learn from him. It really inspired me [to learn] about writing, how to write a persuasive argument and how to tell a story.”

After transferring to Rice so she could be closer to her hometown of San Antonio, Phillips has since been a nonfiction editor for R2, winning the George G. Williams prize in creative nonfiction, along with writing for Paper City, a Houston-based fashion magazine, and for San Antonio Magazine during the summer of her freshman year. 

“In being a journalist, I think it’s also good to have some level of expertise on a subject that you’re passionate about. The [Politics, Law and Social Thought] minor for me was a way of really acquainting myself and educating myself about a subject matter that I would love to write about in the future more extensively on,” Phillips said. 

Phillips’ biggest push toward her interest in politics was found in the everyday moments of her childhood, especially around the dinner table. 

“I grew up in a household that really always was having conversations about politics,” Phillips said. “My dad, he’s in his 70s, he was a hippie in the ’60s hippie movement. He was protesting [during] Vietnam.” 

But Phillips doesn’t only report on the world in print — she shares her opinions through comedy. Since her junior year, she’s performed at open mics in the Houston area. After participating in theater in high school, she said that comedy allowed her to find her own voice.

“My dad, he always wanted me to be a classical Shakespearean actress, and I was always like: ‘No Dad, I want to do comedy!’ … I loved performing and making people laugh,” Phillips said. “I think stand-up was just a natural progression from there.” 

To Lucy Bozinov, a Wiess junior and Phillips’ friend, Phillips’ humor brought them together when times were tough. 

“We were roommates last year and lived in this really interesting home that just had a lot of problems. We would find out like there was black mold and she’d say ‘so it goes,’ you know, ‘c’est la vie!’ We would always laugh about just how bad the living situation was,” Bozinov said. “I don’t think you could ever have a truly bad day with Vivian.”

Phillips also performs in the world of pageantry, winning the Miss Bayou City title at the Miss Space City competition in December 2023. 

“I thought that [Miss Space City] was a good combination of all of my interests,” Phillips said. “I love public speaking. I love performance. I think it was a cool way to challenge myself to grow throughout the year to try and improve my craft and improve my speaking skills.”

Phillips also uses her works, both on the stage and off, to entrench her identity. Her senior thesis is a collection of humorous essays drawing on her life experiences, and her R2 piece, “Crafted by the Hands of God,” won the George G. Williams Prize in Nonfiction.

“[Crafted by the Hands of God] is about the female experience of growing up and coming into your body and coming into understanding the way that you're perceived by others,” Phillips said. 

After graduation, Phillips hopes to take her skills into broadcast journalism — a confluence of her talents and passions.

“Broadcast journalism would be a good combination of speaking publicly, being a little more forward facing but also getting the chance to talk about politics, talk about issues that I really care about,” Phillips said.

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