Asha Rangappa is a Yale national security law scholar and former FBI counterintelligence agent. Before taking part in a Zócalo event asking “What Do We Do Now?,” Rangappa called into the virtual green room to chat about acting in community theater, Fulbright memories, and the art of persuasion.
Growing up in Hampton, Virginia, where was your favorite place to go?
The beach. Virginia Beach was the main attraction, but there was a closer beach called Buckroe Beach. It was still being revitalized when I was there, but I would go there and just hang out with my friends.
In your spare time, you act in community theater. What’s been your favorite role so far?
Rosalind in As You Like It. The premise of the play is that she’s being mistaken for a man. I think there’s a lot of interesting plays on gender roles, and she’s just one of Shakespeare’s most powerful and witty women.
You’re a huge Shakespeare buff. What was the first Shakespeare play that stood out to you?
Probably the first play I read was Romeo and Juliet in ninth grade. Like a lot of people, I found it kind of inaccessible at the time. Only later on, when I understood that Shakespeare is meant to be seen and heard, did I start to really appreciate it. Interestingly enough, I still love Romeo and Juliet.
You were co-captain of the varsity cheerleading squad in high school. Is there any connection between cheerleading and intelligence work?
I’d really need to think to make a connection between cheerleading and intelligence work. I guess there’s a persuasion aspect of it, in terms of leading a person or people to be on your side.
You did your Fulbright in Bogotá, Colombia. What was the best place you visited while you were studying there?
I loved traveling to Cartagena—this goes back to my love of the beach. And also, I loved traveling to Medellín. It’s an absolutely beautiful city, and I really enjoyed spending my time there.
What teacher or professor changed your life, if any?
[Political science] professor John DiIulio. He was my thesis advisor at Princeton, and he was a mentor also. He helped me in terms of thinking about law school, and I’ve been able to reconnect with him later on, after I got into the professional world.
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
I have two. One is Britney Spears’ “Oops! ... I Did It Again” and the other is Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man.”
What keeps you up at night?
Trump being president has kept me up at night for the last four years.
Last question: You’ve shared some great pictures of your cat, Chakli. What’s the best part of being a cat owner?
The challenge. They don’t give out their affection super easily, so you’re always working for it, and it’s extra rewarding when they snuggle.