A Night of Houston's Performance Art


We're on the 15th floor of an apartment building with concrete walls. I am aside at a kitchen counter watching magic unfold and feeling more creative and powerful by simply being in it. I’ve been invited to an Experimental Action meeting and I feel like a total square next to this amazing circle of people.

In preparation for a Performance Art Night (PAN), the artists and experimenters of Houston sit in a circle and talk mad game. Managing things like audience member participation, consent, and potentially big messes make sitting in on this meeting feel like something big, important, and a little scary.

On February 6th, a night of performance art will take place at Notsuohs to continue a tradition of showcasing Houston’s wealth of unique talent. Performance Art Night is a way for the people of the city to connect over the form. Curious or long-time lovers are invited to either spectate or, in some extreme cases, mildly participate in a night of experimentation and expression.

The venue itself functions as a work of art and has a taste of Houston’s rich performance art history. Performance Art Night began as a way to connect and showcase the sometimes overlooked but wildly creativity inspiring art style and has made a home in Notsuohs gorgeous space.

Julia Claire started PAN with a vision to do exactly what it has done and continues to do. After studying under Elia Arce, Julia began and fueled an empire. “I fell in love with the medium and it’s transformative power and it became a life passion,” she says in reference to performance art. This is the same person that teamed with other powerful Houston artists (Evan McCarley, Jonatan Lopez and Jana Whatley) to manifest Experimental Action (ExA) festival. The leadership of the festival has now shifted and grown into a larger group of passionate artists and creative professionals, all invested in creating more ground breaking experiences.      

Experimental Action is a performance art festival that took Houston by storm in 2017. You can read up on it here, here, and here. This ambitious and successful event brought some exposure to the craft of performance art and inspired people to connect with the community behind it.

PAN’s new curator, Jennifer Free, divulges details to the planning meeting that you wouldn’t believe even if I told you. About ten performers will be taking the stage to rock some worlds. I wish I could tell you what you are going to see when you get there.

You're just going to have to be blown away when you get there. 

 

The Sell Your Body Story

The first Sell Your Body Show was inspired by my inability to fix my car.

As a stand-up working as a defensive driving instructor, I didn’t have a whole lot of money laying around. Two unexpected but necessary moves and a car trouble later- I was in huge trouble. I do not live a life of financial safety nets so it was most definitely the end of the world.

So I panicked and asked my friend to bring me chicken nuggets. For somebody that never asks for help, this was a huge step in my personal growth journey.

This was a little less than a year ago when I didn’t really produce stuff. I had booked a few things for fun, but not for profit. I was doing open mics and feeling out what stand-up was like. Then, on a trampoline eating nuggets with a friend, I said the words, “I could just sell my body,” right as she said the words, “Why don’t you just put on a show?” and an identity was born.

As a comedian, I was already selling my body. Kind of. I was taking a part of me and hoping they’d eventually pay for that. It’s what I’d been doing my whole life. Artist, writer, nude model, comic. Every little piece of my soul was projected out of me in the hopes that somebody might find value in it.

“So, anybody else have a violent and traumatic childhood?” I’ve been constantly asking the audiences in my life. "Am I right?"

It isn’t physical body parts and often there is not a lot of physical money in it unless you're at the top. I guess in terms of getting what you pay for, our economy does not allow for the luxury of intent or feeling behind a purchase. People can get their factory-made art at the grocery store and watch their stadium seating comedy special on Netflix. That's fair.

It hasn’t stopped me from being lead by creativity. The need to sell myself rather than products or boat insurance has never gone away. No matter how hungry I get or how broken my car is.

This is something I see in so many artists and I’m excited to celebrate. The term “starving artist” comes from a real place. A place that kept me out at open mics until way too late for crowds that were way too small. A place where I was putting my money into shows and sacrificing literal meals.

Although, this on-stage and online forum that I’m lucky enough to create enables me to communicate an idea that goes beyond the concept of artists sacrificing their lives for the sake of celebrating life. “The Ode to the Starving Artist” is the tagline and original inspiration for the show but there is something hiding in the wings.

You guessed it. It’s the “Sell Your Body” thing.

The idea that nudity, sexuality, and even some kinds of love are taboo because of their expected reactions. The ability for artists to celebrate these things in a safe space that does not assume their nudity is inherently sexual but respects their nudity if it is has given me more joy than anything else that I’ve ever created. This creation would not be possible without the artists that participate in it and the audiences that appreciate it.

There are even the left-leaning, tired-of-hearing-it, hip-to-the-trend ones that think because they see so much liberation around them all the time that these discriminations no longer exist. They join the this-is-a-sin and you-are-so-lost crew to create a wall of opposition that wants the “debauchery” silenced, behind closed doors, or out of their face.

There are no lectures, no sex ed pamphlets, and no actual prostitutes (that I know of ), but I am proud to admit that there are artists willing to communicate these very big, complicated, and sometimes difficult and rejected ideas on the Sell Your Body stage. Some of them have been doing it long before I came into the picture and do the same off-stage every day.

I am really grateful.

It was once a packed little shack with no air conditioning and a lot of supportive friends. Now, my car is fixed and I’m still really willing to sell my body.

 

This one is featuring all new performances and a gallery of art to fill your eyes and heart with. 

You can check out an ever-growing list of performers by RSVPing to the Facebook event and/or signing up for the email list.

A Look at the Documentary "Blessed Thieves: Unmasked"

I came across Candice D'Meza online when she asked to interview people for her documentary. She requested the stories of those in a specific situation: Struggling with depression and NOT white. 

I became immediately interested in knowing more. Below, Candice gives us a peek into her inspiration, journey, and excitement surrounding the project.


The project was inspired by my own journey with depression and anxiety, and not having enough safe and sacred spaces to share my struggles in public. Because of this, I was led to publish my diary, in a book called Birth of an Alchemist. I self-published it online (available through Createspace.com/6880794 and on Amazon.com), and then felt compelled to widen the dialogue about depression and how culture, race, sexuality, religion, and country of origin shape the way that we process and cope with depression. 

The film is entitled Blessed Thieves: Unmasked, and is the first part of a three-part art series called Blessed Thieves. The purpose of Blessed Thieves is to increase vulnerability and authenticity within our relationships and in how we collectively and personally engage in the world. It asks the questions, "What keeps us from being authentic? What do we risk when we show up and let ourselves be seen? What do we lose when we don't show each other our nakedness?" The film will be filmed interviews with women of diverse backgrounds, who are taking a step to share their perspectives and experiences with depression and how these various social constructs impact their experience for better or for worse. It's a love story from women to women, to show open acceptance and support for the journey, even the uglier parts of it. I purposely sought out women whose experiences I have never heard in the public discourses about depression: stories from Arabic/Middle Eastern, Asian/South Asian, immigrant, LGBTQ, African/African-descent, Muslim, Hispanic women. 

The title is taken from Khalil Gibran's story called "The Madman", where a man discovers that his masks have been taken. What starts out as fury becomes liberation as he, for the first time, feels the sun on his bare face. In this story, the man in amazement cries out "Blessed are the thieves that stole my masks." This is what I am attempting to do for myself and for others. Also, I was inspired by the ground-breaking writing of Brene Brown, professor at UH, who wrote the book entitled "Daring Greatly". In it, she shows how shame hurts our growth and how vulnerability allows us to be seen, to fall, and continue to accomplish great things. To this end, I have now monikered myself the "VulneRAWbility Visionary". RAW being an acronym for Revolutionary, Authentic, Willing. 

Brittany Pierre is a budding filmmaker and editor, and this project will be our first collaboration together and our first times working on a film. 

I have been active in the Houston professional theater scene, but this will be my first time producing a movie. It's a very exciting process but is really pushing the boundaries of my own courage and ability to be vulnerable. I love it. 


Write Like a GRL is honored to promote this artist. 

You can find Candice's book here.

You can find more information about the documentary here

Dragons


a submission from Je'Nieve Rogers

on experiencing mania


Unfortunately, even strict compliance cannot forever keep the creatures tucked and locked away in my mind forever. They will spill through keyholes, slick like oil and just as dark. Shimmering in the darkness, dancing in the bent light of shadows.

Whispering…Singing…Screaming…wrapping itself up my body. Telling me to let it in, to embrace the madness that lies ahead, to be my true self.

Slithering around my waist, beckoning me with lavish stories of our time together long ago. It is cold and warm at the same time. I bend my spine, to contort to hold the weight of my demon.

She is by my heart now.

…Listening to the rhythm. Promising me music and laughter and dance. Something to make my heart pump for. She has intertwined my fingers with Hers…

“I love you” She hisses. “Let me in…look at Me, kiss Me”

I don’t need to open my eyes to see Her.

I can feel Her grip around my throat now. Her cool hands cradle my heavy head. I am tired. I am hurting. I am heavy.

She has coiled around my body…I open my eyes, stardust greets me. The awesome beauty of a star being born. Brightness, watercolor in a vacuum of darkness. Sparkling with uncertainty and chaos as old as time. Before time, when the old gods were new. She speaks to me in all languages, yet none. Her voice, seductive as the curve in my hip, dripping with glittery honey of black bees, pollinated by the black holes of the infinite void I am falling in.

“Be like nature intended you to be. Be wild Be free as the cosmos designed. Kiss me.” She whispers again. I cannot protest any longer…

“Fly with me” She can feel my defeat. She looks in my eyes, with Hers. Fire, dancing wildly where irises should be. Her hair is made of the bands of galaxies, her lips made red by middle-aged stars.

“Let me give you wings” She kissed me…

Today, I fell in love with a Dragon.

I met a dragon, She gave me Her power.
Blue flames rose around me
A luminescent flower
From the ashes I rose
A phoenix, spitfire
In scales and feathers I was clothed
shimmering as I was dipped in gold
Reborn a fire breathing goddess
I soar above the world and gaze upon it
Opened my mouth wide bared my teeth
And tried to swallow it
Humbled, unafraid
I took a deep breath and set the world ablaze.


Je'Nievie Rogers is the founder of Sunflowers, a female mental health peer discussion group. You can get more information about the project and how to support it here

You can also find more of her poetry, prose, and musings here

Lyrical Essay : Shadows

I tried to get him to talk. I knew he needed to say something to me. It had been waiting there since our last fight. The last time I left, it was because he was not listening to me. This time, I would make sure he felt heard and understood.

Still, it was not enough.

I watched as he released some of the pressure on his heart, but there was much more there. There was something about me, but it was under something about somebody else. Maybe he couldn't see it, but I could see it in him. I've picked up an ability in these past few weeks that I'd been using on myself. X-Ray vision. My soul could see stuff and tell me.

Still, he said he was done.

Okay, my soul said. Either he doesn't know it's in there or he can't talk about it. That's fine. There's a lot going on. I'm the least of his worries. I have to go pick up a bike. I'm late already but I wanted to listen. I wanted him to cough up that rock in his chest. No rock, still late. What's a bike compared to him? His wonder? His messy little artist's heart full of things so much more valuable than this society will ever know.

I eat. I get my things. I try to relate. I get in trouble for being playful. The kid can feel it. I'm connected to the kid. I have to get away. The kid can see in my heart and we both know it. When I feel a shovel scooping things out of me, so does the little one. How are we so connected? I cry in the shower and I hear him cry. Fuck. He feels it.

Leave.

The beauty of falling in love with somebody like that, somebody that can't talk and isn't yours to raise, comes with a lot of heart-ache. You want to rock them and tell them, “I know your soul is talking to mine, but the brains are in charge right now.” But you can't. You have to leave so you don't hurt them anymore. So the souls stop passing notes in class.

I try to undo some damage. I can't be heard. Give me something, he says. Give me stability, he begs. I can't, I think. You broke me last time. I grand-romantic-gestured my way back into this house and you never fixed what you broke. Then you scooped out the pieces with a shovel. There it goes. The debris. He pushes me away some more to test my boundary. I'm too weak from not being listened to.

You talk all night and I listen. Then I ask for some time and you're too tired. It builds up and I try to work through it, but playfulness and cooking won't be acceptable. You need something more. Sorry. There's no foundation left. You don't feel that? You don't feel what happened before?

“You're trying to deal with your problems, but it's my turn,” he says. It's not, I think. You take all the turns. Hell, you deserve them. These things you need are bigger than me. Bigger than you. Bigger than our love. Bigger than your love for her. It's the destiny of the little ones. The stars already know what's going to happen and we're trying to keep up. It's big. It's the universe. You try to start talking about it but it makes you cry before you speak and he stops you. Fuck. So close.

Leave.

This isn't equal. He won't give you what you need. Even when you ask. He's turned off. You can't even tell him how big it is without being told what to feel. How to communicate. Subscribe to his reality. Why did he pick that fight with you? On the third try (maybe the fourth?) and it's a pattern. Just like he said. He saw the future. The eggshells, the barbed wire. It's all there. The debris from that last fight with her that you never got to resolve.

“If you can't take it I'd understand,” he said on the phone that day.

I thought I could. All I need is a hug. A kiss. Support.

If we don't break this pattern, our memories will turn on us. I am not strong enough to keep you from pushing me away. I am strong enough to leave before we hurt ourselves anymore. In me, though, is another version of us. The version of you that I thought you were. The version of me I'm on my way to discovering.

He sets his laptop down next to me. I ask him what's wrong and he puts his hand on my hip. He looks into my eyes- not away from me. He asks, “You sure you're okay to hear all this?” I nod. I kiss his hand. He leans over my waist and rests his back on my big hips. His hand is on my arm. He tells me the story with his lawyer, his love-bite that left him, and the journey of feeling used. He works so hard. He's making it. Doing so well. I tell him. He then tells me what it is, really. The uncertainty. The feeling that he and I are not united. The feeling that he's going to lose all of the things he worked for to the demon that possesses his love-bite. He does not hold it in. He does not hold it all in and then spit it out at me when I am being playful fifteen minutes later. He tells me all of it so I can be there with him.
I kiss his forehead. I tell him that I'm here even when he doesn't feel like it. I thank him for not shutting down. I tear up because I want him to know I'm here but I know the feeling of alone and it's a soft spot that I still struggle with. We bond over our loneliness. In the same room behind the walls that people in the past helped us build. He does not get mad at me for telling him I am also alone and insecure. He understands I'm not blaming him because we're in it together. He doesn't shut down. Maybe we cry just a little bit.
“I have to go get a bike, baby,” I say. “I wish I could stay all day and clean your house and take the little one the park for you but I have errands to run.” He understands. He does not ask why I didn't leave sooner. He does not resent me for being fragile. I get my lunch. He kisses me goodbye and we are still very sad. I am praying all day for him like I often do. I send him the positive energy that working like this gives me. He gets everything done.

One night, I told you about my dream. An astral dream that was so real. The shadow man that put fear in my head was telling me a story. He put it in you the next night when you woke up with a headache. The story was that we would be too afraid. Not because of anything that either of us had done. Our love was a sun that shown on our pasts and made broad shadows on the landscapes.

The sun light hits your love-bite. The sun light hits my dead dad. The sun light hits our first fight when I told you that you were egg shells and you saw how quick I cry. It hurts to look at them illuminated, but the shadows are worse. They feel cold and safe. People like you and I like the independence of isolating ourselves. Solving our problems alone, in the shadows.

The sunshine is hot, the shadows are scary, but we get to choose where we stand.  

Why We March

The right to protest is one of the most important rights that we have as American citizens and it is slowly being demonized by those that don’t agree with the ideas of the protesters.

The word “violent” has become synonymous with the word “protest” even though it might not always be the case. A bill that turns freeway protest into a very serious crime, a bill that could classify protesters as “economic terrorists”, and a bill that just says, “go ahead and hit people in the street,” are just some of the reactions to all of the protesting that's been so popular lately.

Great! Rather than fix the political system that’s failing this country, let’s get all those millennials back inside at their computers so we can pretend it isn’t happening. (That’s not to minimize the power that we have behind the computer. The entire march was actually a fire started by some lady on Facebook. )

You can take a page from the book of these LGBTQI activists that danced outside of the Pence house and respectfully called him Daddy. Getting out and being heard is what works. It makes an impact.

In the face of all this friction, why do we continue to go out with our signs and our screams and demand things they continue to tell us we don't deserve?

As some chick at work said, “Actin’ crazy isn’t going to do nothing about it.”

RIGHT?

WRONG! That's what they want you to think. That's what those bills are designed to make you believe. That's why they've divided us by class, gender, and side of the tracks.

Actin’ crazy is supposed to do something about it. That's why we have the right to protest. Where the electoral college failed some of us and the media manipulated most of us there is still one thing we have: Our voice.

When there is not a single stake in the government that is fighting for the people between the cabinet, the corporations, and the news stations, we are left to fight for ourselves.

So why are women banding together to march?

There is a long complicated history that leads to this question and it’s answer.  The reasons are many and passionate. Here are some:

 

“Because someone who is not only wildly unqualified but someone who has continually, with great purpose, stirred the seeds of hate & bigotry & reignited the white nationalist movement just became president even though he lost the popular vote by 3 million. If we don't actively resist, nothing will ever change, & these newly emboldened, hateful few, who now think they can take our country over, need to see that we will not have our rights taken away, that we will continue to fight & resist oppression, & that we outnumber them, & we will win. Quiet people who accepted the status quo made perfect nazis & we're NOT going to do that shit again.”  -Kathryn Way

 

“There is a man in office that has admitted to sexual assault. I refuse to accept this. I refuse to accept this is my America.” -Jennifer Free

 

“I'm marching because I refuse to be complacent while a sexual predator, racist, pathological liar  with a short fuse and a bad attitude has his tiny baby hands on the nuclear codes of this country. I'm marching because the day a man - ANY man, President of the United States or otherwise - thinks he's going to "grab [me] by the pussy" is the day he's going to pull back a bleeding stump. And I'm marching because I refuse to accept the preposterous notion that a documented troll like Donald Trump is in any way worthy of, or even remotely qualified to hold, the highest office in the land - or to be any kind of example to future generations of this country, save for the kind of human you should NEVER be.” -Chrissa Cooper

 

"I think as a male it is important to be not just open but blatant about my support and solidarity with women's issues. I am marching to make it absolutely clear where I stand. I want there to be no mistake." -Greg Cote

 

"I'm marching because Donald Trump's presidency poses the biggest threat to American civil liberties since at least the Nixon administration. Joining with thousands of people in a peaceful human wave to voice dissent isn't going to magically solve anything, but peaceful protest in the physical world makes a larger impact than tossing a cranky rant into a Facebook feed full of people who already agree with you, or signing a petition that nobody will read. I'm going to have it a lot easier than a lot of people in the coming years, and I know this, but I want to support those who have the most to lose, and it's important to show the world that a large portion of America knows our new leader is a demagogue and is not okay with that." -Joe Folladori
 

You can find a list here but if you don’t see your city, search on Facebook to find your local event. Can’t make it to the march? Your support can definitely be in other ways. You can donate money here to those that can march and really really want to.


There is power in numbers. Don’t forget where you live and don’t forget that you have rights. Be safe out there, everybody!

Community Event : Follow the Sun

Follow the Sun is a peer discussion group for women with mental health obstacles and desire an honest connection with people like themselves. The members call themselves Sunflowers because sunflowers (you guessed it) follow the sun. This unique network of ladies accepts those in any stage of recovery or treatment from medicine and therapy to yoga and meditation to nothing at all.

 

This discussion group provides insight into the ways that women are coping and hope to cope with mental illness. By sharing their own stories and journeys, they hope to provide a resource for women navigating mental illness and remove the stigma that suffering from one can carry.

 

To provide for a safe space of uninhibited expression, Follow the Sun is an all female network. This group does not offer any professional counseling, but can help connect those that desire treatment to professional help.

 

Having attended a meeting I can say that these women are strong, passionate, and creative. The desire to create a safe space that accepts women that struggle for who they are and helps them communicate at the core of discussions. Each month offers a different theme and activity.

 

For the month of January, Follow the Sun will host the Unmask Yourself meeting which you can find and RSVP to here.


Come out and join us for our second meeting for food, drink, conversation, and sisterhood! Bring an open mind and be prepared to get crafty and make new friends and memories as we share our experiences and encourage one another.”

Community Event : The Divine Feminine


Divine Feminine is an art, communication, and support collective that makes zines and provides community events for women. They will be hosting a fundraiser on December 15th at 7pm at 323 Hutcheson St. to educate and empower those that are interested in supporting.

Facebook event here

As a member and lover of this organization, I am excited to attend and perform at this event. I think support networks of any kind are an important and often overlooked necessity in every person's life. I am honored to call Diving Feminine one of the major support networks that I have as an artist and as a woman. 


About the Event 

via coordinator Jennifer Free

The Divine Feminine is a Woman-Identifying Monthly Meet-up, with changing focus on body health, mental health, self-esteem, empowerment, and community.


This Divine Feminine is a place for women to teach women about being women. This does not mean the role a woman should be in society, but how to navigate society as a woman. Being a woman in society, there are certain unique situations we encounter and few places to go to figure out how to deal with them. Feminine aspects are underrepresented and not openly discussed.  


Ways of presenting the self, ways of pleasuring the self, having sex, not having sex, birth control, marriage, staying single, polyamory, periods, not having periods, being infertile, never having a period, menopause, having a vagina, having a penis, having both/neither, transitioning over, wanting children, not wanting children, there are so many ways of being a women that are not discussed, that are not presented to us, or we even know are available to us.

The meet-ups of the Divine Feminine aim to connect women with women to teach all they can, present their information, share their stories, personal views and experiences, and mainly to support our fellow women in whatever their endeavor may be.


To sign up for our email list and get information on events, email us at thedivinefemininehouston@gmail.com
 

The Free Thinkers- 323 Hutcheson St, Houston TX 77003
Line up includes
Julia Claire
Traci Lavois Thiebaud
Britt Vasicek
Julian Luna
Sara Royer
Jennifer Free
Jeffer Thomason
Zach Harvey
 

Contributing to the event will ensure that this collective continues having events to support, empower and teach women, along with events for all identifying individuals to come celebrate their feminine side in an accepting and open environment.

 

Bed Wench


a submission from Je'Nieve Rogers

on being a black woman with a preference for white men


I hold his hand and he plays with my hair. His eyes are…green, blue maybe? I don’t really care. He’s sweet to me, and his voice is mellow. His hair long. I think he plays the cello? 

I love the contrast of our skin…cream on clover honey, ivory on brown sugar, he’s beautiful to me, and I to him. 

And then…

“You hate yourself. You don’t love your father…” a man who looks like me barks, expecting me to flinch.

He harasses me some more and when I don’t react, he calls me a “bed wench”. I smile and laugh as I walk past, he isn’t the first, and he wont be the last. 

“You’re a Black Queen. He’s just using you; he doesn’t understand. Pretending to love, he hasn’t a clue,” a woman with hair like mine chastises, awaiting my epiphany. 

She "educates" me some more but it’s neither here nor there to me. 

I nod and smirk and she makes her exit, mumbling “bed wench” under her breath as I text it. 

And here he comes, to claim I’m colorblind, and I love all,

would be a lie, for you see, white men just do it for me. 

I don’t boast, I don’t brag, I don’t belittle, or talk bad about the men I just don’t prefer to have. 

If that makes me a bed wench so be it, I’ll keep shrugging it off…to be honest, just really like white penis. 


Je'Nievie Rogers is the founder of Sunflowers, a female mental health peer discussion group. You can get more information about the project and how to support it here

You can also find more of her poetry, prose, and musings here

"Keep Doing You" : Q & A with Alyssia Dieringer

I first saw Alyssia Dieringer at the microphone in a classic tea-house open-mic setting. It was all very hip and cool and she was hypnotizing. Alyssia's voice has a smokey/sexy float-off-the-Earth richness and her lyrics speak to that romantic part of your heart that hurts when you touch it. 

She has a wide smile, a groovy attitude, and an unapologetic personality. Alyssia is a true artistic inspiration. At just 20 years of age (21 in a few days) this musician expresses her sexuality and humanity all over Houston in the form of Bluesy Jazzy songs. 

She is in a band called texuture: Yellow and is constantly experimenting with solo work. She hopes to one day release her own album. In honor of her upcoming birthday and her success as a local treasure, Alyssia will be celebrating her 21st birthday by performing at Warehouse Live Houston on December 8th. 

I wanted to get in touch with her about the woman behind the wind pipes in this delightful interview. 


Q & A with Alyssia Dieringer


What do you do?

I manipulate space to create sounds. 

What is your writing process like? 

Every song comes with a different process. Some times the songs just write themselves, and all I have to do is sing it out. Other times I create a story and play to the feelings I think the main character would have, but it starts with guitar every time.  

Where do you get inspiration for your songs? 

I am constantly inspired by other artists to keep pursuing music as a career, but the content of my music is almost always inspired by love. I'm really good at processing my thoughts on politics and morals (at least I think I am) but I'm terrible at processing romantic emotions. I use song writing and playing guitar to kind of help me figure out what I'm feeling about someone or a situation. 


What do you think separates your writing from the writing of men? 

I'm not sure. I don't like to think of men as less emotional, but that's the stereotype, right? My songs are all very passionate. 

Describe your heritage/ethnicity/race/family structure:

I am half Mexican, a fourth Black, and a fourth White, to keep it simple. I don't know my black side of the family, but my mother raised me on soul/r&b/motown. My Mexican side of the family is very traditional, and I'm not, so we bump heads some times. I've never really had the same privileges as my white family because my skin is brown. People don't see me as a white person, but that's the family I know best. 


What impact do you feel your gender and ethnicity have on your songwriting? 

I'm pretty fluid with gender, and any social construct. I think that fluidity transfers to my music. I would like to integrate more music from my roots, but as of right now my ethnicity doesn't influence my song writing very much. 

Do you feel that your sexual orientation affects your music or career? How so?

Yes, absolutely. I hardly ever write songs about men. There aren't a lot of love songs sung by women about women. I want to provide that for all the other gay/bi women in the world! Career wise, I'm not sure how my sexual orientation would come into effect outside of it being one of the first things someone would say about me. 
"Have you heard of Alyssia?"
 "Yeah, she's gay, right?" 

What is your message to LGBTQI and women/women of color that write/perform?

Keep doing you. When everything else seems to be against you, stay true to whoever it is you are. We are humans. We cannot continue to allow people to define us by our sex, gender, sexual orientation, and skin color. We cannot continue to allow the media to control what's sexy/attractive. Let's push the lines on everything. Let's force people to think and to feel. We have power and it's time to use it. 

 

I love Alyssia and want you to see more of her. Here are her upcoming shows:

Warehouse Live on December 8th (also 21st birthday)
Darwins Pub on January 27th  

Fun Fact featuring Vaginas: An educational tidbit for your hump day Wednesday by Nadia Al-Khalifah

(BV) Bacteria Vaginosis, better known to the ignorant as, “dude her poon smelt fishy,” and ,”I’ve had to change my underwear 4 times today…my discharge is funky!”

"What is BV?" 

An overgrowth of bacteria normally presented in the vagina. It is one of the most common vagina infections for women ages 15-44. It is commonly known to cause a strong “fishy” odor and a dark, gravy-like discharge.

“Wait, Vaginas have bacteria in them? Yuck!”

Yup! They do! The vagina is a complex eco system that can easily be disturbed with foreign bacteria as well as using synthetic materials.

“So you’re saying, a girl who gets it is dirty and letting foreign bacteria in her hoohah?”

No! And do yourself a favor and get that thought out of your head. BV does not equate to bad hygienic practices.

“Then how can a girl get it?”

Numerous ways. Using synthetic fragranced products in or around her vagina.

“Well…she has to make it smell good, no?”

It naturally smells good! You don’t need to smell like a Starbucks Pumpkin Frapp down there! It is not natural!

“How else can she get BV?”

Not properly cleaning your hands before inserting a tampon or menstrual cup, not properly cleaning your sex toys, sleeping with new partners.

“Wait—you’re telling me that BV is a sexually transmitted infection?!?!”

NO! No, I am not. It is not. It CAN be activated during sex with new partners when having unprotected sex because the bacteria from their genitals and sexual fluids may cause a change in the eco system. Some individuals can get reoccurring BV even while sleeping with their same partner.

“So why don’t you just use some Vagisil and make it clean again?”

Majority of commercial vaginal cleansing products contain ingredients that will alter the vaginas sensitive eco-system and make matters worse. If the vagina is smelling different than usual, it is your vagina telling you that something is wrong. Don’t try and cover it up with fragrances or fragrances products.

“Well—then how the hell can you clean your vagina?” You don’t. The vagina is an amazing self-cleaning system that does the work itself. If anything, you can use apple cider vinegar diluted in a bath of warm water.

“How can you cure BV?”

BV often comes and goes. There are numerous home remedies to rid it: frozen yogurt inserts, tea tree inserts, apple cider vinegar baths, eating a healthy diet, probiotics, and if those don’t work you can get antibiotics from the doctor.

“So all of those will cure it?”

Each vagina is individually complex so one thing that may work for Mary may not work for Sue and women often get it more than once.

“How can I or my vagina owning friends prevent BV?”

Safe sex, eating a healthy diet, taking daily probiotics, refrain from using synthetic fragrances down below or on your sex toys, not cleaning the inside of the vagina but only the external, viewing your discharge on a daily basis to watch out for different scents and colors, and being educated!

“Wow, vaginas are so weird.”

Nah, not weird, just incredibly complex and our education system neglects to teach young girls and boys about it in depth because we are in Texas and vagina’s are the devil. And sex? What is the sex? I’ve only been educated on absenence.

This has been an educative tidbit on BV with Nadia Al-Khalifah

Nadia is an author and visual artist in Houston, Texas. She is a co-creator of Tulips the Zine and an all around dope chick. 

"talk to your hella catholic abuelita" : A Window into Vanessa Gritton

Vanessa Gritton first caught  my eye on Facebook. She came to my city of Houston for a festival and updated her status every few hours with some hilarious takes on a place I forget I live. After becoming a Facebook stalker of hers, I saw an incredible post that tugged on my heart strings. 

Gritton's Facebook post touched on a lot of things that deserve more visibility, particularly non-white LGBT youth and the reaction their family and close community have. Here's a taste:

So TLDR: Talk to your family about gay and trans people over pan de Pavo this week. Thx.

It was beautiful.

Gritton is a comedian living in California finding her voice and having blast. Inspired by her hilarious online personality and her fearless use of Facebook as a platform for communicating her convictions, I reached out to her.

I didn't just want to show her love, I wanted to know everything about her. From her amazing charity festival to her rich culture, this Q & A did not disappoint.  


Q & A with Vanessa Gritton


What is comedy like for you right now?

I’m really happy with where I am right now. I’m in this really beautiful sweet spot where I’m getting booked on shows I’ve adored and working with comics I admire but I don’t have quite a big name for myself yet that allows me to work on the projects I love. I have that room needed for failure and the growth that follows and a chance to fuck up a little bit and have fun. I’m unknown enough that I get to look for exactly what my voice is and no one is watching me closely enough to hinder that. I get to be the master of exactly what kind of comedian I want to be.

What are the projects you have going on right now?

I have a festival going on called List of Demands because I really love that Saul Williams song and because at this point with the direction of our government is going, I’m fully aware the checks and balances are no longer being held and I want our communities to know we see them and want to help. 100% of the donations go to the NAACP, The ACLU, The Trevor Project, Trans Lifeline, CAIR, Border Angels and Planned Parenthood. I planned this thing on three weeks notice and have this great team helping me and half the team watched me cry on election night so it really set the bar for the now daily “OH GOD WHY DID I TAKE ON SO MUCH” meltdowns.


Also I have a podcast I’m working on creating for mini walking tours of LA because passion projects are what keep me from hourly “OH GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE” meltdowns.

What was it like starting out as a writer/comedian?

I was recently separated and jobless so starting comedy is already hard. Starting comedy as a lady is even harder. Starting comedy as a lady, living in her car was stupid and hard and probably in the end is the one thing that drove me to get out of my car. The job, the apartment, everything that improved my life was just so I can do this thing that meant me staying up all night and tiring myself out. That which also nourishes me also destroys me or whatever.

What is your writing process like?

Everyone has a different process and mine is catered towards the fact that I absolutely need to give myself guidelines or I will ramble. I start with a list over a few weeks of quick notes I wrote down and fully write out wherever I want to go with the bit. I then take a red pen and cross out anything that doesn’t need to be said, takes too long to get to the funny, so that cuts it down about 70% percent. After about a week of doing it at mics I add any tags I came up with on stage and cut out anything that hasn’t worked. It’s exhausting and deeply emotionally satisfying. I now have an erotic Pavlovian response to red pen.  

Where do you get inspiration for your writing?

I love shameless admissions. Not the “Oh look I’m a pathetic lady-child” sort of shameless but that “I donate to charity because it makes me feel a little superior at parties and I’ve never seen the Godfather but I lie about it all the time” sort of Shameless. There’s something so deeply silly and lovely about removing that veneer we carry and writing about it is such a thrill because it inspires me to write honestly. There’s a reason that the truth serum trope is so popular in movies. It’s uncomfortable and great.

What do you think separates your writing from the writing of men?

A big thing is I don’t have to maintain that image of masculinity that means I’m not phased by anything so I get to be very emotional with my writing. I get to get deep into it and really live it no matter how absurd it is.

Describe your heritage/ethnicity/race/family structure:

Please stick with me this is long and weird and frequently speculated on so it’s usually incorrect. There are like 4 think pieces about me where I am referred to as “local black woman” and I was almost a forced Rachel Dolezal so it feels good to finally get a platform once and for all to make this clear.

So my mom is Guatemalan and My dad is Salvadoran. On that Salvadoran side we’re Mizrahi Jewish (look up Jews in El Salvador, we got history).

I’m one of 7 kids. Mom had two from a previous marriage, dad had three and together they had me and my younger brother. None of us look alike nor do we have the same accents because of upbringings spanning New Jersey, Guatemala, and California. Our dinners look insane. It’s great.

What impact do you feel your gender and ethnicity have on your comedy?

My ethnicity is usually front and center. Being a first generation kid I have this constant feeling of “Ni de aqui y ni de alla” (not from here, or from there) so I’ve always felt like I only have my foot in the door with two different cultures but I’m not quite inside. It’s that constant feeling like an outsider looking in the helps me look at things with a different perspective and that’s where my comedy comes from.

Do you have a message for women/women of color that want to write/perform?

Representation is huge. Women of color start these chain reactions where another big haired little girl realizes there’s a place for her in comedy too. Even if we’re not trying to be an example for women or women of color, we are regardless simply because so few of us exist.

Especially being latina I have a platform to bring causes and issues to my latinx community that have unfortunately either not been discussed or are deeply hurtful. A lot of our programming still uses the sissy trope or simply being trans as a storyline to be mocked or discussed. We still have a huge issue with “machismo”. Latin programming can be funny without being homophobic and I will screech that from the rooftops.


As a performer I have comedy. If you’re not a performer, just have those uncomfortable discussions. I know I just told you to force awkward conversations at the table which is the antithesis of everything you have ever heard but please bear with me. Talk to your hella catholic abuelita about trans rights. Tell your uncle that “maricón” is a fucked up thing to say. Explain to them that as marginalized groups we can’t just fight for our (latino) rights. As latinos, we need to stand with the black, muslim, asian, native american, and LGBTQ communities because the powers that oppress them, oppress us. We get to be allies through discussion and education.


Vanessa Gritton is female powerhouse of strong convictions and I want you to see more of her. Here are her upcoming shows:

11/30 Castle Wolfenshow at Paladinos
12/2 Lista De Demandas 7856 Shoup Ave, Canoga Park
12/7 Party in the Back
12/9 Mint on Card