Welcome to KQED Arts’ Women to Watch, a series celebrating 20 local artists, creatives and makers who are pushing boundaries in 2016. Driven by passion for their own disciplines, from photography to comedy and every other medium in between, these women are true vanguards paving the way in their respective communities.
Meet Luna Malbroux: diversity consultant for schools and workplaces by day, hilarious comedian by night, app creator sometime in between, and also potentially the love child of Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey. A few months ago, Luna was making waves with EquiTable, an app that separates dinner checks with gender and race wage gaps in mind, so naturally we had to get her in the studio and talk all about that and more:
After listening to our conversation, it should be pretty clear why she's one of my nominees for the Women to Watch campaign. She's doing great things -- and is on course to do even more.
Where do you live?
Describe yourself in one word?
What did you do last night?
Started my own parade! I hung out with my old friends who came into town and we all walked through the streets of the Tenderloin, singing songs and dancing at 2am.
What can’t you live without?
Soulful live music to dance to!
If you could travel any where in the world, where would it be?
I’d go back to Salvador, Brazil. I learned so much about Pan-African culture there and learned so much about myself. Can’t wait to go back.
Who is your personal hero? Why?
My parents, Charles and Rita Malbroux. They are the most loving, humble, authentic and accepting people I know. I have friends from all walks of life, and everyone was welcomed in my home. I was always a little eccentric, growing up in a small, conservative, rural town. But they supported me unconditionally in exploring my interests and were always accepting of who I was and what I did, even if they disagreed with it. When you’re 14 and tell your conservative parents “I want to be a sex therapist,” that could be a lot, but Charles and Rita were like, “Okay.”
How did you find your creative voice?
My earliest memories were making up song and dance routines with my brother. I used to watch a lot of I Love Lucy and The Carroll Burnett Show and had a lot of fun dancing, acting, playing musical instruments, and singing from as early as 5. I was the kind of kid, and still am the kind of person, to try and love a lot of different things. I always loved bringing a lot of people together.
What is something most people don't know about you?
Luna’s a nickname given to me when I was a teenager. My ‘government’ name is actually Lauren.
What do you do when you feel uninspired?
If something feels forced, or if I get too rigidly set on ‘this is who I am’ or ‘this is what I do’ -- I feel blocked. That’s not for me. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve become an app creator, an investigative reporter, a ‘sexpert’ of sorts, and am now writing a book and launching a comedy festival in August. I think my ability to dabble with so many things is due to my ability to stay open and flexible!
What's been your biggest 'learning moment,' and what did you you take from the experience?
There was a time when I was writing this script for a play competition, and this guy, who had a lot more experience and notoriety than me, gave me a lot of notes and suggested I change it. When I took his advice, the result was something that I barely recognized as my voice and something that I liked a lot less than my original piece. It taught me to trust myself and my instinct, and more importantly, it helped me to see that no one can tell my story better than I can.
What’s your greatest achievement, and how has it shaped you?
It took a lot of courage for me to step out and create a talk show called Live Sex. I had a vision for what I wanted it to be, I knew I wanted a comedy show to humorously explore issues surrounding sexuality, identity and consent, and I knew there would be a lot of judgment towards me for choosing that title and that content. But I felt in my spirit that I had to do it and I really followed my gut.
What’s been created as a result is my personal brand of mixing a lot of different disciplines with humor in the hopes of enlightening and bringing people together. Every show, someone comes up to me afterwards and tells me they saw or heard something that helped them think differently about consent or some aspect of sex. That allowed me to see that there is something really powerful in using comedy to have meaningful dialogue. That experience inspired me to use humor in approaching a lot of different topics, like the addressing the wage gap through the EquiTable app.
Coffee or tea? What kind?
Tea! Hibiscus, or something floral like that.
Crawfish boil, hands down. It’s the kind of food that brings people together, even though you smell funny.
What does a perfect day look like for you?
Strolling through a neighborhood or city for hours, talking to people. I used to always think ‘Why are people so chatty towards me?’ and then I realized I’m that lady that strikes up conversations with people on airplanes; it’s been me the whole time! After rolling through the city, there’s nothing I like more than breaking bread with good friends before a night of non-stop dancing.
Who are your local inspirations?
So many people; the Bay is just a hub for artists! I actually get a lot of inspiration from watching buskers/street performers. We are all walking around like zombies, looking at our phones or blocking out outside noise with music. If a person is talented and charismatic enough to entertain someone on the street, they can do anything. I love seeing that sort of passion, drive, endurance and humility and I’m so thankful for those people for keeping art alive and well and part of our everyday experience.
I’m really blessed to have stumbled upon the PianoFight community. I’m so inspired by everyone I meet and their variety of talents, and it’s a place filled with love and generosity. I’m an artist in residence at African American Arts and Culture Center, so I have a huge network of talented artists from multiple disciplines that’s been a hub of creativity. I’m also inspired by my dance crew, SambaFunk, which brings love and thoughtfulness and community-building to dancing.
And the Bay is filled to the brim with talented comics who I’ve learned a lot from, but as a comic, it’s been incredibly crucial for me to draw inspiration from other art forms. Antique Edutainment of Oakland are musically ones to watch, and Jennifer Lewis and the work she’s done with her literary network Red Light Lit has fueled my fire.
If you could live in a book, TV show, movie, play, song or painting what would it be?
Tough Titties: The Luna Malbroux Story. It’s a Lifetime Movie Original that I’m already living in.
Alternatively, The Walking Dead. I’m already preparing for the do-or-die tribal dystopian future we’re all creating.
What upcoming show are you excited about?
I’m producing a Live Sex Comedy Festival this August 8th-13th with a series of curated comedic shows exploring sex at PianoFight. I’m so excited to see the variety of talent and expression from drag to musical comedy to standup, under one roof! It’s going to be grand.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself writing a lot more in a lot of different genres. I’d love to write for a television show or a movie, but there are some musicals I got brewing inside of me that I can’t wait to share with the world.