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Meet Monica Palacios

Today we’d like to introduce you to Monica Palacios.

Monica, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I started performing stand up comedy in the 80s in San Francisco as one of the first out Latina lesbian comics. This was a very homophobic time due to the AIDS crisis yet myself and a handful of brave LGBTQ comics had the chance to tell our stories at the first gay comedy club in the nation: The Valencia Rose Cabaret.

Eventually, I made my way to Los Angeles in hopes for bigger opportunities but found the mainstream comedy clubs homophobic, racist and sexist. I was notified to do auditions for televisions shows but was only given the chance to read for the “maid” character. From these challenging experiences, I realized I needed to create my own safe space, on my own time, creating material that was important, personal and empowering for me and my community. It was at that point that I realized I was more of a storyteller and became a theatrical solo performer. Once I made this life-changing choice, I started performing more, I started getting published, my work was being taught in college courses, I was asked to teach at UCLA, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, LMU, CSU Long Beach, CSU Los Angeles and American Academy of Dramatic Arts. I also became involved with and then eventually became the Executive Director of VIVA: Lesbian and Gay Latinos Artists, a non-profit art collective.

My history has brought me to where I am today: the creator of solo shows, plays, screenplays, short stories, stand-up comedy, poems, featuring the Latinx LGBTQ experience. National and international scholars have critically engaged my work in academic journals, books, dissertations and conference panels. I am featured in the new queer documentary STAND UP, STAND OUT: The Making Of A Comedy Movement by David Pavlosky about the first gay comedy club in the nation, 1980s San Francisco. I was selected as the Lucille Geier Lakes Writer-in-Residence at Smith College 2019. I have received a Postdoctoral Rockefeller Fellowship at University of California Santa Barbara. I was chosen for a Playwriting Fellowship under the Latino Theatre Initiative at the Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles. I have received numerous awards for my positive contributions to the Latinx LGBTQ population, most recently from the City of Los Angeles as a Latinx LGBTQ Trailblazer 2017. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa declared October 12, 2012, “Monica Palacios Day” in honor of my 30 years career as one of the first Chicana lesbian writer/performers to be out and proud on stage.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
As a queer Latina comedy performer, there have been plenty of obstacles. For me to be the best at my craft, I had to be myself 100% and that was only going to happen if I was completely out of the closet. What helped initially was having a safe queer space to perform at in San Francisco and that was the Valencia Rose Cabaret. There I was able to make a name for myself, hone my skills, and build my self-confidence. I stayed away from mainstream comedy venues because they were too homophobic, racist and sexist. The fact that I presented my comedy through my Latina lens was also another challenge because some white audiences were not accepting of who I was. From these challenging experiences, I realized I needed to create my own safe space, on my own time, creating material that was important, personal and empowering for me and my community. It was at that point that I realized I was more of a storyteller and became a theatrical solo performer.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I am the creator of solo shows, plays, screenplays, short stories, stand-up comedy, poems, featuring the Latinx LGBTQ experience. National and international scholars have critically engaged my work in academic journals, books, dissertations and conference panels. I am most proud of carving out a space for myself as a Latina lesbian performer being out and proud on stage. I am also proud of being a trailblazer for others.

What were you like growing up?
As a child, I was super shy and didn’t talk very much but I was always observing learning about how people functioned. When I was ready, I started writing short stories and being social. I was a 6th grade comedian at St. Patrick’s Elementary. All my quiet observational time paid off. I was also on our basketball and baseball teams. Go Shamrocks!

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Image Credit:

Sunny Bak; Ramiro Ramirez; Monica Palacios

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