Locatora Radio: Meet the Women Bringing You Brown Girl Hour
WORDS: JESSICA PALOMO | ART: FAYE ORLOVE
A duo glossed in bright pinks and fresh manicures, Diosa Femme and Mala Munoz can be spotted through the plexiglass of Espacio 1839’s recording studio in East Los Angeles on any given day.The two have gained a big following since their podcast debut just six months ago, no doubt in response to what they’ve dubbed Brown Girl Hour--a space in which the legacies of femmes and womxn of color are celebrated, while discussing everything from mental health to gender experience and all while looking fly as hell. I spoke with Mala and Diosa about all things femme, the importance of self-care, and why being extra is a must. Jessica Palomo: The name of your podcast reclaims the word loca, a word that translates to crazy woman. Can you tell us what it means to be a loca for survivors of color, women, and femmes? Diosa Femme/Mala Munoz: The term “Loca" or loquita is a weighted word in Latinx contexts. The term is often used to discredit muxeres who seek to call out abuse or injustice that has been perpetrated against them. One of the first comments that people make when a woman, child, POC, or qtpoc tries to expose violence is to call that person 'crazy’. When marginalized people challenge power and violence, we are often gaslighted and told we are imagining the violence being done to us, that we exaggerate, that we are weak, or that we asked to be harmed. Much of being a muxer/woc is surviving through sexist and racist violence while being told to be quiet, not cause a scene, and that we are imagining it or exaggerating. To be a woc is to live your truth in spite of this gaslighting and crazy making. The Loca is the one who exposes violence, who causes a scene, who talks about taboo topics, who demands that she be treated like a human being. We are locatoras because we want to make a scene, spill the dirty laundry, and use our voices not in appeasement of the patriarchy, but in service and love to ourselves and our sisters. JP: Listening to the show feels like being in the room with your homegirls—something you’ve described as brown girl hour. In starting the podcast did you feel as though there were already a ton of women like yourselves bringing this kind of voice to podcast listeners? DF/MM: We’ve drawn inspiration from many Black Women podcasts such as 2 Dope Queens, Zahira Kelly’s “Shouting From The Margins”, and Myleik Teele’s “My Taught You”, to name a few. There are many Latinx podcasts that we love such as Café con Chisme & Radio Menea that have opened up the dialogue about queerness and latinidad. As Locatora Radio, we wanted our podcast to be Survivor & Femme focused, intersectional, fun, and entertaining to honor our experiences as Latinas. During Brown Girl hour, our listeners have shared with us that they grade papers, clean their houses, code, create GIS maps, and cook for their families. Brown Girl Hour is the background music to their femme genius and innovation. JP: The two of you have day jobs that directly impact your community. Mala you are a rape crisis counselor-advocate and Diosa you are a community organizer. Do you have any suggestions for those who’d like to help their community but whose careers don’t directly allow them to do so? DF/MM: Be an active member in your community because no one knows your community as well as YOU do. For example, our friend DJ Sizzle is a community organizer and DJ that creates accessible and fun spaces for QTPOC in her community of Boyle Heights. JP: Both of you are part of a collective of women artists, writers, and organizers called the Mami Collective. Why do you think it’s important to have a group of women as a support system in regard to personal creative endeavors? DF/MM: From a survivor standpoint, connection, friendships, and community are vital and even life-saving. A very common tactic of abuse is isolation and separation from friends and family. When a survivor is cut off from friends and family, their lifeline has been cut or obstructed. In our communities, comadres are an integral resource. When a muxer is in a tight spot, she can lean on her comadres for support and safety. Comadres help you pay your water bill when you’re short on cash, they help you raise your kids, and console you during heart breaks. QTPOC often survive and thrive with the help of chosen family, when the biological family is abusive or not accepting. Marginalized people NEED community to survive. This is why the Mami collective is so important to us. As creatives, we thrive off of learning from one another. There is a lot of genius in our hoods and barrios. Some of our best episodes have come about as collaborations with other creatives like the Unravel Podcast, Nadia Calmet, Kayla Fory, and Ruben of QueerXicanoChisme. JP: Diosa, I was first introduced to you through your femme-power makeup tutorial on YouTube in which you describe makeup as an act of political warfare. Both you and Mala love dressing up and often describe yourselves as “extra.” What about femme is resistant and why do you think people hate on femme-presenting folks? DF: Femme is resistance because it is on purpose, just as our existence is on purpose. Femme ignores the patriarchy and male-gaze. We are empowered by our extra-ness & encourage our listeners to wear what they want, take up space, and be locxs. JP: In your femme tech episode you reimagine what STEM looks like by talking about the science behind things like hair and beauty products. Can you give us an example of something femme that people might not necessarily think of as tech? DF/MM: We led two femme tech workshops at the AdelanteMuxer Conference at Pasadena City College this year and one of the girls who participated in our workshop shared with us that her mom engages in femme tech as a hairdresser because symmetry is essential to her craft when cutting hair. Another young girl shared that her abuela is a femme techie because she utilizes plants from her garden as medicine for her family. We have studied and been inspired by the work of Kim Milan, who has theorized and written on Femme Science as a legitimate field of scientific knowledge, inquiry, and utility. We recognize that our mothers, grandmothers, and femme ancestors engaged in femme tech by way of gastronomy and cooking, weaving, hair plaiting, child rearing, and by engaging in the type of upcycling and conservation which is now considered “green” and “eco-friendly” by Whole Foods White people. Our goal is for our communities to recognize that women of color have always engaged in technology, innovation, and conservation. Our traditionally feminine/femme creativities like basket weaving, gardening, and cooking are often dismissed or belittled as minor, unimportant, unimpressive, and ordinary and are thus undervalued, underpaid, and underappreciated. When your abuela makes a traditional plate of arroz con gandules or a batch of nopales, she is engaging in femme science and femme tech. JP: NPR recently described the millennial generation as being the “generation of emotional intelligence,” referring to our obsession with self-care. I’ve noticed that a lot of your social media posts have to do with this—specifically with creating sacred spaces in your home. Why is it important for women to have these sort of sanctuaries where they can focus on themselves? DF: Creating and curating a sanctuary for yourself is vital to survival. If you have your own apartment, your own room, or small area that feels yours - own it. We can’t always control what happens to us when we’re out & about, but we can control what our palacio looks and feels like. We both keep plants in our homes and feel it connects us to the women that have raised us since plants are very common in Latino homes. I (Diosa) have a lot of candles, crystals, and a vanity that I feel are very sacred components to my self-care. Mala has a lot of plants, calming colors in her home and finds sanctuary in her solitude. We believe that decluttering, being alone, feeling safe and free are important for women and femmes, especially in their sacred spaces. It should be a place to not only de-stress but also build your empire. JP: Do you have any advice for women who are thinking of starting their own podcast and what can listeners expect to see from you in the future? DF/MM: If you want to start your own podcast, collective, or new project, be your authentic, original self. That will shine more than anything else. Our listeners can expect us to expand: collaborate with other artists, host events, and be extra AF!