Too Much, Too Gay, Too Latina? Too Bad! An Interview with Sandra Valls

Sandra Valls talks on the importance of being true to her many identities and why she thinks there’s no place for mean comedy.

CherryGRRL (CG): You have so many talents. Did you discover and cultivate them all at once?

Sandra Valls (SV): Thank you, first of all, wow! I’m all blushing, like “ay?” How sweet! My second thought is “hold on! What is she talking about,” because I have a lot of talents. Did they all come out at once? No. At first when I was very, very young I used to love to sing and dance, my parents said “you have a really great voice” and I would just sing and sing and sing. I was in little musicals and stuff like that, and in the choir. And then, I went to High School and I discovered another talent which was actually really cool. I can play the piano by ear. I can just play. I was kind of a pariah, because I was a big nerd. I was so gay in High School, but back in the day, in Laredo, Texas…come on! A Catholic High School in Laredo…Mexican, Catholic. There was no way that I could be myself. Nobody wanted to have lunch with me so I would go to the little chapel and just play the piano and try to figure out and plunk some notes. I taught myself essentially how to play the piano and I started writing music and singing and playing. I also had a band in High School, like a cover band.  We played everywhere, even at my own prom, which was really cool to say now but then I was thinking “This sucks! I’m not doing anything here. I’m not even dancing; I’m working!” But it was fun, you know?

And then I went to musical theater school in New York City .but I always knew I loved to make people laugh. I loved how Bette Midler did it, and Carol Burnett did it, and I loved making my parents laugh. And then I went to Boston and had a girlfriend and that didn’t quite work out but she enrolled me in this adult comedy class that at first I thought “this sucks,” because we were breaking up, and I thought “What’s funny about any of this?” And when we finally broke up my friend said that I should take that comedy class because she took all my friends (you know how lesbians are; they pick sides). So, I basically got into comedy to make more friends and then I thought “Comedy! This is amazing!” I’ve always been doing this anyway– for free– and you’re paying me to bitch about my life ? And this is fun! Wait a minute- you’re laughing at my rantings! Ok! And then later on, when I moved here, I discovered that I could produce. It was wonderful because a friend of mine basically gave me a chance and said “You’re creative. Just fake it till you make it.” And that’s exactly what I did, actually. So I started producing shows for English language Spanish television. I still love to produce and I’m still doing comedy. I still sing and write music…Are those the talents you were referring to? [laughs]

I keep discovering new ones. Everyone has hidden talents because it’s kind of an umbrella of one big talent and all of us are creative. There’s a lot of things that fall under that umbrella of creativity. You know what I’m saying?. I don’t think we ever should stop figuring out the nooks and crannies of ourselves. I’m not done yet.

CG: Besides the Fonz, who are your role models? Who inspires you to keep going?

SV: The fonz!? I thought you said ‘fans’! They keep changing because I keep acquiring more role models, you know? It would always be my parents first. Career role models…I love Carol Burnett, Bette Midler, Meryl Streep. And then it changes to “wow, you know what? This specific fan is an amazing person that keeps me going.” And then I realize my partner, Jacquelyn Kennedy– and I know to some people it sounds so cheesy and puppy love, but it’s not– my partner is such a positive person. I am so amazingly blessed to have an amazing woman by my side. Like I look at her and I’m like “How do you keep going? Wow!” She’s a mother, we have two kids, she keeps going, she’s a designer and an entrepreneur, she makes body products and jewelry, she’s a business owner. She just keeps going. And to me, I’m like “man, if I had half of her energy and stamina I’d be golden.” You know what I mean? She’s an amazing role model in everyday life.

And if by role models you mean what keeps me going, it’s also my faith in myself. Ultimately, that faith helps me get up and keep doing what I’m doing, facing fear and doing it anyway. It’s not easy, but I keep facing self-doubt and all those other inner battles and I do it anyway. I have a very strong spiritual background that keeps me going.            You know what? The other day when I was redoing my website I thought “I have to add these things and tweak it” and I was feeling like I have so far to go, because I’m not done with reaching my goals. And then I saw everything that I had accomplished, and it kind of gave me that kick in the pants to remember how much I had already accomplished! So that kept me going…..myself.

CG: Curve Magazine said about you: “Valls is as true to her ethnicity as she is to her sexuality”. Do you find that you are forced to represent one identity at a time or is there space for your multiplicity?

SV: There’s always space because I make the space. It’s what you make it. This is who I am and I come with all of it. So if there’s space here in this particular gig or venue or this particular event, either I make the space and, if I can’t make the space for it, then I don’t do it. You know? Because you can’t pick either/or. It is what makes me me. My identity as a Latina, my identity as a gay Latina, or a Latina lesbian, however you want to prioritize it…as a mother, my identity as a mother as well. Years ago I wasn’t raising kids and now I am. My identity as that comes out. My identity as a woman of color…I’m not forced to do anything. I come with what I have and if you don’t accept it, totally cool. But I’m gonna come with what I have. And I’m not going to make myself dimmer just so you can seem brighter. If you can’t take the light that I’m giving out, then you can leave. Or I won’t do your gig. Why don’t you get brighter so we can both be brighter and look at the wonderful light we shine then. If you can’t take that I’m too bright for you, or too much, or too gay, or too Latina or whatever…then too bad! Then you won’t hire me…ok! But I’m not gonna compromise, you know, not talking about a gay thing or not talking about my ethnicity or not talking about my kids or not talking about my mixed, multicultural family. Then I’m sorry, you’re not the gig for me. I’m sorry, bye!

CG: In your comedy you talk about liking bigger, curvier women? Do you think fat jokes can be funny?

SV: Fat jokes are mean. If a comic talks about herself, you know, like different comedians say “my fat ass…” or something funny like that…if they think it’s funny, then it’s funny as long as it has a clever punchline and it’s not just self-deprecating! I think any joke directed with a mean tone or a degrading tone is a mean joke and not funny. I think there’s a fine line…if you’re making jokes about yourself then it’s fine. I think comedians can poke fun at themselves. I don’t think other people should make jokes about something that they’re not. And that opens up a whole other door. Do I find making fun of myself as a gay woman or as a big old dyke like a butchie girl, making fun of my own funny? Yes  And then again it depends on the comedian and how they mean it. In general, though, I don’t like mean comedy. I don’t agree with it. I don’t think it has a place– it’s not funny! I don’t find it funny to be degrading and demeaning to any person for whatever physical characteristic, spiritual path, ethnicity, you know, anything– in mean spirit, I don’t think it’s funny. I don’t like people to be ok with having others feel left out or left behind, or feeling bad. That is a huge deal with me. I don’t like making anyone feel less than. Ever. Ever ever ever. I hate it. It really gets to me. It has been my thing since I was a child. It’s making me even mad right now to think about hurting people’s feelings like that. I will speak out, I don’t give a damn who is around, I don’t give a damn what position you hold. I will speak up for that person. I’ve always been that person…I can’t just stay quiet.

CG: Do you have any upcoming projects that have kept you up at night?

SV: Do you have tape recorders in my house, is that why you’re asking me that question?! I always have many projects that consume me– like “Oh! I need to write this book!” or “Oh! I need to do this!” or “I want to plan this amazing tour to support work against domestic violence!” and I have all of these things. I’m up til three or four sometimes, just writing things. I am always creating. My new creation that I love doing and you’re probably thinking “what?” but I love making slideshows for people. I love love love taking pictures and being the archivist for my family and for my friends. I’ve created a business called “Familia” (Spanish for family). I create slideshows. Especially now during the holidays…you can give people a gift card or whatever, but what a wonderful thing to give the people you love memories. I love doing it. I’m working on a few right now!. My slideshows are kickass!

Also keeping me awake right now…I’m planning a comedy tour next year that’s still in the works. I plan to give a percentage of the proceeds to domestic violence. It’s not easy but I’m gonna do it.  Also, this is stupid but what keeps me awake is how to organize my garage. I love my garage. I’m very meticulous about my garage. I need to find things when I need to find things! And that’s keeping me awake! So basically I get no sleep.

CG: What social media site will we never find you on? Is it LinkedIn? Pinterest?

SV: That’s hard to say because I kind of have to do a lot of them. I love Pinterest. LinkedIn, I’m forced to do it. I have an account…I don’t know enough about what’s out there. My girlfriend loves Tumblr but I know nothing about it. So maybe that one, but maybe next month, I’ll be on it. It’s about publicity, but my A.D.D. brain cannot handle another one.  I don’t know! I don’t understand Twitter, still! MySpace is still going on…I won’t ever return to MySpace. Ever. Unless everyone goes back to MySpace again, but then I would be forced.

CG: I know that you like to do interviews so let’s turn the interview around…any questions for me?

SV: So, tell me about you! (for another interview…)

For more information about Sandra and for upcoming tour dates, check out her website:

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