Meliza Bañales is the author of Say It With Your Whole Mouth (Monkey Book Press, 2003). She has been involved in spoken-word and writing since 1996 and gained recognition for being the first Latina on the West Coast to win a poetry slam championship in 2002 . She was the 2002 winner of the People Before Profits Poetry Prize and she has work in Revolutionary Voices, Without A Net: The Female Experience of Growing-Up Working-Class, The First Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Change, Baby Remember My Name: New Queer Girl Writing, and Word Warriors. Her film, Do the Math, with award-winning director Mary Guzmán was the winner of a 2006 Frameline Completion Grant and received an Honorable Mention in Outfest 2007. These are only a few of the many, many highlights of the career of this multi-talented writer, performer, filmmaker and seamstress. She has energy, stamina and a wicked sense of humor, especially when she’s traveling up and down the country. Order up your double-shot of espresso, check out her video performances and read our interview with the busy, sultry and sweet Ms. Bañales (aka Missy Fuego).
Prove&Confusion: You have toured a lot. How many shows have you traveled with?
Meliza Bañales: I have no idea! [Laughs] I’ve touring since the last decade and pretty steadily. The big tour cabaret-style shows that I’ve toured with are Sister Spit and recently Body Heat: Femme Porn. I’ve also done some solo tours and I’ve recently toured with Nicky Click in Canada.
Prove&Confusion: What’s the thing you love about touring?
Meliza Bañales: I love the traveling aspect. It really gives your work a new energy when you do it for a different audience every night. It’s really the only way to test drive something is to tour with it. I really do feel that it makes my work better.
Prove&Confusion: Any downside of touring?
Meliza Bañales:People have this idea about touring that it’s like a party every night. It is not a party every night! Its often sleeping on floors or really weird beds and then getting up at five in the morning to drive thirteen hours to the next show, and not eating properly. I think on one tour I lived on diet coke and M&Ms [Laugh]. It can be really hard on your body. The older I get, my body get like: “I really hate that I’ve slept on the floor 3 nights in a row. What are you doing to me?!”
Prove&Confusion: Do you find yourself changing what your read or your artistic approach from show to show?
Meliza Bañales:It depends on the tour. The first time I toured with a large scale group, Michelle Tea was like: you can just bring one thing, because it’s a different audience each night. So I read from my book of poetry and depending how much time I had on stage, I’d throw in something different. With a show like Body Heat, I’d stick to what is working because that show was very focused on erotic writing.
Prove&Confusion: I love your work, your poetry has such a narrative, inviting quality. And your work has a humor that is sometimes subtle and sometime very direct. People just get your humor, and they start living in your world right away.
Meliza Bañales:I think that I try really hard never to fake it. I always wanted to do work that was approachable. It has to do a lot with some of my L.A. writer influence like Bukowski and even Henry Rollins, especially in the mid-90’s when spoken word got a lot of momentum. I never wanted to be elitist. I think I was always a closet fiction writer, which because up until recently my performance work was mostly poetry. It wasn’t until grad school that I got encouragement from a professor and that was like the green light. As for my style, if I find myself trying to hard to relay a point, then I feel that I’m not being genuine to the story, so I make myself trust my readers and just focus on telling the story.
Prove&Confusion: Let’s talk about all the projects you’ve got in the pipes.
Meliza Bañales:I have several projects. A book of poems that I’ve been working on since 2005 called, 51 Poems About Nothing at All. I’ve almost completed it so we’ll see… its taking its time, but I hope to be done with it soon. I have a collection of stories Life is Wonderful People are Terrific, a Mostly True Account of Being Young Drunk Mexican and Punk in California. I think that I’ll be done with the collection of stories before the poetry book [Laughs]. I am also working as a costume designer for a film by Maria Breaux called Mother Country. I also recently did a fun short film, Getting Off, with J. Aguilar which showed at Frameline.
Prove&Confusion: I feel like I need a Red Bull just listening to you!
Meliza Bañales:[Laugh] But I feel like it’s not even enough! Oh I’m also working on a spoken word album with Crunks Not Dead Records. Nicky Click has had a huge influence on me besides helping me get that record made. So yes. I’m very, very busy.
Catch Meliza Bañales at this up coming events:
Rebel Girl: A Riot Grrl Nostalgia Show hosted by Gina Devries in the 2010 National Queer Arts Festival! June, 3 2010 08:00 PM – The Garage 975 Howard St. (btwn 5th and 6th streets), San Francisco, California 94103
In Sickness & In Health: Queers and Friendship hosted by Kirya Traber and Sarah Marloff, in the 2010 National Queer Arts Festival! Come join us for an evening of queer artists and their real-life, true-blue best-friends as they present new work around the importance and complexity of friendships in the queer community. June, 22 2010 07:30 PM – The LGBTIQQ Center of San Francisco1800 Market St. (btwn Octavia and Laguna streets), San Francisco, California 94102