Even though TV has more LGBTQ characters of color than ever, it’s still rare to see real-life queers of color discussing their experiences on the small screen. That can leave young queer people of color feeling like there are no role models who understand their struggles.
A new chatty web-series called Kikis with Louie wants to change that.
The show, whose first episode dropped today and is below, is hosted by Louie Ortiz-Fonseca, the Director of LGBTQ Health and Rights at Advocates for Youth — an organization that fights for young people’s sexual health, rights and justice domestically and abroad.
Kikis with Louie feature interviews with celebs like MJ Rodriguez, the trans actress who plays Bianca in the FX drama Pose; Shamir, the genderqueer musician who has publicly discussed their bipolar disorder; and NBA player Reggie Bullock who has been a vocal LGBTQ advocate since the 2014 murder of his trans sister, Mia Henderson.
Here’s a preview of the series:
The series will also feature a “youth activist roundtable” where LGBTQ youths of color talk discuss the challenges they face in daily life and some of the organizations that have helped them.
We spoke with Ortiz-Fonseca and the series director, Lincoln Mondy, about how they came up with Kikis with Louie, the surprises viewers can expect and the cultural changes they’d like to see from the show.
How did the idea for this series first come about?
Lincoln Mondy: Kikis with Louie was born out of an urgent need to create a safe and affirming online space where LGBTQ young people could learn and grow.
The current administration’s unceasing attacks on the health and rights of LGBTQ folks isn’t happening in a vacuum. Children are watching, and the hate, ignorance, and violence is seeping into our schools. Recently, we’ve seen distressing statistics regarding the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ young people.
GLSEN’s school climate survey found that nearly 60% of LGBTQ students felt unsafe at school, and the CDC’s 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that an alarming 47.7% of gay, lesbian, and bisexual students had seriously considered attempting suicide, compared to 17.2% of students overall. We knew we had to do something to open up a dialogue, and normalize conversations around mental health, rejection, identity and other topics.
How did you end up choosing your guests?
Louie Ortiz-Fonseca: In order to make sure that Kikis with Louie is relevant, we reached out to the artists, activists, and athletes LGBTQ young people admire most. We know that they look to people with platforms — whether it’s on network TV or an Instagram account — for advice and inspiration. We wanted to meet them where they live most, with intimate and healing conversations.
It was also important that we centered young people in the series, which is where the youth activist roundtable idea came from. We partnered with local LGBTQ youth-serving organizations around the country to highlight the work they do to support LGBTQ youth, and the youth activists who are building whole organizations and movements to fight for their communities.
Why is it especially important the see LGBTQ people of color talking about their experiences onscreen?
Lincoln Mondy: It’s critical that as a community, we understand that LGBTQ people of color have overlapping experiences of discrimination and violence. Belonging to multiple marginalized identities results in wider gaps in access and deeper health disparities. We shouldn’t speak about LGBTQ folks reporting harassment to law enforcement without addressing how rampant police violence against Black people impact those results.
Even though LGBTQ people of color have been at the forefront of Queer liberation, the white gay cis male is still seen as our primary spokesperson. LGBTQ youth of color deserve better. They deserve to see people that look like them unpacking trauma, sharing their experiences and discussing growth. That’s why we’ve intentionally focused on amplifying the voices of LGBTQ people of color.
Many of your interviews delve into other topics like bipolar disorder, love of music, sex education — why do you think it’s important to tackle these issues in addition to your primary focus on LGBTQ issues?
Louie Ortiz-Fonseca: For the past two years, LGBTQ youth of color have been sharing their stories about living with HIV, surviving trauma through art, and their struggles with mental illness through our digital storytelling project, #MyStoryOutLoud. I’ve had the privilege of witnessing young people find community through sharing these stories.
While it has been a few years since I was a teenager, I remember the freedom I felt when other queer youth talked about sadness, sex and self-care. It provided a kind of complete reality that was not limited to just coming out.
This is why, for me, delving into all of these conversations are important. They provide a more complete narrative.
What’re some of the most surprising moments that happened during your interviews?
Louie Ortiz-Fonseca: Well, I’m most surprised that I didn’t faint when I met MJ Rodriguez! She was an absolute ray of light, and she said she loved my beard–which means that now I can never shave it!
Many of our youth interviews included young people who didn’t necessarily know each other, but connected during the conversations. You could feel healing happening as they shared their experiences with each other. I was surprised that the presence of numerous cameras did not prevent the magic of that kind of emotional intimacy.
What do you hope viewers of this series end up gaining from it?
Lincoln Mondy: I hope young LGBTQ people who watch the series understand that no matter how isolated and misunderstood they may feel at times, there are people out there who support them, believe in them, and are ready to follow their lead. I hope that by seeing all of the different lived experiences, they realize that there is no one “right” way to be LGBTQ, and they deserve to be happy and supported.
Here is the first episode of Kikis with Louie: