Andie Flores has begun to carve out a unique place in the artistic realm. This affords her the space to express her Andie-ness in all the ways that it might make itself present. She has appeared in and written for a number of theatre productions, and even threw a two-day exhibit showcasing Austin-area Latinidad.
Andie has written for Fusion, Remezcla, Jezebel, the Phoenix Times, written and directed video, and has been featured in a local critically acclaimed comedy sketch "Doper Than Dope," which will be on its second run in Austin in the near future.
I sat down with Andie in her laid back and fairly hidden home in Austin's Rosewood neighborhood. The house is adorned with Frida Kahlo blankets and Steve Urkel bobbleheads. We engaged in conversation about identity, Catholic school, her upbringing, her ongoing condition of actively being a "ham," and more.
Jason: Talk a little bit about the artistic atmosphere of your childhood. What was it like growing up?
Andie: I grew up in San Antonio. I’m the oldest of three. I went to Catholic school growing up until about 5th grade and then I went to public school. My mom is the type of person that is always like “I should have been this, I should have done that” – in the sense that she was always showing off her talents to us. I grew up watching a lot of Saturday Night Live and MadTV, because that’s the stuff that made my mom laugh. And I guess, as someone who was trying to figure myself out even as a kid, it was always about making people laugh. So yeah, I didn’t do anything crazy creative. I started playing guitar when I was eight. I would play at the church masses every week.
Jason: You guys had mass with guitar?
Andie: Yeah, music! Every Thursday. And then we had to go back on Sundays with the family, but since I went to Catholic school, it was just a part of the whole thing. But other than that, my parents tried to get me to do a little bit of everything. So I sort of blame them for not being fully focused on one thing. Which now feels great, but for a while it was really stifling. I did a little bit of dance, and Girl Scouts, and one year of basketball because I suck at sports. They never discouraged me from trying things but when I did something, they wanted me to try really hard at it. I was encouraged to try everything all at once, so I’m not going to be that great at any one thing unless I give all my time to it. So then you’ve got to get creative with learning to show up in other areas.
Jason: What was it like switching from Catholic school to public school?
Andie: It was very weird. I remember when I learned that other kids didn’t believe in God. I was like (gives a shocked expression). And I was very quiet. Very quiet. I didn’t talk to anyone. But I did write my first play in fifth grade. And I was in the Young Author’s club in fifth grade. So I do look at that as a really pivotal time – it was important to know that someone else thought that I was good at something like writing. I remember I wrote a play about a cat and I worked really hard because my teacher said we could perform it, and then she just never… I kept asking and she was like “Another time!” (laughs) and I had it in this little flippy notebook…
Jason: Do you still have the notebook?
Andie: I don’t know. I probably do, but not here. In my parents’ garage. But yeah, that was my outlet I guess. Because I thought really differently from everyone else. And I was just so quiet, I just wrote. After that, it took a couple of years, maybe like two years before I felt normal, but before that it was hard.
Jason: Normal as in you felt more comfortable?
Andie: I felt like a normal kid. Before, I felt like a weird quiet hairy little girl who was just like… ”I’m here! Now what?” Who had to do like…P.E. and all this crazy shit. But then in middle school, in between sixth and seventh grade I finally felt like “Oh people hang out with me because they enjoy my company. I finally felt like “that’s over with, I can focus on being myself”.
Jason: How does your Catholic upbringing affect your expression of your identity? If it does?
Andie: For sure! I think so. I think there are a lot of things that are very taboo – things you can’t joke about or talk about. Growing up in a… well, I wouldn’t say my parents are extremely strict, but they were strict in their parenting and our household was all Catholic, and we always went to church, yada yada. I was fortunate enough to have parents who were really supportive when I was like “Oh mom, I’m having sex!” she was like “Great, let’s get you on birth control”, stuff like that. I guess those taboo areas are the first areas that I’ve wanted to… not like dive into blasphemy, but as I got older realizing “Cool, this is okay to make fun of. So then this must be okay to make fun of”. But it did make me really sensitive to what other people might find funny or not funny.
I was always really conscious for a while, nervous even. Like, if [my content] offends me still a little bit and I can’t figure out why, then I have to be really careful about things I joke about or things I say because they might be really offensive to other people. I don’t consider myself Catholic at this point – there are certain elements of Catholicism that I will never get rid of for some reason or another, they still resonate spiritually. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it was a good challenge growing up and in college. I could free myself of feeling really guilty about a bunch of shit. Just to experience things and decide what’s for me and what’s not for me. Whereas before, I didn’t really get to. It was like “You’re baptized, so you’re in this!”
Jason: So are there things you still wouldn’t joke about now?
Andie: Well, I wouldn’t joke about someone’s religion. Racism. Sexism. I remember growing up – in middle school I had a history teacher who joked about how colonizers of Texas – he said something once like “They bent your ancestors over pal!” while teaching us. He would joke about people who were mentally retarded. I would raise my hand to tell him that he has no idea what people are going through or who people are related to or what people go home to. You cannot joke like that. Anyway, that was just like... a really weird…I don’t know if that answered your question (laughs) I’m going to get some water, do you want some water?
I will say that it’s interesting to see what my mom thinks it’s acceptable for me to joke about. I did Speech and Debate in middle school, high school, and college. I would write speeches about informative or persuasive topics, or poetry, or prose…whatever. So I gave a speech in college and I invited her to the National Final because it was in San Marcos that year and my speech was on the commodification of the female sexuality. So I made a lot of jokes about the vagina and having sex and I thought they were really smart and I worked hard on them… my mom and dad still left the room like “Oh, I didn’t like that at all. Very awkward for me.”
Jason: Why did you decide to go to Arizona State?
Andie: They just gave me the most money. When I was in High School, I was a National Hispanic Merit Scholar. I didn’t know anything about colleges. I had no idea. We could really afford to visit places. I have one older cousin that I’m close with who went to Texas Tech, so it’s not like I had a lot of secondhand collegiate experience. When I decided to go, I still hadn’t picked a major and my mom picked for me (laughs) my mom was like “You are going to do journalism!” I was like “Okay! Sounds fine!” But then I changed my major three times.
Jason: So you’ve lived in Phoenix, San Antonio, Los Angeles, New York, and Austin. Do you have a have favorite?
Andie: So far, Austin! I mean, I love San Antonio but creatively there aren’t the communities that we have here. New York I love but I don’t want to go back until I know that I would be financially stable enough. Los Angeles I love; I have a lot of friends that I keep up with. I love Austin because it’s the easiest to just jump into something, and you just work a little bit at it and you’re a part of that community, and that community wants to give you more opportunities, then you can give other people more opportunities. In Austin I’ve done the most performing that I’ve done in a long time. People go to shows here and it’s not all spread out, most of it is affordable. That’s all really nice. I like it.
Jason: What are some of the downsides of the Austin creative community?
Andie: In terms of performance and comedy, I didn’t realize when I moved here, how many people wanted to be the exact same thing that I wanted to be. When I first found out how many people do improv and stand-up here, and how good they are? I was just like, how in the world am I supposed to compete? I should just chill and live a life where I don’t care about artistic stuff! (laughs) That would be easier!
As I started auditioning for things I definitely had a mindset like “Oh this person is really funny and now I’m auditioning against them” but as time continued I started to realize that no one else can bring what I bring to the table. There are things that I can bring that no one else can bring. As far as other downsides, I think that lot of places are getting a lot of city funding that aren’t really accessible to a lot of people. For example, the Zach Theater just got a lot of funding but their tickets are so expensive! Also, a big conversation now is just the lack of venues and spaces. We can’t have rehearsals in the same place that we were having rehearsals just months ago [for Doper than Dope] because the Salvage Vanguard Theater got shut down. It’s like everyone is amped and prepared to show up for the work but for some reason there is less and less space. Austin says they support the arts but with this funding and displacement, they aren’t actually showing up.
Jason: I feel like you are very comfortable with fully being who you are. How did you get to that point?
Andie: It’s partly because I’m a "ham." (She jokes)
In middle school, I was actually hanging out with this group of really pretty popular girls and I felt like an intruder, but then I realized, “oh I’m the funny one! I’ll just do ridiculous shit and that’s how I’m contributing.” I’m just a ham and I really like attention. I don’t know! Maybe I have some sort of mental thing. Even in contrast to Ivan [Andie’s partner] - Ivan is not really trying to get attention on the dance floor or make an inappropriate joke at a party just for laughs. I guess as I’ve tried to come into myself over the years, I’ve struggled with a lot of things, but that has not been a struggle for me.
I feel grateful that I’m not afraid to do a lot of things that people are commonly afraid to do. If I can be fully myself all the time, no one else can call it into question. If I’ve decided who I am, I’ve made the decision, I’m putting it on the table, and you can take it or leave it.
Jason: So there was a point in time when you reached out to Junot Diaz, and he gave you some inspiration…
Andie: Yeah! I was in Arizona. I had graduated, and was living in Arizona because my boyfriend at the time was there finishing school. At that point I had basically moved back to a place where there wasn’t much for me there wasn’t any crazy opportunity waiting but I decided to go back because of a relationship and it was very wishy-washy. Toward the end he started dicking me around with “ehhh ohhh wellll, what is a girlfriend really?” (laughs)
So I was thinking, that it was good for my emotional and mental health, I’m working all day and coming home and hanging out with 20 year olds who just want to go to parties all the time, and that’s fine but I can’t do that all the time! I emailed Junot like “Hey, Junot, you’re my favorite. What do you think I should do? I’m 20-whatever and I feel really lost. Should I go back to school? What should I do?” I went to Sedona, and a couple of hours in, I was getting spotty service, but I got his reply and I couldn’t believe it. It’s calming and it’s something I go back to a lot. He basically told me that you just have to try, and that’s how you find out. If it doesn’t work, it’s okay, you just try something else!
Jason: Are there any other people besides Junot who you really look up to?
Andie: Yeah... I try to be careful with my faves. A lot of heroes are really shitty. I do find myself a fan of a lot of people I’m seeing on Instagram now. I really like Roxanne Gay. Bad Feminist was really life affirming for me. Wendy West is really awesome. Ayesha Siddiqi who was one of the founders of the New Inquiry. She’s the smartest person I’ve ever…read tweets from. I’ve never met her. Women like that who are straightforward with their ideas and who come from marginalized groups and are not afraid to think about things. There’s this weird artist that I found through a friend. He goes under “Lambe Culo” which means ass-licker. He makes really dope art about being a queer Latinx. He makes clothes, he makes fabrics, and he has a physical exhibit that he’s doing right now. I guess people who say they are going to do something and then do it. Those are people who really influence me. People who aren’t afraid to keep learning. People who are like “I’m going to try this and maybe it will suck, but I’m going to do it anyways.”
Jason: That gets super hard when you are relying on funds for your art.
Andie: Yeah, that’s true. There are definitely people who will censor themselves because of their funders. But when people speak their minds anyways, it’s really cool.
Jason: I feel like relatively, that’s a distinctly millennial attitude.
Andie: Oh, for sure! Like bitch, you guys talk all this shit about millennials, but here we are making all the shit that’s influencing the work that you do!
Jason: Do you have any goals as an artist?
Andie: I want to learn how to be a better performer. I’m friends with a lot of really incredible performers. I definitely have a talent for writing but I still have a long way to go performance-wise. I want to audition for more things. I want to have a solo show. I want to open a store someday. I can sell cool weird clothes, on the weekends little kids can come and learn how to do all these little crazy shits. We could have events and theater stuff there! It seems hard thinking about the way Austin is right now, but I still have faith in it. At one point I wanted to write for SNL, but as I’ve done more work here in Austin, specifically with Doper Than Dope, it seems like SNL is writing for a super wide audience. I just need to make my shit, I don’t need to strive for something like that. Issa Rae is one of my big influencers. I want to make a web series.
I guess I just want to do the things that I’m saying that I want to do. I want to make my shit and tell my story uniquely in a way that it hasn’t been told before.
The author, Jason Ikpatt, is a nervous dog petter and minimalist out of necessity. You can follow him on Instagram @jvsonikpvtt
*Edit: The original version of this conversation included sensitive information that was removed.