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Interview: Marla Louissaint of A GODDESS REBORN at The Green Room 42

"It’s to make the revolution irresistible with all my gifts and create solutions to not only survive but more importantly THRIVE"

Interview: Marla Louissaint of A GODDESS REBORN at The Green Room 42 There are Goddesses among us, right here in New York City and one, in particular, has a heck of a story to tell... and it happens tomorrow night at The Green Room 42.

Marla Louissaint (who also goes by Marla Lou) is an award-winning actress and a staunchly dedicated activist who is in perpetual motion. Constantly evolving, creating, learning and educating, Marla Lou has (at a relatively young age) accomplished more than some fine folks manage in their entire lives. When she takes the stage tomorrow night at TGR42, Marla will use storytelling and song to tell the story of her escape from a religious cult, her journey from youth to adulthood as an evolving fashion icon, and how her art and activism helped her to stay strong after she lost everything.

Easily one of the most fascinating people this writer has ever encountered, Marla Lou took a generous amount of time to contribute to an interview (conducted by email) that charts some of her amazing story. The rest of the story (well... some of it) can be experienced live and in-person tomorrow night at 7 pm in New York City.

Get reservations to A GODDESS REBORN on the Green Room 42 website HERE.

Visit the Marla Louissaint/Marla Lou website HERE.

This interview was conducted digitally and has been edited for punctuation and nothing else.

All photos provided by Marla Lou.

Marla Louissaint, welcome to Broadway World!

Happy to be back fam!

You will play your cabaret musical A Goddess Reborn at The Green Room 42 on January 16th. That's a few days away - are you a "nervous before the show" person or a "bring it on!" person?

Interview: Marla Louissaint of A GODDESS REBORN at The Green Room 42 PHEW! I'm feelin' a bit of everything all at once, chile, haha. I'm just really proud of followin' my gut - my first time producing, writing, AND starring in my own work. This is a story only I can tell and I've always known I wanted to share my story in this way. Bringing all my talents back home to NYC, working through my healing by creating and collaborating with all my friends - it's been a riot! It's also finally helping me work through the standard of perfectionism I have for myself - my therapist is very happy about that, haha.

I'd like to talk about the title of the production, which I assume refers to your good self, and I want to really break it down. Were you a goddess that went through something cathartic that brought on a change in yourself, hence the 'reborn'? Or were you a woman who embraced her inner goddess who, now, owns her status as a goddess? I crave to know all the facts of the story.

It sho does refer to me!! Aaaaand if you're cravin' to get all the facts you'll just have to be in the audience *wink*. I actually just had a clunk through with my director Pauli, yesterday, and this show is a real-time reclamation of my divinity (in ALL its manifestations) and an expression of gratitude to the people who gave me a reason to live when I thought I lost everything.

Interview: Marla Louissaint of A GODDESS REBORN at The Green Room 42

It's also an introduction to anyone who hasn't witnessed my journey since leaving my family's faith of Jehovah's Witnesses in 2018. I was 20 and on a 2-month layoff from the Broadway Tour of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and god...it resulted in me losing so much - access to family members and, culturally, I lost my biggest community of Haitians in the city (I've since found the Haitian liberator and organizer community and feel so aligned!). In my rebirth onstage and over the last 4 years, I found that I actually had so much more to gain, and I hadn't lost everything! I'm an actor because I balanced a quadruple life between school, home, church, and navigating the streets of NYC without bumping into the wrong person at the wrong time, PHEW. I'm a model because, though my mom and I aren't connected, her genes, along with the genes of my ancestors, made one GORGEOUS being. I am passionate about communal liberation because I've been in my own chains and never want anyone to feel that way for being themselves. I create along my life experiences whether it's recreating myself, creating art, or community. I own my goddess self by falling in love with everything I learn how to do in this world - all the things that were contraband but really were ways to suppress my divinity.

Interview: Marla Louissaint of A GODDESS REBORN at The Green Room 42

Interview: Marla Louissaint of A GODDESS REBORN at The Green Room 42

If you can't make it to the show, my social media used to be my only connection to the outside world beyond the witnesses, and I've intentionally kept my journey, from the Jimmy Awards in 2015 onward, accessible, after getting messages from people near and far about how my story has inspired them to liberate and recreate themselves too. SO you'll see the rebirth from Ex Jehovah's witness to icon on socials or a quick google. But you'll want to be in the room. Trust.

Is being a goddess something with which a person is born, or can one become a goddess?

We are all spirits having a human experience. But that is a consciousness I didn't develop till 2020. The witnesses drilled something that any white colonial tradition would tell oppressed people to believe so they tolerate abuse til death with a promise of paradise in the afterlife. I am living and creating my paradise here and now, just like indigenous people all over the world already have and continue to fight for.

Interview: Marla Louissaint of A GODDESS REBORN at The Green Room 42

I have a deep connection with the Earth and the gifts she allows me to share but I only found my paradise by healing through the chaos in lockdown. While creating rituals of care to stay healthy in mind body and spirit through 2020, I found myself studying African cosmologies and realized my spirituality aligned with that of my ancestors and it's to make the revolution irresistible with all my gifts and create solutions to not only survive but more importantly THRIVE. I bring that energy into every room I'm in, every body of work I touch, and every person I meet.

Interview: Marla Louissaint of A GODDESS REBORN at The Green Room 42

As a person who has been through a change of this magnitude, what is some advice you would offer to others who are feeling maybe a little lost, or stagnant, maybe aimless, to move themselves toward their own rebirth?

Love that you used the word move here, it takes continued action for our transformation to manifest, otherwise, it's all in our heads. Our healing, our liberation, our aspirations would just be a dream if we're not consistently working towards it. So finding a ritual of care & pleasure for myself is what pushed me to move and release that energy from a feeling of depletion that didn't serve me. I was stuck in a cyclical pattern of resentment and it took me 4 years (and still something I work through, through my writing of the show, journals and therapy because healing is forever) but that energy has transformed into gratitude because those losses actually liberated me to fill the space with works of art and, hell, a whole organization that generates a culture of care that is bigger than myself. And I love to share that continuous journey on socials!

So get up, acknowledge that no one can save you but yourself, and move consistently towards your transformation!

Interview: Marla Louissaint of A GODDESS REBORN at The Green Room 42

Put me in the picture of your relationship with the art form of cabaret and what went into the creation of this piece.

Well, after I won the Jimmy Awards, I was committed to Fordham with a degree in Computer Science. So while I auditioned and developed my craft with my agents at a3, I was invited to be a part of A LOT of cabarets and loved it, it's how I met a lot of greats and still kept my foot in the door because I didn't grow up in the theater, I was always a musician and loved to move (also my ways of leading a double life gave me my acting chops haha) but the Jehovah's witnesses had principles that limited time in extracurriculars after school. My theater teacher, Jo, had to have a sit-down meeting with my mother to allow me to be in Caroline or Change, and naturally, it changed my life forever. So Cabarets have a special place in my heart and developed my love for collaborating with other people, being a part of their stories or themes for the evening, and being free to move on to the next!

Interview: Marla Louissaint of A GODDESS REBORN at The Green Room 42

It made sense to begin this producer journey in this form of cabaret because it's how I really got my start professionally beyond the Jimmy's. I've been very disillusioned by the Broadway and theater industry at large since (successfully) bringing Nederlander into a public space of accountability

See: https://www.change.org/p/james-m-nederlander-call-on-nederlander-to-make-a-statement-on-his-fiscal-support-of-45-and-donate-to-blm

The industry swore it was going to open to something different, but all we got are dei practices that coddle white fragility and a continuation of hierarchical leadership that put divine artists like myself across our identities in harm's way. Literally, all of the pieces of work I've done since theater opened back up have traumatized me in more ways than I can share here.

Instead of yelling into the void about what needs to change in the theater, I'm just gonna build it with my iconic friends JUUUST like I am with Goddess Reborn. Creating safe collaborative spaces that nurture us is something I've learned from my work organizing and building with community as Founder and CEO of Claim Our Space NOW. I ain't got the energy to fight to change within the institution. So I'm f***king excited to build a counterculture outside of the Great White Way with my peers.

See: https://playbill.com/article/how-marla-louissaint-is-making-the-revolution-irresistible

You are a fiercely dedicated activist. What are some of the ways in which your activism and art feed one another?

Interview: Marla Louissaint of A GODDESS REBORN at The Green Room 42 Art liberated me from my old conservative life so Art and activism are one and the same for me - always has been and always will be. My journey to founding Claim Our Space NOW was very influenced by artists who raised me when I left the faith, and key pieces of art I revisited in lockdown, like Rihanna's NAACP speech, Beyonce's audacity to claim space in Black panther outfits at the super bowl, pairing that with my systems knowledge and deepening my practice of political education in community, along with a desire to eliminate people's excuses for not being able to care for one another, is what birthed my organizer and leader intersections.

There is a direct correlation from my journey of liberation to my passion to see other people free themselves from whatever it is they're facing but, most importantly, the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy that is barreling us towards extinction. It's not something I have minced my words about because we all know it - there are just a lot of distractions that have been reintroduced since the world opened up again. That's where our revolutionary art to help the world recalibrate and remember our mission to save ourselves comes in.

Describe for me your most ardent source and force of activism.

There are many roles in the movement. I am a visionary and caregiver, I love to dream and check in on everybody to make sure they have what they need for survival and pleasure. Some inspirations are my fellow cancer queen Assata Shakur, Noname on her eternal political education journey and infusing it into her art, organizer and creative friends like Solaris Capehart, Jac Quiles, and Ianne Fields Stewart, my Haitian ancestors, and all liberators in the fight for landback.

Interview: Marla Louissaint of A GODDESS REBORN at The Green Room 42

How do people respond to the unique balance of art and activism that is your goal in life?

They're just as amazed and bewildered as I am about the balance, haha. What I can't get used to is the urge to "thank" and applaud me for my activist work, which feels absurd because it isn't really a choice for me - I do this to survive, for myself and my people. I wish they would applaud less and do movement work for our collective survival in their unique ways more.

Otherwise, it just feels like "yay Black woman, keep doing our work." I have done full group projects by myself, plenty, through school and I have no desire to assume the collective responsibility on my back beyond my academic life.

All i am is a 4-year-old in the world, trying to reclaim my birth-given rights to live freely, something I couldn't do as a Jehovah's witness and naturally, seeing the world in living color, fight for it with the same fervor I did when I was in my own chains. So that balance just looks like me living my life out loud so people can see that it's possible to care for yourself and others - something everyone has forgotten since 2020 but that's another conversation!

Interview: Marla Louissaint of A GODDESS REBORN at The Green Room 42

Pretend we just met at a party and in casual conversation, the topic of your show comes up. In one high-concept sentence, make it impossible for me to miss seeing your show.

PFFFT! I definitely don't exist in a sentence - I've accepted that I am larger than life itself. But I'll give it a go. *shrieks* I'm probably wearing a 'fit, turning heads, and I already shared my ridiculous journey into modeling, haha, I'd say "My vision extends beyond the look, honey! If you ever wondered how a 25-year-old goes from losing everything, since leaving a cult at 21, to becoming a revolutionary - I am she (!!) then you can see the story for yourself at The Green Room 42!" and then I'd strut to the bar LMAO

Interview: Marla Louissaint of A GODDESS REBORN at The Green Room 42

Tell me about your incredible sense of fashion and how you developed the Marla Lou stamp.

Well, it comes from a combination of things - my mother is a very stylish woman who always made sure that my younger sister and I looked our best in school and church (when I was practicing). We may not have had a lot of money but she raised us to think we were upper-lower class in Washington Heights, haha.

In middle school, I developed my own sense of style by borrowing some clothes from TJMaxx and storing them in my locker, so I could change out of the slacks and polo from children's place and have a look that served closer to what the kids were wearing. That, now, looks like thrifting, and being sent gifts from my fave designer collaborators who are aligned with my values like Chris Habana, Hanifa, The Wrap Life, and Parade.

My quest for liberation is in my fashion expression, mixing patterns, cuts, colors that really shouldn't work but they do on me. Clint Ramos and I worked at City Center, and with everything we tried on for Rosewater, he was like wtf, nothing looks bad on you. Every contract since, all coordinators be saying the same thing, haha, so I found that nothing looks bad on me, if the legend and dear friend told me himself, it must be true. Also If I had it my way, I'd be naked, lounging around, so that shines through in my fashion choices too.

Interview: Marla Louissaint of A GODDESS REBORN at The Green Room 42

Marla, thank you for chatting with me and have an incredible time with A Goddess Reborn.

MARLALOU.com

Interview: Marla Louissaint of A GODDESS REBORN at The Green Room 42



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