Meet Queer-Mama-Sapien Pandora Scooter. She’s been called the funniest atheist/Amerasian/dyke/spoken-word artist you’ll ever see and hear. Founder of Stand Up & Stand Out Productions, she’s written a slew of one-woman shows. Her most recent, I Am Enough tackles suicide among LGBTQ youth. Pandora’s working to bring that number to zero by exploring and exposing their pain, while building self-esteem and self-confidence. She’s a real force of nature.
Sandi: Welcome to another edition of Conversations with Creative Women. I’m Sandi Klein. Pandora Scooter says she identifies as “queer-momma-sapian” and has been called “The funniest Atheist Amerasain Dyke Spoken word artist you’ll ever see and hear; who speaks on behalf of misfits and fits of all walks and talks.” Dubbed the spoken word rock star, Pandora has written nine one woman shows, performing in New York City, D.C., Boston, Birmingham, San Francisco, New Orleans, Austin, Atlanta. She’s the founder of Stand-up and Stand out Productions, its goal to provide inspiring and life changing and entertaining programming for the LGBTQ Community. Pandora’s most recent show, “I am Enough” tackles a very serious subject, suicide among LGBTQ Youth, about a thousand young people kill themselves every year, and she’s working to get that number to zero, by exploring and exposing their pain, and building self-esteem and self-confidence. Her slogan: “You are enough.” An artist in residence, Pandora has been teaching performing and writing in high schools along the east coast for more than twenty years. Let’s meet this force of nature. Pandora Scooter, Welcome and thanks for joining me today.
Pandora: Thank you so much Sandi, it’s great to be here.
Sandi: So, who’s Pandora Scooter?
Pandora: Pandora Scooter is a-
Sandi: Is that your real name?
Pandora: Yes, yes, yes, yes, it’s my real name, I know. , I get asked that all the time. And-
Sandi: Because if people were to google you, they could find out that the latest model of a Pandora Scooter
Pandora: [Laughing] Yeah
Sandi: [Laughing] is on the market
Pandora: I do actually get a lot of spam email for a Pandora the jewelry, I get the Pandora, they have a scooter charm, so I get a lot of spam email for the Pandora Scooter Charm. And then there is also a scooter called “The Pandora” so I, get that as well. But , no that is my real name, , my parents are extremely eclectic, eccentric people they wanted me to have my own name, , and so they gave that to me for various reasons, but , , but Pandora Scooter, I’m an artist and I I’m an activist, I’m an LGBTQ Advocate, I’m an humanist, , feminist, I feel extremely passionately about , introducing compassion into as many different, , niches in our lives as possible, In order to make the world to be a better place. So-
Sandi: Does it come from a very personal place for you?
Pandora: It does, it does come from a very personal place, , while my, my parents were very eccentric, one of the ways in which they were quite eccentric was that they lacked parenting skills of any kind, and , really lacked any ability to relate to me as a human being as I was growing up, and I felt quite rejected by them, and I think that, having experienced that rejection for many, many years passed eighteen into my twenties and into my thirties I realized that, really if we just showed more compassion for each other, the world would be a better place.
Sandi: So, is this from “the department of not everybody should be a parent”?
Pandora: [laughing] Yes, yes, this from “The department of not everybody should be a parent.” My parents definitely should not have been parents, and I, and I saw that when I had a kid, and I saw the way that they related to, her, and I saw that they really, and I had perspective at that point and I could see-
Sandi: Were you an only child?
Pandora: I was an only child.
Pandora: Yes, I am the only child of an only child, and I have an only child.
Pandora: And we’re all woman. And I saw that my, my mother particularly, well my father too, did not know how to relate to my kid. And, treated her as though she should have all of the abilities, and skillsets of an adult when she was 3.
Sandi: [disgusted sigh]
Pandora: And so it was very illuminating for me, to see what I must have gone through when I was very young. And why I have made it a crusade to introduce compassion and understanding and self-expectance and self-love into, my life and into the lives of anyone and everyone who will listen to me.
Sandi: But you didn’t know that things were different in your house hold, did you, necessarily, when you were growing up?
Pandora: I didn’t know for a while, it’s true, , but I think by the time I got to high school and I started hanging out at my friends’ houses and relating to their parents, I realized there was a pretty significant difference. And also my friends would comment on my parents, their behavior as being, aberrant.
Pandora: Or, you know, unconventional, and, you know abusive.
Pandora: In some ways, so, so that I got that kind of feedback, as I got into high school, and more of it as I got into college. And , amazingly my parents are also extremely bright people and , I never wanted to give up on them so I you know threw my now almost thirty years of therapy have, have dragged them kicking and screaming into what is mostly a healthy relationship with me. So, they are two of my greatest supporters now, which is really fantastic.
Sandi: That is fantastic.
Pandora: yeah, it’s a huge success story.
Sandi: So who you are today, in terms of your art, is a real reflection on your growing up.
Pandora: Completely. Even my artist process is a reflection of my growing up. Because, my process when I was a child, I would write something and I would show it to my father, who is also a writer, albeit nonfiction. I was writing fiction, and he would, he would be highly critical of it, and there was never anything positive to be said. And , my artistic process in writing I flipped around, I teach creative writing, and I teach people to write from their hearts, whatever they want to write and then embrace everything they love about what they love about what they wrote and everything they don’t love, forget about it, it’s not a big deal. And then keep developing the things they love, and keep, you know, growing with what they love until they have something solid that they can develop. And that’s a, that’s the opposite of what my father was doing, which was criticizing the things that he thought he thought was what didn’t work, and wanted me to, you know, fix them or get them right. And so I always felt that that, that process didn’t work for me.
Sandi: Well that’s not a math problem.
Pandora: Yeah. [Laughing] It’s true, it’s not a math problem. It’s not. Although, I know some writers that see writing that way and work that way. It just doesn’t really work for me.
Sandi: Why do you think you were drawn, not to the writing part of this, but to the performance part of this?
Pandora: I’d have to say my
Sandi: And did you know you were creative?
Pandora: I did not know I was creative. I didn’t have that feedback from anybody. I didn’t know what I was doing was creative. What I can tell you is that I was in fourth grade and I was given a book report assignment. I was dreading writing the book report. I thought it was going to be really boring. I went up to my teacher, Mrs. Most at the time. I asked her, can I perform my book report instead of writing it?
Sandi: You were in the fourth grade?
Pandora: In the fourth grade. She said, sure. So, I went home and I obviously had read my book. I wrote out a script which was basically my first one woman show.
Pandora: I made myself a laundry person. I was doing laundry and I brought in a box with a top. I opened the top like it was a washer. I came in with a bunch of clothes that were dirty, supposedly dirty clothes, put them into the box, and then turned and saw my classmates sitting on the rug. I said, Oh, I didn’t see you there. Oh, well since you’re here, while I’m doing laundry, I’ll tell you about this book I just read. Then I did my book report. I finished it, and I got my laundry out and I said, well, see you next time. I walked off. I actually continued to do my book reports that way. I didn’t have to write them.
Sandi: So, it was just a very natural act for you. At nine years old.
Pandora: It was. Extremely natural. I still don’t know. I’ve been very curious at time about what made me think I could do that.
Sandi: You could pull this off.
Pandora: Yea. I had seen a fair amount of theatre. My parents did want me to see some theatre. So, I had seen some theatre. I think maybe I had gotten the idea from that. There’s no particular performance that stands out. That says you can get up, a solo in front of people and just talk. Then, instead of just doing a book report, I had a lot of fun. I remember being very happy after doing that.
Sandi: If you’re just joining us my guest today is Pandora Scooter who happens to be a spoken word artist. How did you morph into that?
Pandora: I was an actor.
Sandi: Oh, you were?
Pandora: I am trained as an actor.
Sandi: You went to school?
Pandora: I did. I went to school, Suny Purchase for part of the time and then Mason Gross School of the Arts for another part of the time. Got my Master’s Degree. Was also directing. I was doing a lot of directing and enjoying it. Then I had my child, and directing is the kind of job that takes an inordinate amount of time and requires other people to be there to work with other people to do it. You can’t direct by yourself. I didn’t like directing enough to give up time with my kid in order to direct. I gave directing up and started, went back to writing. Which I hadn’t been doing for a while. For about eight years or so. The writing that I was doing was this kind of rhythmic poetic writing that I thought would be really good if it was spoken instead of read. I started rehearsing. All of this was stuff, I would put my kid to bed around eight o’clock, and I would start writing and rehearsing from eight or nine o’clock and then work until three in the morning. Four in the morning. Then, hit the bed for two hours until she woke up and then take care of her and take her to daycare and then go to work, and do all of that that I was doing. I ended up with all of these pieces that were spoken word pieces and put together a show. Invited some very close friends. Got a studio in the city, and performed them. It felt so good. Then I started doing open mics. I immediately got huge positive reinforcement. Got asked to do a CD. Some performances, some feature spots in different parts of New Jersey and it just took off from there.
Sandi: You performances were very personal.
Pandora: They always have been, yeah.
Sandi: So, give me an example.
Pandora: One of the pieces that I wrote when I was first starting out is called “Epic Dyke Me.” It is about how I love the word dyke and I identify as a dyke. But, dyke doesn’t really cover all of who I am.
Sandi: Let me interrupt and ask. When did you realize you were gay?
Pandora: Oh, I came out when I was twenty-nine.
Sandi: That’s pretty old.
Pandora: Yea. I had actually some notions of it when I was much younger. Around fifteen and sixteen. I had some ideas, and I kind of tried it out and stuck my toes in the water and got rejected pretty heavily. Because of all the other rejection in my life, I just wasn’t able to stand the idea of being rejected for being gay.
Sandi: Did you know that’s what you were?
Pandora: I just went into heavy denial.
Sandi: Um Hmm
Pandora: I took a heavy dose of denial and held onto it as long as I could until it was not possible for me to hang on to it any longer. Then, it just exploded.
Sandi: Mm Hmm
Pandora: I came out.
Sandi: That must have gone over like a lead balloon with your parents as well.
Pandora: Yea. Yea.
Sandi: Even though you were a parent yourself.
Pandora: Yea. Actually, my parents didn’t really care. They were pretty nonchalant about it. They were much more concerned with whether or not I was going to get divorced because I was married to my kid’s father.
Pandora: My husband at the time. They were much more concerned about that. It wasn’t until I was divorced and dating women and then bringing some women to meet my parents and things like that, that my mother would say things like “are you dating her?” I was like, “Well, yeah I am actually.” She’d say, Oh. Okay. She was just very curt about it. It’s never really been much of an issue.
Sandi: Okay. But it was very natural for you.
Pandora: It was.
Sandi: Once you turned that corner so to speak.
Pandora: Extremely natural. It took me about a year to deal with all of the identity crisis that came with, “oh my gosh, I missed this for twenty-nine years, what else did I miss about my life?”
Sandi: Ah, ha. H.
Pandora: It was about a year, then I started dating. It was so smooth sailing. It was wonderful.
Sandi: Natural for you.
Pandora: It was so natural. It was the most natural thing I’ve ever done.
Sandi: So now, go back to when I interrupted you about performing and connection with your sexuality.
Pandora: I wrote a piece called “Epic Dyke Me” which is about my identity and my identity going beyond being “just a dyke”
Sandi: Um Hmm
Pandora: So, I wrote that. I wrote a piece called “Box” which is about having a box stuck inside me that’s closed and locked and taunting me to open it, open it, open it. Then, my final strength to open it up and it just blasts me with all of this self-knowledge and I realize new things about myself. I’m absolutely thrilled and then I embrace this box, and it’s got no more locks. I walk over to it to see what’s inside of it and I realize there’s another box.
Pandora: But, I won’t quit.
Sandi: Mm Hmm.
Pandora: Is what I say.
Sandi: Mm Hmm. I want to hear a piece about The Dyke performance.
Pandora: I want to write me one of them, you know, one of them. You know, one of them. I’m a dyke, I’m a dyke, I’m a dyke, dyke, dyke! Poems. You know, the kind that gets up in my face. So close you can take the organic AH I ate yesterday. So loud you don’t know what to think. Push down to the AH brink. As my strident words are spoken, but then I’d be an in the box token. A color within the lines, no broken lines between the one two three connect the dots. Don’t mix the stripes with the spots. Kind of dyke poet. But who is that really? All this box label, keep it stable, is silly. Are you a top or a bottom? Gay, straight, or bi? You’re fem, butch or fem. Us or them. Coffee snob or math nerd. Alpha male or alpha girl. Moody, or even keel. Hippie or Navy Seal. Old school, new wave, or lipstick feminist. Are you are freedom fighter or are you a terrorist? Does any label, label we acquire describe everything we desire? Every day? Not for me. So, I tell you, here’s my haiku.
Into what we do not know
So, I do as well.
Sandi: Wow. So, I took away what the hell difference does it matter who or what we are? Stop with the labels.
Pandora: Yea. I have a bunch of pieces that are kind of anti-labels. I mean, labels are fun, that’s why I like to have fun with them and use them.
Sandi: Mm Hmm
Sandi: Being defined by them.
Pandora: Ultimately, what do you know about me?
Pandora: I’m a queer mama sapian. I’m a human mamma dyke.
Pandora: I’m an atheist. I’m progressive. Just because I’m progressive do you think, you know something about me?
Sandi: I’m layered and textured and nuanced and all of these things.
Pandora: Yea. Yea. Definitely.
Sandi: Did you find that you needed to speak about your sexuality and this connection to the LGBTQ youth community? What’s the outgrowth of that?
Pandora: I feel that I do need to speak to the LGBT community because I feel very connected with the LGBTQICPA community.
Sandi: What’s ICPA?
Pandora: [Laughing] It’s an Intersex Cisgendered Pansexual Asexual and Allies.
Sandi: We talk about labels?
Pandora: Yea. I know.
Sandi: I mean
Pandora: I know. They’re
Sandi: I can’t even spell LGBTQ nan a, na.
Pandora: I know. I have a piece called alphabet which says let’s just turn LGBT into A to Z and take the whole alphabet.
Pandora: Let’s just do it. [Laughing]
Pandora: I do feel very. It’s the first real community that I’ve felt that has embraced me. So, I feel that it’s important for me to speak to them. But then, ultimately, I don’t see myself as pigeon holed just talking to LGBT people, youth and adults. I also want to be speaking to straight adults and straight youth. I do. Ultimately speak to them. It just so happens that my show that I’ve written right now, “I am enough”.
Sandi: Why did you write I am enough?
Pandora: Two reasons. I wrote a piece called “Outwardly fabulous.” Which was four years ago, and it was in response to Tyler Clementi’s suicide.
Sandi: Let’s just remind people about Tyler Clementi.
Pandora: Tyler Clementi was the young man who went to school in New Jersey.
Sandi: At Rutgers.
Pandora: At Rutgers. He was videotaped and live streamed having sex with another man by his roommate. Then, he found out about it, and when he found out about it, he drove up to the GW Bridge and jumped off of it and killed himself. In response to that horrific event, I wrote “Outwardly Fabulous”, which is a show about stopping bullying and stopping homophobia. I toured that show, along the, into the mid-west and mostly down into the south. Performed it a bunch in New Jersey and New York and Pennsylvania. Also, for high schools. Which was really satisfying but then I felt that there was a component that was missing. For me, the bullying was really not coming from outside. I felt it from my mother and from my father, but the bullying wasn’t so much coming from the inside. It was internalized bullying. The bullying that was internalized was what was pushing me to want to kill myself.
Sandi: You wanted to take your own life?
Pandora: I did. I absolutely did. As a teen, I absolutely when through it and did attempt twice. I attempted to kill myself twice and ended up in a mental hospital and learned and started the whole process of self-love and self-acceptance. Getting rid of that bullying that was in my head so I could embrace my life and feel good about being here. There was this element that was missing from “Outwardly Fabulous” and so I decided that would write “I Am Enough”. It’s a piece about suicide prevention and self-confidence building. I wrote it particularly for LGBTQ youth. However, I think it speaks to many more people than just that population. It is the most autobiographical show that I’ve written thus far. Has everything to do with my story growing up and struggling with suicide and my attempts. How I got to a place to where I learned that I am enough.
Sandi: Is humor coupled with pain in your performances?
Pandora: Yea. It’s coupled pain. It’s also coupled humor. There’s a lot of humor around the taboo. There’s,
Sandi: What taboo?
Pandora: Well, people think, I’m seeing a show about suicide. I can’t laugh.
Pandora: It’s not possible to laugh. So, I’ll say, there’s a line in my show I
Am Enough about how I have a failure resume and the failure resume is about all the things that I have f’d up to date. How I’m gay and not straight. How, I’m this and not that. I can’t do all these things. Then one of the lines is fifty ways to mess up a relationship, twenty-five ways not to get a straight girl to flip,
Pandora: Everybody, like, kind of starts to laugh and then they pull back.
Sandi: Kind of a he he he.
Pandora: Right. Exactly.
Pandora: Then I say, it’s okay to laugh. I know. It’s a show about suicide, but we can laugh.
Sandi: Um Hmm
Pandora: Then everyone laughs because it lets out. Then, sometimes when people are coming in late, I’ll say something like. I’ll interrupt my performance and I’ll say something like, it’s ok, don’t worry, we’re just talking about suicide.
Pandora: Just take a seat wherever you want. So, I like to let the air out. Wherever I can so that people can actually hear what I have to say.
Sandi: So, what you have to say is empowering young people isn’t it?
Pandora: Yes. Yes. It’s about their ability to make choices that embrace themselves and that have self-compassion and self-confidence. To know also, that they don’t have to compete with anybody. That they are enough and they can reach out to other people if they need help.
Sandi: If you’re just joining me, my guest today is Pandora Scooter who is a spoken word artist and who’s most recent show, “I Am Enough” tackles this very serious subject of suicide among the LGBTQ Youth Community. So, you’re on the road?
Pandora: Yes. I am taking “I Am Enough” on the road and I’m going to reach out to, hopefully, it looks like it’s going to be approximately a thousand LBGQ and allies youth.
Sandi: That will be on the receiving end of your performance.
Pandora: Of my shows.
Pandora; I’ll be at LGBT centers everywhere. I’ll be posting all this information on my Twitter which is pandorascooter, so people can follow what’s going on and where we are on the tour. That’s going to be a really, really intense experience.
Sandi: What else is it that you do when you perform? Because it’s not exclusively about your own sexuality is it?
Pandora: No, no. It’s not exclusively about my own sexuality at all. It’s really, ultimately, what all of it’s about is self-acceptance and kindness. Ultimately, at its core.
Sandi: Mm Hmm
Pandora; It’s can I look at myself in the mirror? Look myself in the eye and say you’re okay, kid. You’re doing okay. I like you. I can go to bed with a clear conscious and be okay. I think that’s a lot of what it is. A lot of that is having kindness towards myself when I mess things up.
Sandi: Mm Hmm
Pandora: Make mistakes or don’t rise to whatever occasion it is. Think just, I need to be able to be kind to myself and then kind to other people. I run an open mic. I’ve been running it for twelve years with my friend Steven. It’s called “Out of the Box.” At the end of the night, we give thanks just to have closure, and then I tell everyone, be kind to yourselves and if you have any left over, be kind to someone else.
Pandora: Because they probably need it.
Sandi: You perform a lot for young people.
Pandora: I do.
Sandi: What about parents of children who may be gay, lesbian, transgender? What about people like your parents? Who could benefit from listening to you?
Pandora: Yea. I think my writing has been very much geared towards a younger audience. Parents a lot of time, when they do come to see my shows, I get a lot of responses like I never thought of these issues the way that you’re presenting them. You’ve opened my eyes. It’s really incredible. It’s like I’m another voice saying the same things their kids are saying, but because I’m an adult it resonates in a different way. It seems to be a very positive thing. I do perform for adults with their kids. That goes really well, except that I think that sometimes the kids feel a little shut down listening to what I’m saying in front of their parents.
Pandora: So, I think ideally, I do a grownups, a parent’s show and then a youth show.
Sandi: What does your daughter think of what you do?
Pandora: My daughter thinks that I am doing very important work that she wishes weren’t necessary. She thinks that kids should know that they love themselves and that they should be brought up to know that they are loved. That they are wanted and they are enough. I think she feels that she is wanted and she is loved. She loves herself. She is enough. Because my work takes me away from her, I think she’s a little ambivalent about what I do. I think she thinks it’s great.
Sandi: She’s proud of you.
Pandora: Yea. She’s proud of me and I think the thinks it’s great that I’m doing what I’m doing. That I reach people and when I perform for her peers and they see me. They are really enthusiastic about what they see, she feels really good about that. I think she’s definitely proud of me, and she’s happy that I’m doing the work that I’m doing. I think she just wishes it didn’t take me away from her. She’s going to be sixteen soon and she’s taking good care of herself.
Sandi: She has a good role model.
Pandora: [Laughing] Thank you. Thank you.
Sandi: We’ve run out of time.
Pandora: Oh my goodness.
Sandi: I knew you’d say that.
Sandi: There’s plenty more to talk about. You’re a fascinating woman Pandora Scooter.
Pandora: Thank you so much.
Sandi: I have really enjoyed getting to know you. We need more Pandora’s.
Pandora: Thank you Sandi.
Sandi: Join us for another edition of Conversations with Creative Women. I’m Sandi Klien.