Be Here Nowish: an interview with Alexandra Roxo and Natalia Leite
The Age of Aquarius barely survived Reaganomics. Everything from kale to kundalini has been re-branded. Millennials soul searching can’t tune in and drop out without being reminded of tremendous student debt, environmental catastrophe, or that the NSA is monitoring their Tinder activity. So how the fuck does anyone stay in the Present-Gram? The duo behind Every Woman, Natalia Leite and Alexandra Roxo, explore late capitalist new age culture with hilarity in their critically acclaimed new web series, Be Here Nowish. The fictionalized chronicle of their search for spiritual fulfillment, sexual satisfaction, and survival in New York City (hint: Los Angeles) has generated both industry and grassroots buzz. The series premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and will be showing at Outfest in Los Angeles later this month. The lovely ladies sat down with RECAPS to discuss their collaboration, community, and of course, crystals.
RECAPS: How do you experience the relationship between new age culture and queer culture?
Natalia: There is a lot of change happening right now in the way that people relate to both. In our show, we are portraying a younger generation that is open to exploring different forms of new age spirituality. Similarly, there is now more curiosity and fewer rules when it comes to exploring gender and sexuality. Definitions are more fluid and we find that really exciting—it is a big reason why we wanted to make Be Here Nowish.
RECAPS: New age culture and queer culture both espouse certain ideals about community building, collectivity, and transcending ego. Ironically, though, dominant egos can be really drawn to these spaces. You frequently play with the humor of this contradiction in the show. Can you address how you explore the darker and more problematic aspects of these two spheres while also creating sincere representations of your beliefs in their transformative powers?
Natalia: These practices are important to us; Alexandra and I both wake up in the morning and mediate. We want to have fun with these ideas, not make fun of them. We have both been part of these communities for a long time, having grown up with moms who were very involved in new age practices. I came out in my teens. There is a line in the show where Karley [Sciortino]’s character says something like, “I am more in touch with myself than you are!” That attitude can be present in queer culture too, which we find very funny because, for us, queer culture is about exploring and finding what works for you individually.
RECAPS: Do you see this as a show about millennials?
Alexandra: The reason this climate exists where people can do an Ayahuasca ceremony in an apartment in Beverly Hills or a juice cleanse at their law job is because of the past. If the hippies hadn’t started bringing up these things, and the new age movement hadn’t taken them further, we wouldn’t be at the place we are now where it is normalized. If those movements hadn’t happened, more mainstream culture would not be exploring alternative healing or spirituality like it is now.
RECAPS: Hippie culture, new age culture, and millennial culture have been all critiqued for their over-emphasis on the individual self. Can you talk about how you see self-work in conversation with a broader politics?
Natalia: A lot of new age practices are focused on the self with very little about the whole planet or universe. I think it’s a stepping-stone to seeing the bigger picture. Maybe it doesn’t happen for everyone, but if you starting working on yourself you can see better how you fit into this giant universe.
RECAPS: Can you talk about community informs the production of the show?
Alexandra: Community is a huge part of the show! The whole production started based on our ability to utilize this amazing community around us. Not only that, but the concepts arose from us wanting to see people we feel akin to that we don’t see represented very often. The ideas and their execution are completely based on our community. At first, we had no money to do the show and were just asking our friends to help us shoot on the weekend. We had help with the writing from our friend Liz Armstrong, who worked with us on character development while we were in LA. We all brainstormed and it grew from one little seed. We have been working with everyone for over a year on this particular project. Be Here Nowish would not be possible without this amazing team.
Natalia: That’s how we did the show, by involving our friends and people we think are super talented. We did a lot of improv, too, so many of the jokes were written by the actors. Community is important for us on every level—partially because we didn’t have a large budget but largely because we really wanted to represent our community and make that authentic by including them in the show.
RECAPS: I first encountered Be Here Nowish through the Queer/Art/Mentorship program. I was wondering if you could address the role of that program in the show’s development and, more broadly, the role of mentors in your work.
Natalia: Rose [Troche] has been extremely involved and has become a mentor to both of us. She is wonderful and has given us so much advice on the show. She really pushed us to go deeper and take risks with our content.
Alexandra: Natalia and I co-created Every Woman and Be Here Nowish. The ways in which Queer/Art/Mentorship has aided Natalia benefit both of us. We have another mentor who is a queer woman in film—Genna Terranova, the director of programming at the Tribeca Film Festival. She and Rose have given us different points of view that come from having very different backgrounds and living very different lives. It has been really an asset for us to see our options and hear different types of feedback from mentors in the business who also happen to be queer women. They have both really supported us.
RECAPS: As long as there has been TV there has been the trope of female friendship. Where do you see yourself in this lineage and what kind of intervention do you see yourself making?
Natalia: I think people want to make quick comparisons between shows about young women and female friendship because there just aren’t enough of them out there. We felt like there wasn’t a show about queer girls and spirituality so our show is different in that way.
RECAPS: What is next for Be Here Nowish and how do you want to engage broader networks of queer community?
Natalia: We really want to take Be Here Nowish to TV. It is important for us to develop it further, to keep pushing the characters and themes. It is really great that shows like Orange Is The New Black have brought such a diverse cast into the spotlight. We hope that, as our show grows, we can involve more people in the queer community like that, as well. We are also working on a feature film this summer!
Alexandra: We really just want people to share it. We worked on it so hard! The more that people share it, the higher the chance it will reach some girl in the middle of nowhere who is young and queer and thinking about these things but has no resources to explore them. We want to get it beyond our own communities. Our goal is for as many people as possible to see the work.
RECAPS: In the spirit of the show, I want to end by asking you what is your favorite crystal or totem at the moment?
Natalia: I really like aventurine. I have a ring and some other things I wear with it.
Alexandra: I actually had a really bad day once and just curled up in bed with two rocks Natalia gave me and that were with me in both of my medicine ceremonies. One is rose quartz pyramid and the other one is aventurine. For me, they are like getting a hug from grandma.