Interview by: Monica Valenzuela
Andie Flores is a writer, performer, and art director. Cynthia Muñoz is an artist and stylist who uses photographs to transform her body and home into a world that’s imperfect, indulgent, and a little gross. They met over the internet when Cynthia was looking for “someone who looked cool”. Together, they are Payasa: two clowns that create isolating, colorful, and open-to-interpretation self-portraits in Austin, Texas.
I discovered Payasa during a creative block at the end of 2017. I was looking for someone to feature in the magazine who would really catch my eye. I was searching Instagram and was sick and tired of the new algorithm. I kept on seeing women with really nice bodies trying to sell me fit teas, or unfunny 60-second comedians racking up millions of views. Then one day as I was scrolling through IG, I stopped on an image of a woman wearing worn clown makeup sitting on top of a washer in the middle of an old laundromat. She wore a bright unkept orange synthetic wig with clothes that you’d only see your Abuela wear on cleaning day. Her facial expression was sad but hilarious. The image confused me emotionally and I loved it.
I knew I wanted to put her and Andie in the magazine, but was scared to ask. I had worked with Cynthia at one of my previous jobs. I was actually intimated by her. She had amazing style and took creative risks that I could only dream of. In the office, our desks faced each other, and whenever she would talk about things I loved, I would peer over my monitor and chime in with a,“WHAT YOU LIKE THAT? OMG I LIKE THAT TOO.”
She had a fun vibrant energy, and I was pleased to have her as a co-worker and a friend. Even after I was fired from that job, I stayed in contact with a lot of people including Cynthia. I realized me being nervous to ask made no real sense. So, one day I texted Cynthia if Payasa wanted to be featured on my cover, and with much relief they gave me an enthusiastic “yes”.
Nothing gets me more pumped than to interview creative Latinas. But interviewing two clowns over the internet was definitely a fever dream I’ve once had.
What was it that drew you to each other?
Cynthia: Unfortunately, I am frequently bored by the creative scene in Austin and find it really limiting. I was searching online for friends of friends to see if there was anyone who caught my eye and Andie did. Her aesthetic seemed compatible with mine and she was a “doer” and not just a passive consumer of other people’s work. I sent her a message and the rest is history!
Andie: I got a lovely Facebook message one day saying we should be friends and then we were. Once we started hanging out, it was clear that Cynthia was someone who is genuinely excited about making things for the sake of making things, and surrounding myself with people with that kind of amazing energy inspires me and makes me feel safe and challenged to try new things.
Creatively and also personally, what does “Payasa” mean to the two of you?
Andie: My dad called me “payasa” growing up because I’ve always been an attention-seeking goofball. I feel like I’m afraid of very few things when it comes to putting myself on display for laughs, and that’s what this collaboration allows me to continue to do, but in a messier, more freeing way. We don’t have any rules to what we create, honestly, and that allows us to explore what makes us laugh or cringe without answering to anyone. It’s a great exercise in clowning.
Cynthia: For me, payasa basically just means a girl clown and that’s who I am and who I wanna be.
If Payasa could be a trio, what famous latina would you add into the mix? and why?
Both: Barbara Sánchez-Kane of Sánchez-Kane. Her work is out of this world, and blends elegance with unexpected cultural staple pieces - or items, cultural markers - and the result feels pure and fun as fuck. Her work is also in line with the kind of DIY style that guides our work.