The Menudo Fight - An Interview with REAL AMERICAN writer Jalexia Stoutmyre
Jalexia Stoutmyre is an artist, writer, and more. In 2018, one of her paintings was selected by filmmaker Jordan Peele for inclusion in a book of artwork inspired by the film Get Out. Kathryn and I first got to work with Jalexia when she was the MUA for Nottingham, and we felt so blessed to have her on Real American as a makeup artist, actress, and writer. But how did Jalexia feel about it all?
PERELANDRA PICTURES: We sought you out for the project, was that a surprise?
Jalexia Stoutmyre: No, I’m a big hit. Kidding, YES that's a surprise. I knew I was killing it, but I didn't know I was "sought out for the project."
P: Why is Real American important to you?
JS: Real American is important to me because everyone’s always shouting diversity this and diversity that, when really we should be looking for representation and accuracy in doing so. This series is about aliens, but draws from Latinx culture and is the definition of representation. This series takes the world around us and shows viewers how real things can get for anyone that’s “other.” And it’s not just the bad things that happen, but the good things too. We see the bull crap Ana and Jennifer go through, but also the moments where they get to celebrate their otherness.
P: What's your proudest contribution to the show?
JS: I’m really proud of contributing some of the dialogue for Ana’s moms in Episode 9. There’s a Malacare necklace that Ana wears and her mom refers to it as a target. Which is why they have her cover her distinct alien markings as well. It’s just a parallel to what people of color endure on the daily. We chose to embrace our culture or even go to great lengths to hide it away.
P: Do you have a favorite memory from the Writers' Room? Or a favorite memory from filming?
JS: Yes! When I learned Jacob and I are two different people. No le gusta Menudo. So much so he figuratively shat on it in the series, so props for poetic justice. It was actually a brilliant idea because the alien dish he made fueled by his dislike for Menudo looked really cool. I’m pretty sure the dish had mechanics and could bloat or move a little. It was wild.
P: You are the youngest writer on the series. What was that like? Was it intimidating, or was it a non-issue?
JS: I didn’t really see it as an issue. I felt very nervous when we would read through the drafts I wrote because in my head I’m like “oh dang I misspelled that” or “that’s formatted soooo sooo wrong.” But then I saw Jacob’s typos and felt better. I wasn't afraid to speak up either or ask questions. I remember making sure it was ok or allowed to have Ana get uh "nasty" with her love interest and everyone accepted the idea with open arms and legs. It was a great learning experience and I felt welcomed every second I was there. Penni (Jones) gave me a copy of her book, On the Bricks, that I still have and cherish. The Writing Assistant (Jake Goldberg), he always came through with the notes. I’ve worked with Kathryn and Jacob before and I always tell them how much I look up to them. I knew going into this I’d have to match their energy and work ethic and I like to think I did.
P: You also played Jennifer in the show. How would you describe the transition from writer to actor?
JS: Oh god. Ok. So I don't try to act too much. Not because I'm savagely inexperienced, but because there’s no technicality to it. I do mostly behind the camera work and it all makes sense to me. Apply makeup here, place the prop there, but to emote fictional yet real feelings was something kinda new. I took it on because I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t. I had a lot going in my life during this production and playing Jennifer helped me in so many ways. The character was confident and ambitious and I know some of her traits rubbed off on me.
P: You write, direct, and are a makeup artist. Is there a part of filmmaking you feel more drawn to? If so, what is it and why?
JS: I’m more drawn to writing. It’s the most expressive to me. I love to write poetry so writing has always been one of my first loves. It's hard out here in the film industry so you always gotta have backups. And hey I mean it worked. I worked with Perelandra as a MUA first and then got to help write Real American. With independent and small productions you have to wear many hats anyways, so I just picked the coolest ones to me.
P: What's next for you?
JS: Outside of filmmaking I like to draw and illustrate, so I’m making a graphic novel. Hopefully it’ll get to the point where it can be animated but I know animation is whole other beast so we’ll see.
P: How do you prepare your Menudo?
JS: So I like to buy my Menudo from a local Mexican joint. I don't cook it myself, but there's a whole process you gotta do before you eat it, so...I like to put hominy in mine. I like a lot of hominy too. Next, you put Oregano and make sure to crush it up in your hand first so the flavor can get out. Then you put the lime juice. I use half of a lime, but I know that can be kinda sour, so maybe start with 1/4 of one. If you have green salsa that's really good to mix in also. Finally, you get your bolillo and dip it in and enjoy.