We had the good fortune of connecting with Kristina Wong and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kristina, how does your business help the community?
We aren’t a business, but it certainly feels like we are an empire. We are the Auntie Sewing Squad (ASS!). I am the “Factory Overlord” of this national network of volunteer Aunties, Uncles and non-binary volunteers who sew and distribute homemade face masks to the most vulnerable of communities in the wake of the Federal Government’s failure to prepare us for this pandemic with proper PPE. On March 20, I sewed my first face mask using scraps of fabric I found in my house. By March 24, I had an “overwhelming” list of 200+ requests (many were seniors, essential workers and medical workers) to sew masks and created the “Auntie Sewing Squad”– a Facebook group of what was then 27 friends and acquaintances who could sew to see if anyone could help me. Week by week, hundreds of volunteers joined us and we were becoming exponentially massive. We now have a kids sewing camp. We’ve done relief vans to the Navajo Nation. We were supposed to be a 2-3 week stop gap until the factories kicked in and made PPE more readily available on the market. We are now into our fourth month of sewing, and it seems like we’re in this for the life of the pandemic. We have pivoted our efforts to help communities completely ignored by the Federal Government both before this pandemic, and certainly after. These include First Nations, farmworkers, day laborers, poor communities of color, peaceful BLM protestors, migrants seeking asylum at the border, incarcerated and unhoused communities. The strength of our community has been the generosity that connects us in this time but also the care we show for each other as Aunties.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m a performance artist, comedian and elected official. I’m a writer. I usually lead with telling people I’m a “performance artist” not because I want them to instantly hate me but because my work is a “catch-all” of social practice, humor, visual art, and theater. Essentially, I play a character named Kristina Wong who has a martyr complex and does shows that reports on how misguided her attempts to “save” things really are. This is often based on real things I’ve lived through. I am really proud of my recent show “Kristina Wong for Public Office” which was supposed to tour alongside the rallies and antics leading up to November’s election. I ran for local office last year and won and am currently serving on my neighborhood council, all which has been research for the show. It really was the most timely thing I’ve ever made… but then the pandemic hit the sidelined it all. I’m not mourning the loss of my national tour too hard and am just trying to pivot forward. A lot of my 20s and early 30s was a ton of struggle. Chasing down colleges and theaters to present me. Knocking on a lot of doors. Applying for a lot of grants. Building my web presence. It sucked because I barely had time to think about being an artist, I was so mired in the business part of this. And I felt so creatively suffocated from just trying to stay relevant as an artist. It’s a little easier for me to get work now, even in the pandemic. Now I just say yes to every opportunity even if I don’t have time for it. I think the biggest thing I learned was that every new project I take on should be something totally different for me that teaches me something new. After I went to Uganda in 2013 where I accidentally made a rap album with local rappers, and then had to find a way to write a show about the experience. I did a lot of research about the region, the problem with Western Aid and NGOs. I realized that I am happiest when I am not mining my past and my pain, but instead, learning about something totally different about the world. This is what has propelled me to do things like run for Public Office and do a show on that.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
This question is total torture as I can’t see friends and can’t take them anywhere right now. But let’s say this is a scenario in the “Before times.” I’d def take them to see LIVE THEATER IN LA. Likely something at the Redcat, Bootleg or small performance space. I’d def take them to eat Ethiopian food… ASSA TIBBS (the fish) at Merkato Ethiopian. I’d take them for Korean food somewhere in my neighborhood… BCD Tofu prob or Dan Sung Sa. We’d go for a hike in Malibu or Griffith Park.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to acknowledge all the Aunties of our Squad. They have given so much of their time, bodies and compassion to get these masks out there. We have an amazing team of “Super Aunties” who don’t sew but do a hell of a lot of work coordinating and vetting the requests we get for masks. They are Amy Tofte, Jessica Arana, Laura Karlin and Constance Parng (aka “Auntienie Fauci”) I’d also like to shout out our caring Aunties. We have a whole team of folks who support the Auntie by cooking and baking treats so that we don’t feel lonely and even more exploited than our labor already is.
The performance photos from “Kristina Wong for Public Office” were taken by Annie Lesser.