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A headshot photo of D'Lo. He is a queer Tamil-Sri Lankian-American person. He is wearing a hat, a blue blazer, and a red shirt. He has a smirk on his face.

Season 3: Episode 3


In this episode, Maori talks with her friend, D’Lo, a Tamil-Sri Lankan-American actor and writer who uses humor to discuss family, gender, and sexuality. Beyond his stand-up and multi-character solo shows, D’Lo has appeared on popular TV shows like Looking, Mr. Robot, Sense 8, and the new Quantum Leap. Most recently, he appeared in the feature film Bros. D’Lo shares how being trans was his first training in performance, how 1990s hip hop taught him to be outspoken, and why we should talk about what beautiful masculinity can look like.

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A headshot photo of D'Lo. He is a queer Tamil-Sri Lankian-American person. He is wearing a hat, a blue blazer, and a red shirt. He has a smirk on his face.

DLo is a queer/transgender Tamil-Sri Lankan-American whose work ranges from solo theater, stand-up comedy, plays, poetry/spoken word to digital content and films.


While he’s known for his comedic flair and character acting, he has been featured in many works that showcase his dramatic skills. His solo shows Ramble-Ations, D’FunQT, D’FaQTo Life and To T, or not To T have been presented/toured theaters & festivals nationally via grants, and as commissioned work – the latest will be presented at the Kirk Douglas Theater in Summer 2022. In his performances, DLo demonstrates the power of storytelling as healing praxis, and particularly for QTPOC.


As an artist/cultural worker, his work has also been published and/or written about in academic journals, literary anthologies, and print/online journalism sources including: The Guardian, NBC, The Advocate. He was invited to be a commentator on CNN and in Buzzfeed & Fusion videos. The award-winning documentary PERFORMING GIRL centers his queerstory as a trans performer/artist.


As a mental health advocate, he facilitates writing/performance & comedy workshops with QTBIPOC community-based organizations, and college students. He created the “Coming Out, Coming Home” workshop series for South Asian and/or Immigrant LGBTQ Organizations across the nation.


He co-conspires and utilizes art as a means for social justice advocacy and was recently awarded 2 fellowships (Artist Disruptors and USC Civic Media Fellowship funded via MacArthur foundation) with the intention to create more QTBIPOC digital content/tv/film in the world.

Learn More


Many Lumens is brought to you by Open Society Foundations.

Produced by BlackStar Projects in partnership with Rowhome Productions.

Executive Producer and Host — Maori Karmael Holmes

Producer — Kayla Lattimore

Associate Producer — Irit Reinheimer

Managing Producer — Alex Lewis

Executive Editor — John Myers

Music Supervisor — David “Lil Dave” Adams

  • Theme song composed by Vijay Mohan and remixed by Lil’ Dave.
  • This episode features additional music by Ivy Sole.
Show Notes

Sri Lankan Tamils 

Civil War in Sri Lanka 1982/1983

Yo MTV Raps (created by Ted Demme and Peter Dougherty, MTV, 1988–95)

Zulu Nation

Isis/Lin Que

Queen Latifah 

Monie Love

MC Smooth

Public Enemy 

Terminator X

Wu-Tang Clan


“Swiney Swiney” (performed by Monie Love, 1990)

Jeff Chang

Big Daddy Kane on Yo MTV Raps (1992)

Rappers Delight” (performed by The Sugarhill Gang, 1979)

Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion 

Buddy” Remix (performed by De La Soul feat. The Jungle Brothers, Monie Love, Queen Latifah & Q Tip, 1989)

Me Myself and I” (performed by De La Soul, 1989)

A Tribe Called Quest


DJ Quik

Orange Is the New Black (directed by Jenji Kohan, Netflix, 2013-2019)

Transparent (created by Joey Soloway, Amazon Prime Video, 2014-2019)

Sort Of (created by Bilal Baig and Fab Filippo, CBC and HBO, 2021-present)

Bilal Baig 

Kirk Douglas theater 

Quantum Leap (created by Donald P. Bellisario, NBC, 2022-present)

Shakina Nayfack

To T, or Not to T? (written and performed by D’Lo, 2022

Kitchen Table Press

Cherríe Moraga

Gloria E. Anzaldúa

Audre Lorde

For Freedoms

Adelina Anthony

Looking (created by Michael Lannan, HBO, 2014-2016)

Sameer Gardezi


[00:00:00] Maori Karmael Holmes: As part of their enduring commitment to justice, equity and expression, the Open Society Foundations are proud to sponsor Many Lumens. 

You are listening to Many Lumens where we talk about and find meaning in the intersections of art, social change, and popular culture. I’m your host, Maori Karmael Holmes:.

In this episode, I had the opportunity to catch up with D’Lo, a comedian, writer, performer and a dear friend. As a queer, trans Tamil Sri Lankan-American artist, D’Lo moves through many identities and uses his craft to tell those stories. He’s achieved this in his multi-character solo shows Ramble-Ations, D’FunQT, D’FaQTo Life, and the most recent To T, or Not to T. In these performances, D’Lo uses humor to openly talk about family, gender and sexuality. D’Lo, however, isn’t resigned to working only in theater. He has also ventured into television, film, and standup comedy. He’s had roles on popular shows like Looking, Mr. Robot and Sense8, and most recently appeared in the feature film Bros and in the new Quantum Leap. D’Lo was awarded the 2020 Artist Disruptor Fellowship through the Center for Cultural Performance and was a 2021 Senior Civic Media fellow at USC’s Annenberg Innovation Lab. What I admire most about D’Lo, besides our mutual love of 1990s R&B, is his fearless approach to his art. He’s able to not only inject humor into the stories he tells, but also takes risk in his work, and that together creates genuine and sincere portraits of his beloved community. D’Lo joined our conversation from Los Angeles, when I asked him about growing up in Lancaster, California. 

[00:01:50] Maori Karmael Holmes: D’Lo.

[00:01:51] D’Lo: Maori.

[00:01:57] Maori Karmael Holmes: Thank you for being on Many Lumens. It’s so lovely to talk to you today.

[00:02:03] D’Lo: I’m so happy to be here. I’m always happy to talk to you, Maori.

[00:02:05] Maori Karmael Holmes: I know. Remember when we were pretending we were going to do a podcast together?

[00:02:10] D’Lo: I know, and look what you did. Baby got left in the corner. I’m waiting for my Dirty Dancing moment with you.

[00:02:22] Maori Karmael Holmes: Who’s going to do the lifting? Am I lifting you up?

[00:02:24] D’Lo: You. You’re clearly lifting me.

[00:02:29] Maori Karmael Holmes: So why don’t we start off with your origins for a little bit? I always think about you as being from California, and I didn’t realize until I got research back from the team that you were born in Queens. Why did your parents move?

[00:02:44] D’Lo:  Well, I think they moved because the rest of the Sri Lanka Tamil community had moved to Lancaster, the people that they knew. My father’s a GP doctor. And so his crew – they called themselves batchmates from the island. The Tamil doctors that he knew, one went to Lancaster and was the usher to bring everybody over to that side, but that’s why everybody ended up in Lancaster, a very hick, high deserty town in Southern California. And I always say we were the flies in the buttermilk out there.

[00:03:25] Maori Karmael Holmes: And why Lancaster? What was it like where your family was from? What was it?

[00:03:32] D’Lo: No, it was our “uncle,” uncle in quotes, who was like, “Oh, they need doctors out here.” He even convinced my father to drive 45 minutes to a place called Cal City. My father has been the doctor there in this remote town, the only doctor in this town, for the past 40 plus years. So there was no draw to the thing. I think people were just like, oh, California. They probably knew LA and Hollywood. They probably thought they’d be closer, but it was still far away. But that’s why they went.

[00:04:08] Maori Karmael Holmes: Well, my next question is, have you always been funny? And do you know where this comes from?

[00:04:13] D’Lo: I do. My father’s a jokester, and my mother, bless her heart, is more of a — like she doesn’t mean to be funny, but it’s between her… She’s an artist. She’s a painter, and her mind is more in the clouds than it’s here on this planet. So sometimes the stuff that come out of her mouth, you’re just like, oh, this is so good. So a lot of my comedy growing up was just about telling the stuff that she was saying. But my father knows how to tell a joke. Timing-wise, oh my God, he’s great with his timing. So I remember telling my first jokes when I was maybe six, seven and making the aunties and uncles die because, of course, it was inappropriate stuff that a six-year-old shouldn’t be saying. But you understand. You get that thing that’s like, oh yeah, this spark, I’m going to go with this. And so it also helped me because it deflected from people trying to sniff out my queerness as well. So that was a blessing as well because nobody could try and sniff me out. You just, oh, yeah, that’s D. They’re an artist, or they’re silly. Or who they are. So I knew it. I was a little bit timid during high school to be as funny, but it would depend on the class. You know how you go from class to class? Some classes, that was mine. Some classes, it wasn’t my role.

[00:06:00] Maori Karmael Holmes: I think I’m funny, and my mother thinks I’m funny. But I’m not always sure if other people do.

[00:06:07] D’Lo: [inaudible]

[00:06:07] Maori Karmael Holmes:  Thank you. But I feel like the confidence that you have, it is clear to me that you’re like, I know I’m funny. And I just feel like you walk into a space like a trickster.

[00:06:18] D’Lo: That’s a compliment because sometimes life gets you, and sometimes you forget who you are. And then you’re around people who see you for who you are, and you’re like, oh, yeah, I needed that.

[00:06:30] Maori Karmael Holmes: I did want to ask you, you’ve worked in solidarity in a lot of Black-centered spaces. And I was curious, what have you learned from being in these communities?

[00:06:39] D’Lo: Oh my God, everything. I feel like everything that hasn’t come from my immigrant culture has been taught to me by Black history, Black communities, Black artists specifically. And I’ve been taught very intentionally by Black queer artists. So, everything that I do artistically has been influenced by a host of folks, the majority of them being Black. But the way that I’ve grown into understanding the power of theater and performance and the sacredness of it, the spiritual aspects of all the art that we create and put out there, that has been primarily taught to me by Black artists.

[00:07:33] Maori Karmael Holmes: And why is that?

[00:07:36] D’Lo: I think that growing up in Lancaster, it was like I didn’t feel the effects of racism in the same way. Yes, there was racism. Yes, it was a hick town. The fun Snapple fact is that the KKK established its first West Coast church in Lancaster, and so that’s that air that’s there. You know what I’m saying? But growing up, I was enveloped by this very Tamil Sri Lankan community. And our community came pre-war, but then it was like in the beginnings of the war, ’82, ’83, our community started expanding. And there were more people that were getting sponsored and more expansions, extended family coming over. And that was my community. I knew that maybe I went to school with some white kids, but life happened in my community. And I think that because my father had politicized us at such a young age around what was happening with the civil war and around what was happening to him as a Brown man in a white city, when Hip-Hop came to… Well, it was actually through Yo MTV Raps! because even though we’re just an hour from LA, we didn’t get the stations. We didn’t get LA stations because the mountains were such an interference back then. And so I grew up on East Coast Hip-Hop, and then I was like, oh, they’re talking about something that’s happening in their community… Here, as immigrants, we were told to just be quiet and not to say anything about the injustice or some dumb shit that happened to us at school or whatever. Just keep your head down low. Don’t question your teachers. Don’t question the things. Just do what you need to do and then graduate and go to college, and then make something out yourself. But what was so empowering was that there were these folks, like MCs, everybody from Zulu Nation and Isis. I’m talking about the female MCs that really impacted me, Queen Latifah, Monie Love, Smooth, all of these folks, Public Enemy, Terminator X, all of them. How people buy Wu-Tang and all the peoples, I was buying Public Enemy and all the peoples.

[00:10:02] Maori Karmael Holmes: So you’re just like M.I.A. is what I’m hearing. I’m sorry.

[00:10:08] D’Lo: I am. I’m exactly like M.I.A. And she’s my cousin, anyway. But I think that what happened was that I was like, oh my God, you can be loud about this shit? You could stand up for something. And so that’s the beginning of it. I was like, oh. I felt like I was the only Brown kid later in life that never aspired to be white. Do you get what I’m saying? A lot of immigrants-

[00:10:43] Maori Karmael Holmes: How did you avoid that aspiration?

[00:10:46] D’Lo: I think it was because I felt so got by my community. I had a sense of identity. And then on top of that, knowing that I was super queer-

[00:10:56] Maori Karmael Holmes: You knew that you were queer?

[00:10:57] D’Lo: Oh, I knew it.

[00:10:58] Maori Karmael Holmes: It wasn’t a surprise to you?

[00:10:59] D’Lo: No, it wasn’t a surprise to me. It wasn’t a surprise to a lot of people in my community, actually, because if I show you these pictures of me when I was younger, you’d be like, oh, snap. That’s a gay. That’s straight up a gay. You know what I’m saying? Yeah. I’m so happy. I’m so happy that my queerness or that my different lens made me not want that, made me understand that there was something gorgeous out there that I would come to knowing what it looked like for me as a queer Tamil Sri Lanka person but that I could look to the Black community and be like, okay, this is okay to talk about. And to be honest, Maori, when I was younger, I looked at these Hip-Hop folks, and I thought they were all immigrants like me because all of these MCs had-

[00:11:51] Maori Karmael Holmes: Monie Love was an immigrant. You’re not wrong.

[00:11:53] D’Lo:  Monie Love was the person who made me at 12 years old stop eating pig. We didn’t eat a whole lot of it anyway, but she had a song on her album called Swiney Swiney. That’s how I stopped eating pig.

[00:12:07] Maori Karmael Holmes: I interviewed Jeff Chang, our beloved friend, and we were talking about-

[00:12:12] D’Lo: Also M.I.A.’s cousin.

[00:12:15] Maori Karmael Holmes:  Yeah, also M.I.A.’s cousin. But we were talking about, I think, for our generation, how much music shifted everything. It made me want to think about Islam, definitely thinking about food, how I dressed, how I would date, all of those things. So this is a very cheesy question, but I want you to tell the story of when you fell in love with Hip-Hop. Do you remember the moment, the song, the music video?

[00:12:39] D’Lo: Yeah.

[00:12:40] Maori Karmael Holmes: What was happening?

[00:12:41] D’Lo: I do. I remember I was watching my first Yo! MTV Raps. This was with Big Daddy Kane hosting. And so I remember watching this, and I think it was Queen. I think it was Queen that made me go, what? I feel like I saw a PE video before that, and I was already like, yeah. But it was Queen where I was like, this is mine now. Forget about it.

[00:13:15] Maori Karmael Holmes: I remember hearing Hip-Hop in second grade and reciting Rapper’s Delight, and really, we lost a teacher to the Challenger explosion. She wasn’t on it, but her friend was. And so she couldn’t come back the rest of the year. And we had a substitute the rest of second grade, and we acted like asses. And one of the things is I would stand up in the back of the class and bounce a basketball and recite Rapper’s Delight.

[00:13:46] D’Lo: We need a replay of this, Maori.

[00:13:49] Maori Karmael Holmes: I don’t know why, but I didn’t care about it. That was just radio music. But when I remember my life changing was when I heard the Buddy remix. I saw Me, Myself and I, and I was like, huh. And then the Buddy remix with everybody, Queen, Monie, all the people you’re saying. I was like, oh, I’m… I picked up a backpack. The rest was written.

[00:14:12] D’Lo: We’re talking about Tribe and De La and all of these people. That was a whole nother wave of falling in love with Hip-Hop. Then it became almost like my intentions around creating a certain style of art came with that wave.

[00:14:28] Maori Karmael Holmes: Yeah. I read that you said being a trans person, observing how boys and girls behaved, was your first training in performance. I wanted to see if you could say a little bit more about this.

[00:14:40] D’Lo: Yeah. I was 11 when I got my period, and I was being told all of these things about how girls should be now that they’ve gotten their period, both from the world but also very much from my Tamil Sri Lankan immigrant family. So I remember going, oh. I saw one other tomboy in our school, and she couldn’t be a tomboy after a certain age. So I thought, okay, by the time I get to junior high, seventh or eighth grade, I had to start dressing like a girl. So in the meantime, I was looking to see how girls walked, how they talked, how they stood. And it was a big shift for me because I was pretty much walking in the world like a little boy would be. And so it was things like girls holding their books like this close to their chest and guys holding them down there. And I was like, why does that happen? In my mind, I was like, why is that? Literally every girl holds their books up here. Why does that happen? And then I was like, well, don’t question it. Just do it. And just about talking to boys, how you should stand versus talking to your girl peers, things like this, the little, little things you kind of watch and observe because for me, it was about survival. So I had to be on it. It wasn’t a choice for me not to be in the study. So when I started my first unveiling of myself as a young artist in the theater, so much of my work was character work. I loved donning the costume and the outfits in order to play these characters. And I felt like I did a decent job because I had that training because I didn’t have any other training. I had training by just doing in queer theater, but there wasn’t any acting classes that was going to take my gender-nonconforming body and be like, hey. So I was decent at it because of that. I got better because I had incredible directors, but I was decent because of that first round.

[00:17:05] Maori Karmael Holmes: What did you study in undergrad?

[00:17:08] D’Lo: Ethnomusicology.

[00:17:09] Maori Karmael Holmes:  And how did that set you up for theater and comedy?

[00:17:15] D’Lo: It didn’t. I actually went to UCLA. I didn’t want to go to college. And I auditioned on the veena, which is a South Indian instrument, and the piano, and I got into the ethnomusicology department. And I wanted to do production. I wanted to do record producing, fusing different aspects, different musics. So then I was producing with — I think DJ Quik had a cousin that I was working with when I was younger — and I was playing music with my friend. I was making beats here and there for people, so when I got to New York, I thought that that was still what I was going to do. I even went to audio engineering school. But what was helping me stay afloat was taking the gigs as a performance poet, which I had started in college, so I was getting paid for that. And then at some point it was just too hard to try and tackle both, and I just stayed with the performance.

[00:18:22] Maori Karmael Holmes: You’ve made shows that include both of your parents, and I wanted to ask you, how you navigate embodying them without making fun of them? And what do they think about being portrayed by you?

[00:18:35] D’Lo: My parents have seen my shows, and they feel honored, which sometimes I’m like, did I share the story I wanted to share? But they feel honored because I’m giving them due justice. I’m giving them enough complexity that allows their story to live in a beautiful way that they can be seen. At no point whenever I’ve done stories around my parents have they felt like somebody is taking shots at them, that I’m taking shots at them. And I think that I’ve been intentional about that because I don’t want to shame anyone. I have deep compassion for the ways that my parents show up in this world and have showed up for me. Did they do it right? No. But did they know how to do any better? No. And so I try and reflect that in everything that I do. I think that the other part about it is that as children who have access more to processing power therapy, being able to talk about things, I end up doing the emotional labor for my own parents. And so that has created stronger bonds for us. So with that all being said, I do believe that you can do somebody’s story a disservice. And I’ve seen it happen so many times, and some people talk about the accents and this. I’ve never been called out for any of that, but I think it’s because of the way that I’m shaping the characters. I’m actually embodying them. And I don’t like it when people take cheap shots at any part of their immigrant history because that’s, again, looking at comedy through the white gaze.

[00:20:34] Maori Karmael Holmes: Thank you. So you have been in this game for a long time, and you’ve mentioned wanting your own TV show. And I’ve known you, I don’t know, what, almost 15 years or something now. And I think about how different the world was, how different our entertainment world was and how much it’s changed from Pose coming out in 2018 and Orange Is the New Black and Transparent, when all of these characters emerging, to Sort Of, which is such a beautiful show, having a Brown, queer, non-binary person at the center. So it means your show is now possible because that show exists and has two seasons that are successful. And we know that’s what Hollywood relies on. So whoever took the chance on Sort Of, now you can have a show. What does that mean for you?I’m excited, but how does it make you feel?

[00:21:37] D’Lo: I’m excited too. I got to be honest. Sometimes it feels a little bit bittersweet because I’m older, and so sometimes I’m like, oh, I see, not necessarily Balil’s show because I love that. It’s more about the opportunity that exists now. When you’re older, you don’t have that much more… The time that you have, it looks different. You don’t just throw caution into the wind and just do whatever and stay in the lane. Where I was pounding the pavement looked completely different, and all that pounding got me to where I’m at. And I’m like, oh, I’m still trying to pound. But the part that I do love is that I would’ve never thunk in a million years that I would’ve been given these opportunities. I would’ve never thunk that I would’ve been able to have a writing room around a project, even if that was just what it was, an incubations place. I would’ve never thought that I would’ve been on these shows that were on Netflix, on HBO, on whatever. And also, I think I was the first trans artist to take the stage at the Kirk Douglas here in la. So CTG being the major hub for theater in LA and the Kirk Douglas being one of the three, sometimes I’m like, oh my God, that is a big deal. And I know that it wasn’t a big deal just for me. It was a big deal for a lot of people, and it’s a big deal for a lot of people to even see me, where they’ve seen me on stage for so long and then they see me on whatever show, this, that and the other. So in those ways, I feel like they’re huge blessings, and I’m so very grateful. And I want more. I just want more to just not have to work as hard for just a little bit because they keep talking about the ebbs and flows. And it’s like, I need a little bit more flow.

[00:23:37] Maori Karmael Holmes: Yeah.

[00:23:38] D’Lo: Putting it out there.

[00:23:40] Maori Karmael Holmes: You’re a really community-oriented person. You talk so much about the value that Sri Lanka has put in your life in Lancaster and also the queer communities that you’ve been in around the country. But I also know that you’re a leader in your communities, and that can be exhausting. And so I was curious for you, how do you find refuge?

[00:24:08] D’Lo: Hm. That’s a great question. And I find refuge, I feel, in community too. But it’s like when I look at these concentric circles, it’s like more and more I’m realizing community is with people who really just want me to be loved and got. Yes, there’s the other things there, but it’s with people that I find that refuge. The people that reflect back the God in me are where I find refuge.

[00:24:46] Maori Karmael Holmes:  Hm. I love that.

[00:24:49] D’Lo: Yeah, because God’s got to be up in it too.

[00:24:54] Maori Karmael Holmes: I don’t know. No, I’m just kidding.

[00:24:57] D’Lo: Because sometimes everybody’s like, oh, meditation and this, that and the other and sitting at my altar. And I do all of that. I do less meditation, but I do sit at my altar. But it’s not refuge. You know what I’m saying?

[00:25:10] Maori Karmael Holmes: Yeah.

[00:25:10] D’Lo:  For me, refuge is people still. And I think that I’m one of those people who, I’m still try, but I don’t know if I’m ever going to be okay finding refuge by myself. I think that I find so much of myself and such glory and beauty within myself and for myself when I’m with the people who really got me.

[00:25:38] Maori Karmael Holmes: Well, that’s interesting because a lot of your work has been you as a solo performer. And so curious what that dichotomy is. You’re comfortable being solo on the stage, but what does that mean for the crew that’s helped you get there?

[00:25:55] D’Lo: Yeah. I feel like everything that I’ve done, even as a solo artist, has been with the community in mind. So that part, I don’t have any this is just me on the stage. This is me telling a multifold story. But solo work was literally the most financially feasible way to work in the world. Everything else took a lot more time and energy. And here I was touring and doing all of this stuff. And how much time I had to actually bend towards doing ensemble work or collaborative work or whatever, I still did it, but it would stop me from making money too. So it was like I had to use just me and a bag that I was traveling with to go make the money. And when I look back, is that where I found my joy? No. My joy was when I was directing with the community-based theaters and teaching and being in community. That was where a lot of joy was because it was people. The most joy is when I get to perform for my people. You know what I’m saying? The Kirk Douglass was 300-seater. And even if my peoples was maybe half of that crowd, that was where my joy was because I could feel people. You know what I’m saying? And that energy exchange is like no other, but to make solo work is not necessarily the fun.

[00:27:50] Maori Karmael Holmes:  Yeah. So I know that you’ve done some recent television, including an episode of the revamped Quantum Leap. Could you talk about how that came to be?

[00:28:02] D’Lo: My friend, Shakina Nayfack wrote it, and it was about a young trans girl playing basketball and how people were up in arms surrounded and whatever, whatever. But it was a really beautiful episode, and that I feel was such a blessing because it’s like you know sometimes when you’re called in to do something for trans representation. I’ve been doing trans representation, speaking, talking all of this stuff since when the media was even considering us to talk about it. And then you have really gorgeous storytelling like this that takes place, and you’re like, ah.

[00:28:42] Maori Karmael Holmes: (28:42): Can you talk about To T, or Not to T and how you came to develop it?

[00:28:49] D’Lo: Yeah. To T, or Not to T is the second in a trilogy. The first one was D’FunQT, and this one is To T, or Not to T. The first one was about coming into queer adulthood, and this one was about coming into my decision to take T, clearly. To T, or Not to T. And it is about what does beautiful masculinity look like? And we always talk about toxic masculinity, but nobody’s talking about what beautiful masculinity looks like and one that upholds my feminist politics. So that piece I created because when I was… I’m schooled by feminists of color. We were talking about Kitchen Table Press, Cherrie Moraga, Gloria Anzaldua, Audre Lorde, all of these incredible artists and scholars, and being in community where they were like, “D, why do you want to be a man? Men are what’s ruining this world,” and me going, “Oh, shit. I’m going to ruin this world.” Here I am being told I’m the symbol of the fuck you to the patriarchy. And then me going, oh yeah, now I’m going to look like this guy. And then to sit there and go, if I keep wondering and worrying, I’m never going to know what’s on the other side of that wall, and I need to do this for me and whatever. And then kind of going, but I am a feminist. I think the minute that I started using male pronouns, which was a long, long time ago, a lot of the women-centered places started saying, “You can’t be here anymore.” Nothing changed with my body. I was just going by male pronouns. But they were like, you can’t be here anymore. And then I was like, but I don’t understand. And aren’t feminists men what y’all wish for? So because of that, I wanted to write the piece about the complexities but also the complications. It’s really complications. It’s human complications here in this journey, and so that’s what the piece is about. And that story also follows the narrative of my father and wrapping his head around who his beloved child is now and him going through the grief process as I’m also going through a grieving process.

[00:31:20] Maori Karmael Holmes:  Mm. And what is the next installment? Do you know what the title is and when we’ll see it?

[00:31:27] D’Lo:  That one’s called Queer Noise. It’s about how there’s so much noise that queer people are dealing with, especially right now with all these anti-trans bills, anti-gay bills, all of this stuff, that it doesn’t allow somebody to just be. And what could we be like if we were allowed to just be? And so if the first piece was tracking my relationship with my mother, second one’s tracking my relationship with my father, the third piece is tracking my relationship with my sister, who has passed. She’s not on this physical plane. But my relationship with her and me really looking at all those things. When we were talking about fronting, is it fronting or is it fearing? Looking at all those things around my gender journey but around just my quest to exist without having the noise.

[00:32:21] Maori Karmael Holmes: I wish that for you. What is that?

[00:32:22] D’Lo:  I know. I say I want that for anybody.

[00:32:25] Maori Karmael Holmes: What if you weren’t funny anymore? Which one would you rather lose?

[00:32:31] D’Lo:  What if I didn’t have to be funny? That’s the deeper question. Yo know what I’m saying?

[00:32:38] Maori Karmael Holmes:  Mm. You embody many worlds, and the work that you do is in many genres. And is this kind of fluidity your nature, or has it come out of necessity?

[00:32:51] D’Lo: Necessity. My nature is to desire a lot, but even now, one of the projects that I’m excited about has nothing to do with what this is. But it’s a necessity because I need to create, and I don’t know what to do while I’m still navigating the next move in the industry. I know what I’m doing theatrically and whatever gigs and standup and stuff like that. Well, even with standup, me going back and pounding the pavement again, it’s like these are the things that I would want to do regardless. But all of the other stuff that I have done has been like, okay, where am I needed? Where can I get a check?

[00:33:38] Maori Karmael Holmes: Is there any artistic discipline that you haven’t yet explored that you want to or return to?

[00:33:47] D’Lo: Music. I don’t necessarily need to be a musician, but I want to create comedic songs. I want to create good comedic danceable songs.

[00:33:59] Maori Karmael Holmes: Weird Al Yankovic.

[00:34:00] D’Lo: Yes, exactly. When I was younger, I did that stuff. So this is what I want to do. Do you know this organization For Freedoms?

[00:34:10] Maori Karmael Holmes: Yeah.

[00:34:12] D’Lo: So I just had a meeting with him yesterday over an idea that I spat over to one of the people that worked there, and this piece is like it’s a public installation piece called Cry With You, where in this world where we don’t get to really talk about all the stuff that we’re carrying in our bodies, post-pandemic, racial reckonings, anti-everybody bills. Do you get what I’m saying? And then on top of that dealing with people’s death and dying over the past couple years and whether that was through COVID or unjust shit. You get what I’m saying? So many people are walking around with all up to here, and it’s making people go nutty. Even when I say nutty, it’s not even the people who are picking up arms and shooting up motherfuckers. It’s like everybody is just on the brink. And so I want to create a piece where me and a small team offer to cry with people, listen to them and cry with them over theirs hit because I also think about why, especially now, it’s like you want to cry so bad sometimes and then sometimes you just don’t, which is why we need art, because it allows us to really just pause and feel shit. But it’s like we don’t get to cry, and all of that backed up shit, it’s like we know what happens when we’re backed up with our shit. This is another bodily fluid that we need to get out.

[00:35:53] Maori Karmael Holmes: For whom do you make work?

[00:35:57] D’Lo: The first circle is QTBIPOC folks. The second circle is BIPOC and my Sri Lankan cousins. I think the third circle would be anybody who is either queer or just anybody. But the first two circles are from my peoples.

[00:36:20] Maori Karmael Holmes: Yeah. What’s a moment in your career that was validating for you, that made you feel like you were on the right path, that this was the thing to be doing?

[00:36:32] D’Lo:  I think when I came back to LA and I had gotten an audition for an HBO show. And mind you, the last film that I had done was 2003. I think I did a shorter one in 2006. But this is many, many years later, and I got an HBO audition for Looking. And I was like, oh, and it felt like a sign. I felt like, oh, the world is ready for this kind of queer representation. And I just use that as a marker because I remember the feeling in me like, okay, it’s there. What you want, it’s there. The other part was I have worked with other people on so many beautiful films, including my longtime collaborator, Adelina Anthony. And I’ve worked on incredible-looking films and beautiful pieces and also beautiful pieces in TV and whatever. But I think that when I was doing the Kirk Douglas last year was where I was like, oh, wow. I had had the Kirk Douglas on my bucket list from when I was early twenties, and so it was a big deal for me to be able to play on that stage and to know that I was carrying so many people with me every night. So that felt like, oh. If we’re talking about did you arrive, yes, that was an arrival moment for me, a huge milestone. Yeah.

[00:38:17] Maori Karmael Holmes: What is your dream role, if such a thing exists, as an actor?

[00:38:21] D’Lo: Okay. Well, if it’s in TV, it would be to carry my own show. But honestly, right now-

[00:38:27] Maori Karmael Holmes:  The D’Lo Show?

[00:38:28] D’Lo: Yeah, The D’Lo Show.

[00:38:29] Maori Karmael Holmes: Like the Cosbys?

[00:38:29] D’Lo: Sure.

[00:38:35] Maori Karmael Holmes: I’m sorry. More like Ellen. That’s what you meant.

[00:38:38] D’Lo: Exactly. Ellen with a little Sprinkle of M.I.A. No. I was working with Sameer Gardezi on a pilot, and we loosely titled it The Dusky, which was about my life in Lancaster. And then right now, I’m working on something called The Memoirs of a Fuck Boy. Right now, it’s a loose title, but it’s basically about how you could have a vagina and still be a fuck boy. And it’s about my life growing up as a 20-year-old person queer in New York. But I love dramatic work too. Of course, I love comedic work, the stuff that I’m doing right now. I’m enjoying creating ideas around doing very hijinks comedy, and I love that stuff, buddy comedy, stuff like that. So that’s the stuff that I’m interested in.

[00:39:36] Maori Karmael Holmes: I could totally see you in Rush Hour 3.

[00:39:41] D’Lo: Let me at them. Let me at them. But yeah, I enjoy it all. Are there dramatic roles that I love playing? Yes, absolutely. But right now, I’m just like, let me have some fun.

[00:39:54] Maori Karmael Holmes: I see you as someone who’s really fearless. And I was wondering, is this real, or are you fronting? Are you-

[00:40:03] D’Lo: That’s total fronting. Sometimes I’m like, good Lord, what am I doing? I’m trying to get back into comedy again, meaning I’m doing standups still, produce gigs that I have all my material. But I feel like I’m starting from ground zero here in LA because I haven’t done the scene in LA as consistently, and I want to start doing that again. So I went to an open mic last night.

[00:40:31] Maori Karmael Holmes: Wow.

[00:40:31] D’Lo:  I didn’t get on, but it was just like me going, what am I doing here? Oh, yeah. No, I said that I am going to start from the bottom and get scared all over again in order to do this. And I am terrified. I’m terrified. And all I’m leaning up against is the fact that I’m like, I’ve been doing this for so long that even if I’m terrified, at least I’ll have my presence on stage. At least I can lean up against that and just be confident that I’m not going to completely choke. And none of my jokes right now have punchlines, barely any buttons. Do you get what I’m saying? I’m like, I need to work these out. So I take that as the biggest this is me fronting. This is not me going, oh yeah, let me just go and hammer this out. I know that I have to work and work and work on this new material. Then on top of that, I’m in this industry where I know the potential to make a lot of money is just right around the corner, but it still takes everything in me to try and buckle down and go, okay, who do I need to call? Who do I need to ask? I broke up with my manager at the end of last year, so now I’m free balling in the industry. I’m deathly terrified, do you get what I’m saying, of the next move and where my money’s going to come from. And I got this many gigs, and what’s happening? All of that. So I would say the majority of it is fronting, but most of it is mitigated by the fact that I’m like, well, I can’t do anything else except go for it.

[00:42:11] Maori Karmael Holmes: Thank you so much. I really appreciate you making time for being on the show, and thank you so much for being a guest on Many Lumens.

[00:42:21] D’Lo:  Thank you so much, Many Lumens. Many, many, many.

[00:42:30] Lil Dave:  Now it’s time for this week’s installment of Ask Maori. This is when you, our audience, is given the chance to ask our host, Maori Karmael Holmes:, your burning questions about the film world, artistic practices or really anything you’d like to ask Maori’s perspective on. Here’s this week’s question.

[00:42:55] Nile Shareef-Trudeau: Today’s question is from Ya Koyana. They ask, “How are you able to balance executing all of your ideas and handling your responsibilities? Do you have any tips for aspiring filmmakers and artists on how to get funding for projects?”

[00:43:13] Maori Karmael Holmes: That’s an interesting question. I don’t know that I am able to balance all of my ideas and responsibilities. I would say Basecamp is a project management software that I use both at work and I have a personal account to try to keep everything planned out and mapped out. And like many people, I use a series of Google calendars. I also use the Notes app on my iPhone. But in general, I wouldn’t say that there’s balance. It’s definitely imbalanced. And I wish I had better advice, but that’s the balance of what I do. I will offer that there are some things that I don’t hold on to try to preserve my brain. I strive to not hold on to details that are in the calendar because there’s no reason for me to know that if my phone knows, and it often means I forget something, though. But it has saved brain space. Oh, the other thing that I do is try to maintain a zero inbox in my email, which is helpful but also annoying because I delete almost every email that comes in. And so if people are looking for something, I don’t have it. So that’s it.

[00:44:38] Lil Dave: That’s it for this week’s segment of Ask Maori. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @ManyLumens for information about how you can submit a question.

[00:44:53] Maori Karmael Holmes: To keep up with more of D’Lo’s work, you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram at D’LocoKid. This season of Many Lumens is brought to you by Open Society Foundations. It is produced by BlackStar Projects in partnership with Rohome Productions. The host and executive producer of Many Lumens is me, Maori Karmael Holmes:. This episode was produced by Kayla Latimore. Associate producer is Irit Reinheimer. Managing producer is Alex Lewis. Executive editor is John Myers. Our music supervisor is David “Lil Dave” Adams. Our theme song was composed by Vijay Mohan and remixed by Lil Dave. This episode features music by Ivy Sole. If you’ve liked what you’ve heard so far this season, please leave us a review on Apple Podcast and let us know what you think of the show. 

Sending you light, and see you next time.