This is Staceee (“With 3 E’s”), the self-proclaimed fitness guru of Joplin, Missouri and the inventor of “Stacercizing- a revolutionary, brand new, new innovative workout combining martial arts, yoga, jazzercise, weight training and African Dance learned while overseas….in Cambodia”. I should also let you know that Staceee was created WAY before one Mr. Charlie Sheen decided to rip off her signature catchphrase “Winning is Awesome!”. But that’s a story for US Weekly’s “Feud of the Week” column.
Staceee is a character in my Solo Sketch Comedy show, “Mirror Mirror On The Wall”, which I perform at The Peoples Improv Theater in New York City. People all over tend to identify with Staceee on some level. Perhaps it is due to her intensity and passion for physical fitness and excellence. Perhaps it is because her essence is devoted to the betterment of mankind’s exercise regimine. Perhaps it is because she has awesome hair and subsists on a diet of Snickers Bars and Mountain Dew. Regardless, everywhere she goes, she leaves enchanted mammals in her wake. Traveling in a foreign land was no different, as I came to understand when I brought her with me to Burma in December of 2010.
My friend JoJoLen (her real name is ‘Joellen’, but no one in Asia could pronounce it, hence her new moniker) and I landed in the town of Bagan on the last leg of our journey in Burma. Bagan is a dry, arid place the size of Manhattan. It is dotted with over 2,000 Buddhist temples built about 1,000 years ago. The place is rad, and to explore the temples and their secret passageways is to know childhood again. Except this time around your older brother isn’t always trying to drown you in the bathtub for fun. On our fourth day in Bagan, we decided to take Staceee out for a spin to capture film footage of her “Spiritual Journeee” in Asia. It needs to be noted that Staceee only ever wears two things- the outfit seen above or her leisure garment- which is a bright yellow muumuu bedazzled with rhinestone animals and made by a company called “African Essence”.
Staceee set out on a bicycle with JoJoLen following behind, filming her majesty. We filmed a lot of long tracking shots because in guerilla filmmaking you never know when you’re going to score the money shot. And score the money shot, we did. Imagine it- Staceee on her bicycle, mullet and African Essence muumuu floating in the wind, a long sandy road, sun beating down when suddenly she comes upon a group of Buddhist Novice Monks (aka “Baby Monks”). They exchange the traditional Burmese greeting of “Mingalaba!” and then they are on their way- just a bunch of spiritual gangstas on the road to enlightenment, as evidenced in the photo below:
Staceee’s wig got to bothering me, given the high temperatures and my sensitive, supple skin. I put her in my bicycle’s front basket and we continued cruising around, our work done for the day. An hour later we came across the same Baby Monks with their Big Monk. They stopped us and Big Monk pointed to my basket. I feared that I had offended these monks, that somehow wearing a mullet wig and an African muumuu around their temples was inappropriate. But Big Monk pointed to Staceee and then pointed to me again and again. He spoke no English. I spoke no Burmese. But I garnered that he wanted me to put on her mullet wig, so I did. And they all broke out in the biggest smiles ever. Then I put on the African Essence muumuu and then the party really got started. They looked at me as if I were the Second Coming. Like I was some sort of mythical and magical beast, as in a minotaur or Rod Stewart. Finally, I thought to myself, I know what it is to be adored as Beyonce is adored. People, I have been Beyonce, and let me tell you, being Beyonce is pretty awesome.
So while I’m busy being Beyonce for my enormous crowd of 7 Burmese Monks, JoJoLen (ever the director) begins taking photos of the exchange. Big Monk is standing within a couple inches of my face. Then Big Monk says something to a Baby Monk and the kid goes tearing down the road to the monastery. Baby Monk is walking back to us a couple minutes later with something in his hands when Big Monk shouts at Baby Monk and he begins to run. Apparently the Baby Monk was too slow in Big Monk’s opinion. Below, a snapshot of Baby Monk when he broke out into a run:
Turns out, Big Monk had requested his digital camera to capture some stills of he and Staceee. Big monk is standing within inches of my face, and he is entranced by the majesty of Staceee. He cannot stop saying, “Ladday, ladday, ladday, ladday, ladday,” which we come to discover means “Beautiful”. The ridiculousness of the situation became apparent. Here was this man who, in the most earnest way possible, was telling me that Staceee was beautiful. Mullet wig, gas station sunglasses and upside down smile to boot. But Big Monk was staring so intently at my face, whispering sweet nothings and I almost lost it. I don’t know how to explain what happened. I realized that I had never been gazed upon by someone like this before. It wasn’t just that he was looking at me. He was seeing me, really seeing me, with his entire body. And at first I resisted the intensity, because it made me super uncomfortable. But the walls I erect by nature, without being conscious of them most of the time, came crashing down. And I knew what it was to finally be present, and to allow myself to be in this moment with him, without needing to justify or quantify it. I finally snapped back into myself, and started wondering how the hell I ended up on a dirt road, in a foreign land, wearing a mullet wig and being accosted by a gaggle of Burmese Monks. We snapped a few photos, and while the Baby Monks seem rather unimpressed, their sentiments in real life were the opposite:
When I was riding off the plain, I couldn’t help but give a shout-out of thanks to all of the roads that had led me there, to that one moment of true realization that while our circumstances may differ greatly, in the end, our humanity does not.