The Killers: Luenell on Performing High, Supporting Women, and Her Killer Manicure

The Killers: Luenell on Performing High, Supporting Women, and Her Killer Manicure

By Periel Aschenbrand

She's bawdy. She's brassy. She's brilliant. She's beautiful. I recently had the pleasure of seeing comedy goddess Luenell perform at the historic King's Theatre in Brooklyn. The metaphoric love child of Joan Rivers and Richard Pryor could well have been Luenell. She gained international acclaim over a decade ago with her brilliant portrayal as the "hooker with the heart of gold" in Borat. She has since been in three top-selling feature films, on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Californication, Snoop Dogg's Bad Girls of Comedy, and has upcoming roles in films with Amy Poehler, Kevin Hart, Sandra Bullock and Bradley Cooper. She regularly tours the country performing stand up and is a recurrent character on"Lopez."

The daughter of an Army father and a mother who worked for the Tyson Chicken Plant, Luenell is the youngest of eight children. She grew up in Northern California and has done it all—from serving time in prison to being in major motion pictures. She's a mom, a sister, a feminist, on the Board of Directors of the Hollywood Diversity Association and most recently, was featured in Penthouse magazine's April issue, making her the first "of a certain age," plus-size woman of color to do so.

Luenell has amassed an almost cult-like following. And for damn good reason. (Also, her IG is lit.) Despite the fact that she tried to drug me with a weed-infused, chocolate-covered espresso bean within moments of meeting me, I fell even more in love with her than I was before. Here, she dishes on weed, women, what she thinks about NYC and the secret to a happy marriage.

Is there weed in this?

That's some inquisitive, nosy, white woman shit.

Fair enough. I'm also, Jewish, so even nosier, to be fair. But nobody's ever handed me a chocolate-covered espresso bean like that before. And if you get me high, I'll probably crawl under the table and then I won't be able to interview you.

They have these things called Weedos which they sell in dispensaries, that come in a package that looks just like Cheetos, which is why you should keep edibles out of the hands of children, because they look just like you can eat the shit, which you can.

I'll take that as a yes—there is weed in the chocolate covered espresso bean?

The Weedos are the same as Cheetos, but they do have marijuana in them.

Are you supposed to eat the entire bag?

I doubt that very seriously. Nobody never had a reaction to weed in the history of weed. What happened? They got happier? They got hungrier? They got sleepier? Did anybody rape anybody? Kill anybody? No. If more people would pass out weed to other people, the world would be a better place. Just saying.

I once ate so many pot brownies that I couldn't move for 24 hours.

It's true that you can't eat yourself back down.

Have you ever performed stoned?

L: I have recently. It's been. . .great! With these coffee beans, though, you never know when it's gonna hit.

Great. Thank you. I'm so happy I was smart enough to ask you what was in it! How do you remember your set if you're high?

Because I'm a professional! I'm an advocate, though.

I am too. And despite the fact that you tried to dose me, I still love you.

I like smart women and I like people who like me.

I don't like you, I love you.

That's even better.

You're an incredible inspiration. You're so unique and one of the most interesting people working in comedy. I think you're so fucking brilliant and really important for young girls and women to see because you give us permission to not follow the rules.

I'm such an egomaniac that I think I just came on myself. I mean, that shit made my nipples hard. I'm in love with this bitch. Really?


That's what I try to tell the girls, Like who likes you! Like who likes you!

That's very good advice.

Thank you so much, I appreciate that. I often feel that with women people look at you, but they don't really observe you. They look past you, they look through you, they look at you but they're not looking in your eyes or your soul. People are so unobservant of women and I think that we're smarter and we have more to say when we do it right. Female comics could take over this whole fucking game if they did it right. I've always said that if a person listens to what I say onstage, they'll know everything about me. I am the eighth of eight children. I have a platform now where people can listen to me, but growing up, nobody ever listened to me.

Part of what you communicate is that if you're real and you're honest and you stick to it and you really do it right, then--

It will happen.

That's right. And that's a very important message.

I knew what I wanted to do ever since I was twelve years old. I never had a plan B. I only ever had a plan A. I wasn't the best at anything else but I'm one of the best at what I do.

You always knew that? When you were little you knew you were funny?

I wasn't funny when I was real little because I was very sad, because of things going on in my life, but my family is very funny. With shitty wit. Real non-empathetic type wit. Except for my oldest sister and older brother, everybody's got mouth. They'll verbally assault you.

Speaking of assault, can you tell me about your nails, which in addition to the fact that they could be weapons, are obviously works of art. Who is allowed to do these?


Tell me about Andy.

I will change nail technicians according to what they can do. A long time ago I used to wear money on the tips of my nails.

What do you mean, money?

MONEY. Chopped up money. On the French tip part, they overlaid it with money.

What is that about?

Just some gaudy black folk shit. I like that.

I like it, too. I may start getting money on my nails.

Andy's on another level.

I have no doubt. How long does it take him?

Well, you know. Time is of no matter when it comes to being beautiful. How much time does one put into oneself? I would say that the average person doesn't stay as long as I do but then the average person doesn't come out looking like me, which is not average.

You are definitively not average. Your husband is a lucky man.

My husband Ronnie and I have been married for 17 years!

Really!? Wow. That's a long time.

We're proud of it, too.

You should be!

You wanna know why we lasted so long?? Because we were separated for 13 of those.

I'm gonna go home and be like, honey I have such good news for our marriage. I know exactly what we need to do!

See you in ten years, trick!

The secret to a happy marriage. Ha! And, as a real Cali girl, what are your thoughts about New York?

I love New York. I think New Yorkers are the strongest motherfuckers in the world because you keep getting fucked with and fucked with and fucked with and somehow you still survive and are the baddest. You have the best of everything. By the way I just read an article about how there is a whole black civilization buried under Central Park.

Luenell's Hit List:

Favorite Comedian: Joan Rivers and Richard Pryor (minus the crack)

Guilty Pleasure: Reality TV

Favorite Drink: Crown Royal but for the effect, not the taste

Favorite Musician: Earth Wind and Fire. And anyone from the Disco era

Favorite Restaurant: Stinking Rose

Favorite Spot in New York: In a boat out on the Hudson

Favorite Fashion Designer: Angela Dean. I don't do Versace because they don't design for my size.

Favorite mode of transportation: Yacht

Photo by Steven Littles courtesy Luenell