As a young female comedian, Trejon Dunkley has had to step out of her boundaries to pursue her passions. This fierce lady has overcome many pressures and excuses from others to seek opportunities in the Phoenix area. She is now a regular star, coordinator and host in the local comedy scene but it hasn’t been easy for her to break through and join the “boy’s club” we know as stand-up comedy.
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Looking at Trejon now, you wouldn’t imagine her journey to the stage to be met with so much doubt. She is a fearless, unapologetically funny and bright girl when she is in front of a crowd but she has had to overcome both racist and sexist interactions along the way.
Trejon came from a troubled home and had many instances growing up where she was bullied for the way she looked and acted. She speaks to how she didn’t fit in with the “cool black girl” mold and how her peers treated her.
“I got teased a lot because I wasn’t very good looking,” she says. “And I was very dark with kinky hair, so I got bullied a lot. I was just like a weird kid and I wasn’t cool, and you gotta be cool if you’re a black girl or you will be torn apart, and I just was not. I liked emo music and history.”
It wasn’t until she watched the 1997 movie of Cinderella with Brandy as the star, that she changed her outlook on what she could be. Trejon decided to pursue a degree in acting at Northern Arizona University after high school, but left quickly when she was met with the racist tones of her classmates.
“[They] were trying to tell me to ‘keep my expectations low’ because girls of your complexion don’t get leads. Another student just cornered me in the hallway and said ‘listen, you’re too black to get roles. I know. I’m dating a light-skinned black girl and she’ll probably get leads, but not if they find out she’s black.’”
Even though she had some good professors and friends at NAU, she realized she didn’t want to stay there. Who would?
So she moved to Arizona State University and joined the screenwriting program.
“I thought, if they’re not gonna give me roles, I’ll just write my own. That’s the mindset that I kind of went in with.”
It was there at ASU she took her first comedy class which was taught by a black woman, the only woman in the film and media faculty, in fact. Trejon speaks to how having her as a mentor allowed her the courage and community she needed to feel she wasn’t going into everything blindly.
“I think it’s so important to be able to see people who look like you and have come from similar backgrounds as you in those positions of power, as directors and as actors or as professors. Seeing someone in your field makes you feel like you actually can do it because they did it before and they did it 30 years before me when things were tougher. I would really like to be that voice for someone one day.”
Despite all she has faced in school, theatre, comedy (among other areas of her life) Trejon is now thriving within the Phoenix comedy scene.
She is the host for Maiden Phx, a monthly all-female comedy show, a co host for the Great Exposure comedy show in Phoenix and she is the coordinator for a weekly open mic.
In her roles, she works to support diversity and opportunities for women of all shapes, sizes and color. She makes sure she is cultivating young women to pursue their dreams and chances of comedy.
“Hire women. Trust women. Just give them the same benefit of the doubt that you would give any other recommendation. And if she sucks, it’s probably not cause she’s a woman. It’s cause she sucks. Same with writers or creators of color. Don’t just hire them on to be the ‘urban flava’ or like the diversity casting.”
She continues to push for women to join comedy and to give them the space they need to succeed.
Trejon said she knows the comedy scene is still very much a “boy’s club”, but the women in comedy aren’t to be fucked with. Rather, they should be treated with the same respect and patience as male comedians.
“There’s still not enough women getting booked. There’s still not enough women who have the confidence to take the chance and ask the booker because they’re afraid. I think we need to get past that and have that same kind of lack of shame that a lot of male comedians do.”
AND go check out Maiden Phx. It’s every 1st Thursday of the month at the Plazma Bar in Phoenix. You can also catch Trejon co hosting the Great Exposure comedy show at Plazma. And, every tuesday, she runs an open mic at Grand Avenue Pizza in Downtown Phoenix.
You can listen to the full episode here!
Thank to everyone for their support and ears so far! We here at We Must Ignite appreciate everything!