We caught up with artist and humanitarian, Elle Moxley, the Founder and Executive Director of The Marsha P. Johnson Institute, to chat about catching flights, her love for her mother, and beauty. “Playlist Profile” is a music series curated by cool a*s humans doing dope a*s sh*t. Each playlist is created by the human you see.
What do you do for a living? I am an artist. I have my own production company called Forever Free Productions which recently launched this year. I am completing my first film which is scheduled to be released this summer called Black Beauty. I am the Founder and Executive Director of The Marsha P. Johnson Institute which is what I’m most known for, as an activist and organizer.
What is The Marsha P. Johnson Institute? The Marsha P. Johnson Institute is a non-profit organization that works to protect and defend the human rights of Black Transgender people in the United States.
Where are you from? How’d you grow up? Tell me about your family. I’m from (born and raised) Columbus, Ohio. I grew up a middle child of three. All girls. Our house was full of fights. Lots of music. A lot of elements of Black beauty. We had such different personalities. Our mom had the biggest personality. What she loved, I loved equally. Me and my mother are alike in that regard. She loved Patti LaBelle. I loved Patti LaBelle. She loved the color purple. I loved the color purple. It’s where I differed from my sisters because my mother was my everything. She instilled a great deal of my passion and enthusiasm around music.
What is your definition of beauty and what is your first memory of beauty? My definition of beauty is the ability to see yourself and to see yourself in all of the things that God has provided. My first memory of beauty (wow)… There’re so many first memories. They all kinda hit you instantly. I’m thinking about spritz ponytails. I thought that was the most glamorous hairstyle. And even till this day, I still dream of having one of those hairstyles. My first image of beauty was seeing my mother. She used to wear, during the nineties, a burgundy lipstick. It was the one thing she would wear. She wasn’t big on cosmetics, but mascara and lipstick. I remember the various shades of burgundy, maroon, and red lipsticks she had. She didn’t wear lipstick often. It was maybe once out of the year where she would put on lipstick, but it was always mesmerizing because it was like, ‘My mom, she’s so beautiful.’
I’m also thinking about album covers. I saw a lot of beauty in album covers. Jody Watley had an album in the 80s where she had on this off-the-shoulder, yellow, fluffy romper with the knee boots. And I remember that album cover because I thought she reminded me of me in adult form. I was like, ‘That’s what I’m gonna look like when I grow up. I know it.’ She had a big forehead, she had long, flowing, glowy hair. It was that and Mary J. Blige’s first album, What’s the 411. That album cover was a dream come true. I had never seen anything more beautiful than Mary J. Blige on that album cover.
What is your morning ritual? My morning ritual, no matter what, I talk to my dog. Me and Harper are having a full conversation about how his day is gonna go. You know, his walk, being patient, getting done what we have to get done but being clear that we can’t do everything all at once. Harper is responsive in his own way. I got Harper when he was 6 weeks and he’ll be 4 this year. So while he can’t speak, he acknowledges and understands what’s going on. He’s on more of a schedule than I am, so he knows at 9 o’clock, we’re going out the door, at 10:30, the food is in my bowl, at 2 o’clock, I’m getting a treat. If I miss anything that he has programmed in his schedule, he’s always responsive.
Is there anything you do for yourself that you cannot go without on a daily basis? It’s so sad because I have such a routine. None of it brings me pleasure. I absolutely cannot go without my medicine. Food. I love food. I have eaten so much during this pandemic. I’m definitely 40 pounds heavier and I’m okay with that. I can’t go without my music. I don’t listen to music daily. I can’t live without my Playstation and I can’t live without my music. I am a PS4 girl and I am obsessed with 2K. Like, obsessed. 2K is such an escape from the real world and I love that. We don’t have a lot of opportunities, especially with the consistent debauchery of the government. We don’t get a chance to escape, so I love the space video games give us to imagine ourselves as heroes. And we get to imagine ourselves as we know ourselves to be. I also love a tennis game called the Australian Open. Love it. I literally turn into Serena Williams. I created a whole character. Those are the games I’m obsessed with. I can’t go without playing those games. I play on the easy level. I don’t f*ck with n*ggas who play 2K all day.
What have you been listening to during the pandemic? I grew up in church, so gospel music has always been foundational to my life. That’s where a lot of my musical leanings are these days. I fly a lot, so I am constantly in the air. When I fly, the only thing I can listen to is gospel music like, ‘Lord, I’m not gon’ be in nobody’s sky playing around with your good name.’ So I’m listening to a lot of Bri Babineaux, a gospel artist I love. I’m always listening to The Clark Sisters, specifically Twinkie. I love Twinkie. Definitely Jazmine Sullivan. This new Heaux Tales project is phenomenal. She’s holding R&B down. I can’t get enough of it. The Walls Group. I love The Walls Group. I love Jonathan McReynolds. I can’t forget Todd Dulaney, another gospel artist. Afrobeats. Going back to a lot of Brandy. Old Brandy. The Never Say Never Album. A lot of Carl Thomas. I’ve pulled out some Keith Sweat. I’m a big Natalie Cole fan. I’ve been listening to classics, but gospel music has really gotten me through and is really getting me through a lot of the hard times any of us have ever experienced.
Are you high stress or low stress? High stress. I don’t know how to handle it. I listen to gospel music and eat every chance I get. Creatively, this is the most creative I’ve been around my artistry. I think the high stress has made me want to do things that don’t bring me stress. Creating has been such a beautiful offering to myself that even though the time is such a dark one. There are still things I love. I don’t want to describe anything as dark because dark and black are always looked at as being bad. The times are so challenging that being able to create has renewed my understanding and appreciation for not only my gifts, but the things I love. I’m grateful for the dark. The dark has given me more space to see. Light is blinding.
If you had to listen to one song on repeat for the rest of your life, what would it be? There are so many songs I love, but I think the song I would listen to over and over again would be “Trust in Him” by The Clark Sisters.