The Modern Gentlewoman

“Instantly recognizable by her spiked, jet-black hair and business-meets-party swag, Bunda has gained notoriety as an emcee wunderkind.”

Text by Kelli Gratz | Image by Asia Valle

It’s not surprising to hear that a public performer as polymorphic as Erin Bunda would be seen at a construction site in Honolulu wearing a tool belt with no tools, learning how to build a structure from the ground up. “It’s actually pretty funny when I think about it, because I have this amazing team that handles all my events and projects, all this professional stuff going on throughout the day, and then suddenly I’m refilling large water jugs, sweeping dirt, and people are yelling at me. It’s quite humbling,” Recently, despite a full calendar of night events to emcee and a day job as a youth therapist with aspirations to start her own nonprofit, she’s taken up a new hobby: apprenticing in interior structure of design and woodworking.

Instantly recognizable by her spiked, jet-black hair and business-meets-party swag, Bunda has gained notoriety as an emcee wunderkind. “One night I went to a karaoke bar with some friends and we played a game where I was The Don Roxy Annabelle and gave everyone a nickname,”she says. “I would get up on the mic and yell ‘Roll call!’Everyone would yell back at me their names and do a dance or sing a song, and we would all just be having a great time. Then slowly, people were like, ‘You have a cool voice and you’re funny, could you emcee my event coming up?’” Two years later, she got a contract to tour across the country as Roxy on the Mic, taking on events and shows of all variety and living in Los Angeles for four years. Since then, her alter ego has become widely recognized. Today, her main focus is not only to entertain but also to be a role model for youth.

Roxy may be her platform in the nightlife scene, but it’s Bunda who is doing all the dirty work. Her days are spent as a youth therapist with Hawaii Behavioral Health, and she also works with various nonprofits specializing in youth grief and trauma care, social development, emotional support, advocacy, and transitioning into adulthood. She even has plans to create her own nonprofit for teens in the foster care system. “I want to offer certification programs for teens where they can learn the trade of their choice in their free time,” she says. “The classes will prepare them for when they are let out of the foster care system. Instead of starting from square one, they will have these courses under them, making it easier for them to get a job.”

photo 2 (10)Image courtesy of Lovefest/Gspot Productions

As an adolescent growing up in Wahiawa and Manoa, Bunda spent a lot time wondering why she was so different from everybody else, always looking to be a part of something bigger. “I was never comfortable being called a lesbian,” she says. “I didn’t want to be stereotyped.” Upon graduating from Northwest University Bible College in 2005, she began exploring different ways she could avoid the stereotype of being an LGBT performer. Eventually, she decided to team up with friends Yooey Kim and Candace Ho to create Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a monthly party at the Republik celebrating Honolulu’s LGBT community. “Chitty Bang has created a whole new culture where people don’t see lesbians, gays, or straights,” she says. “Everyone is welcome and everyone is equal.” The current flows from Bunda’s hyped narration to pulsing beats by DJ Anit, Tittahbyte, DJ Betty, DJ Ace, and SuperCW to celebration of local artists creating. It’s a feminine powerhouse of women taking on something beautiful, empowering, and liberating.

Among Bunda’s many interests—emceeing, deejaying, hosting, performing, music, nonprofit work, counseling, and her latest hobby, interior structure design—it might seem there was more than one person operating under the name Erin Bunda, but it turns out Roxy on the Mic is just one expression of all that she is: a ferocious businesswoman, passionate “nonprofiteur,”ohumble role model, and a powerhouse soul with a knack for ushering in celebrations.

Join Roxy on the Mic and a feminine powerhouse of women every first Thursday as they celebrate Honolulu’s LGBT community:

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
The Safehouse, Upstairs at 1349 Kapiolani Blvd.
6 p.m. – 2 a.m.
$5 after 10 p.m.