She’s beautiful, funny, and multifaceted — Julia Pels (aka @Queer Comedian on Instagram) is a talented comedian and actress on the rise. Julia has worked hard to get to where she is today within the entertainment industry and has no plans of stopping. Julia’s journey is authentic and exciting, very similar to herself. Pels has been busy both professionally and personally. Julia recently got engaged to a woman she describes as her “rock.” The charismatic Ms. Pels said, “She has seen and supported me through everything,” Julia noted that there had been high points and moments of self-reflection, but this is what makes her story eclectic and real.
So who is Julia Pels? Julia grew up in Chicago and was always attracted to the arts. She was raised with strong midwestern family roots and traditions, but she knew she wanted more. Julia prides herself on using her performances in addition to modeling as a platform to create social and political awareness not only about the queer community but about our society at large. She models (because she loves it), but more importantly, wants to create more “femme visibility,” especially since that is a minority within a minority. She challenges the audience to look at her as a mirror of themselves (their beliefs, emotions, thoughts, etc. versus just slinging random jokes. Julia also improvises all of her sets.
When Julia had a moment, she took the time to speak with Gemma Magazine, which we so appreciate!
Tell me a bit about your childhood growing up in Chicago. Were you always attracted to the arts?
I grew up in a sweet, small-town about 30 minutes south of Chicago called Flossmoor. I loved it, and it was incredibly diverse, culturally, religiously, socioeconomically, etc. My family would often take trips to the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Opera, and the Joffrey Ballet. We had a second home in Wisconsin where we spent our summers with my greek family boating, horseback riding, and reading in the woods, so I would say I have deep ties to my midwest roots.
In regards to my parents, my father is a professional photographer, my mother is a special education teacher, and my brother is a professional fly fisherman! Family is something that has always been very important to me, and we had solid family traditions. I began to model for this little husband and wife photography team when I was only three years old. However, my father refused to let me do any commercial modeling and wanted me to stay in school and have a “relatively normal” life as a child. Yet, he did allow me to continue to model for them, and I won some awards throughout the years. I sang a French solo in fifth grade (I didn’t know French, just taught myself because I wanted the solo so badly). I started memorizing the entirety of Les Miserable at age ten and by 16, and I could’ve played a lesbian in the musical “Rent,” because I knew it so well and went to see it every other weekend! Theater and Musical Theater were HUGE for me growing up in Chicago, but I always wanted to reach a wider audience. Eventually, I dreamed of being on screen.
When did you make a move to L.A.?
As it turns out, I moved to Seattle before I moved to L.A. from the midwest because I intuitively knew that L.A. would be a tough city. I spent four years in the Pacific Northwest hiking, healing, doing theater, and worked for nonprofit film organizations. Finally, after getting out of a very abusive relationship, I fled to L.A. and made it here in less than three days. I knew I was home even though it felt like hell. It was hot, expensive, somewhat gross, and lonely. My first year here was tough. I got my ass kicked emotionally, but I made it through. I hiked, got out to local farmer’s markets, and started to find comfort in comedy.
What was auditioning like for T.V./Film?
Auditioning for TV/FILM roles was exhilarating at first, but eventually, call back after call back became taxing. I felt isolated and depressed. I completely stopped acting and auditioning. I needed a mental break, so I started dating. I dated a girl that did comedy (we are friends to this day, which I love because she was truly such an inspiration), and it turned my life around. I went from feeling isolated to excited again and took the stage night after night as if I owned each one. I was a natural. I didn’t need to write my sets out because they were all true stories. Sure, I jotted down notes for jokes, but I never wrote out full-blown sets. I improv most of them, let the audience guide me and stay in the moment.
Please tell us about your show “Killer Unicorns.”
I created my stand up/storytelling show, Killer Unicorns, in March of 2016. It started as a super small indie show, and in almost four years, it’s arguably become one of the most well known and well-done shows in Los Angeles. We are extremely professional from the way we chose our lineups to the venue and everything else in between! It is no-nonsense and no drama at our shows. We do not book people off of identity politics or as favors. We reserve pure talent in whatever form it comes to us in. The voices at our shows are very diverse, intelligent, and funny! I’ve rarely booked a comic that I didn’t end up liking as a human. There are a few, but it’s rare!
How would you describe your experience in the comedy world?
My journey in the comedy circuit has been fascinating. It went from making me feel welcomed, loved, and adored to eventually seeing that many individuals go into comedy for the wrong reasons. That, along with drugs, alcohol, sex, etc., It can and is, at times, a very toxic culture. Many people don’t know that I almost became a forensic psychologist so that I can see things objectively. At times, the comedy circuit is exhausting to be around. Dealing with childlike emotions in adults is obnoxious and genuinely a waste of time. It’s not the comedy that’s a problem — it’s the culture and the toxicity that comes with it. I still love stand up, but it is a challenge to work with specific individuals and clubs depending on the personality.
What comedians do you admire?
I adore Ali Wong for her specials that she did when she was pregnant. I think she’s just amazing! I also LOVE Kristen Wiig & Bill Hader. I’m very into dark comedy.
How would you describe your style of comedy?
I would say my style of comedy is very storytelling, especially with jokes woven in. It’s dark and odd, but I think it’s my stage presence and physical presentation that many can relate to. It’s like the cheerleader next door but one that swears and talks about how much she likes men. It’s exciting and unconventional material.
Where can we see you perform in Los Angeles?
You can see me performing comedy in clubs and the indie scene all over L.A. I am in a worldwide award-winning movie that’s coming out soon, so look out for “Jesus Rides A Harley!” I’m so incredibly proud of myself and our entire team. What made this film so precious to me was that I originally went in and auditioned for a different role that I wasn’t cast for, but the director liked my acting style so much, he wrote a character in the movie just for me! Talk about feeling special. I was so happy when that happened. I remember jumping up and down like a kid. All of my modeling, comedy, and acting is on my social media @queercomedian.
You are such a powerful voice for women today. What would your message be for 2020 and beyond?
My message to women today is that we are NOT victims. We have to take responsibility for our own lives and not just talk about how “bad” things are in the world. Some days can be horrid, but as powerful beings, we need to show not only our communities but ourselves how strong and capable we are. We are survivors — not victims, and we can overcome ANYTHING as long as we don’t give up!
If you were not in the entertainment industry, what would you be doing?
If I wasn’t in the entertainment industry, I’d be living in a cabin in Colorado with a Ph.D. in Psychology. I almost became a forensic psychologist, and it’s still something I study to this day! The mind is so intricate and complicated. I have an affinity for it!
To learn more about Julia Pels, follow her on both Facebook and Instagram: