There is passion and energy in her voice. Her hands punctuate the air as she makes her points. Her eyes engage you, as if you are the only one in the room.
She commands attention—whether she is standing in the dance studio of Balfour-Hood during a Men of Color conference, speaking candidly about the trials and triumphs of the experiences that shaped her at Wheaton, or sitting on a sofa in the Filene Center during a Homecoming career workshop, telling students that any dream is attainable.
These days, her audience, as well as her stage, is much bigger. Since April 2009, the sociology major, who is a financial crimes investigator, has been performing as a storyteller at The Moth in New York. Described by the Wall Street Journal as “New York’s hottest and hippest literary ticket,” The Moth is an extremely competitive live storytelling venue that travels to various locations throughout the city each week. Last August, the New York Times featured the spot on the front of its Fashion & Style section, complete with a photo of Mullins in action.
The skills she learned at Wheaton—writing and research, clear presentation of thoughts and ideas, as well as adaptability—prepared her well for both work and the stage, she said.
Jenifer Hixson, The Moth’s senior producer, says that Mullins is a natural performer. “She commands the stage,” she said. “She also has great content and knows how to tell it! People don’t connect with stories where the teller is bragging or tooting his or her own horn. Angela is strong and powerful in a lot of her stories, but she’s also not afraid to be vulnerable. This is a strength, too. And did I mention that she has wonderful comedic timing? She gets a lot of laughs.”
Audience reaction fuels her. “My first stage performance was exhilarating! The story was bursting from my seams, and it was just itching to get out…. I remember the laughter and that it just feeds you. From my first line, the audience was plugged in and they wanted to take a ride with me,” said Mullins, who is in her third year as director-at-large on the Wheaton Alumnae/i Association Board of Directors.
Here is the spoken word piece she delivered at a Moth Mainstage event.—Sandy Coleman
Crazy flag and customs
By Angela Mullins ’00
When do you show your crazy flag to the person you are dating? Timing is key, especially considering what brand of crazy you are working with. At the beginning of my relationship, my strategy was to throw all of my awesome at my new man Shane. I figured I needed to build up a big reserve of goodness before I hit him with the flip side. I have these OCD-esque eccentricities, which are my “customs.” Starting with my strengths seemed to be the smart approach, since I knew I needed some cushion for when my customs started to leak out.
Basically, I am a dude in a lady package. My dude-ness really won Shane over. We enjoyed a host of activities: watching cartoons, debating over Superman vs. Batman, discussing comics, playing video games, watching sports, having push-up competitions and wrestling. Now the wrestling could turn into tussling, which could go the fun way, or it could take a different turn, since there are times when I do not know when to stop and there’s the fact that I am…freakishly strong. But everything was really good between us and we were enjoying that newness stage. That newness feeling is just amazing and it’s during this time that we just like looking into each other’s eyes, just because. The only “bad” thing about that ooey-gooey stage is that your man really pays attention to you.
One day we’re eating some M&Ms and he gives me three. I ask him if there are any more and he says, “No.” So, I proceed to put one on the right side of my mouth, one on the left side of my mouth, and then bite the third in half, equally distributing the last one. It was yummy and even! Shane says, “I think I’ve seen you do that before with Cheez-Its and Sour Patch Kids. Have you?” I fess up that this is my “evens” custom and say, “I like evens.” I do, evens make me feel good. Now, I was on his radar and there was no going back.
We were hanging out all the time and we’d walk all over the city exploring-we were broke and it was fun and cheap. When we’d be holding hands, I typically drifted to his right and he figured that I preferred walking on his right side. Not just his, but everyone’s-I’m just partial to the right. Shane would swing me over to his left side and hold me there at times. He would say, “Try it.” I did it for him, but it was icky and just wrong. I’d glide back to his right after a little time spent on the left and it was fine. Sometimes Shane would block me from getting over to his right side and it turned into our little game. You could catch us running around the streets of Manhattan with him trying to cut me off and me making a beeline for buildings, so I could get over to his right. We would dodge people, jump over dog leashes and cause quite a stir. It was great fun and we’d just laugh and end up giggling. I was just so thankful that Shane laughed with me and not at me. Of course, there was some mocking-he was entitled.
I still had my cushion and things were good. Shane was sleeping over more and spending some weeknights, besides weekends over at my place, and we were two peas in a pod, see-even. One evening he caught me doing one of my customs. I never intended to tell anyone about this custom, not him, let alone you. It was my fault; I was just so foolish to let my guard down. I thought he was engrossed in a video game and I was in the bedroom putting clothes away when he saw me. His voice came out of nowhere and he said, “Did you just twirl?” I about jumped out of my skin. I said, “No, I don’t twirl, that was a spin…a turn. I don’t twirl, there’s a difference.” He gives me a look, and I told him that if I find myself making a half-turn or full-turn in the course of the day, I have to counter-turn in the other direction to make it even. So, if someone behind me called my name and I turned over my left shoulder 180 degrees, then talked to them or waited for them, then turned back to center, I would have to equal that on the other side. The great thing is that I’m flexible enough that I don’t have to complete my counter-turns immediately, but definitely by the end of the same day. Shane was kind of awestruck and said, “Ange, that is strange.” I agreed that I am weird. I also informed him that the turn he just witnessed was one of those moments when I just owed myself a full spin. Mentally, I keep track of what I owe and I’d just felt wrong at that moment, so I repaid myself with a counter-turn. To his credit, that custom was accepted and if he ever saw me do that again, he never let on. What really warmed my heart was that sometimes Shane would spin me in the house, just for fun. He would spin me several times in one direction and then stop and when I said, “Spin me the other way”—he would! What a good man.
Shane and I decided that it was time to move in together, which made me nervous. With constant exposure, how could I keep more of my customs at bay? I wasn’t going to be able to hold back anything more. His messiness was already going to ramp me up. Sadly, things went from thin to thick quickly.
From the start, he devoured everything in sight, left a trail of dirty socks and sticky everywhere. He made Oscar Madison look like Felix Unger. My response to the disappearance of food was to label food, which didn’t work at all. I made the suggestion to him that if he was unsure about what to take, or if he wanted some of a particular specialty item, that he should contact me. Seriously, phone a friend, reach out and text, just use the technology, please! That’s what it’s there for. Okay, well, not exactly. That didn’t go over well. I didn’t help the situation because I would shadow him around the apartment, dashing here with a coaster and elsewhere with a placemat. To add insult to injury, I would pass judgment on how he “cleaned.” I would say, “Hmm, not going to go with a Brillo pad there, huh?” Then I would reclean whatever he had handled. The apartment ended up being a landmine of rules and it wore on him.
And then one night, I came home and I was standing outside the door to our apartment and I just knew that something was wrong. My senses were heightened and the temperature of the air felt different. I knew that something had trespassed on my fortress of solitude. I took a step inside my lair and immediately smelled some sort of cleaner. I dismissed the smell figuring that Shane had mopped. He liked to do that, it was one of his things, and I couldn’t give two shakes about the floors. As I stepped further into the apartment, my head starts to spin and not in the good way. I’m slightly dizzy and feel like the wind has been knocked out of me. Shane has REARRANGED THE WHOLE APARTMENT! I go ballistic and start running around and heaving furniture left and right. Then, I see Shane and I look at him like he’s a stranger. He looks crestfallen. I start growl-yelling, “What were you thinking?!” “How could you do this?!” Then I spit out, “I. Thought. You. Knew. Me!!!” He went from looking beaten, to annoyed, to defiant. And then I knew. I knew that he knew that I would be pissed. He just hoped that I would handle it better and maybe be an adult. Sorry, Shane, afraid not. I was irate, sprouted about five more crazy flags and went further…I just tore him up from the floor to the ceiling and was very unladylike. He threw up his hands and told me that home was starting to feel like “work” for him. He said, “I don’t know if I can do this …” and he walked out.
I just sit there and I’m nervous. I thought that I was trying to change and it either wasn’t happening fast enough, or I wasn’t trying hard enough. Customs helped me through tough times and stress in the past, but Shane was my future.
I’m terrified because I may lose him and I had never thought about what that would look like, feel like, taste like, and it just couldn’t be. To me, Shane was written in my life with permanent marker, and I guess I banked too much on the fact that he would just be there. You can’t do that, there has to be work and effort put in. So, I just sat there and I waited.
But he came back. We sorted it out and naturally…We got married. We did the whole “love is patient, love is kind…” love is bitchy and routinized, “to have, to hold,” to spin, to turn—Happily Evenly After.
Love breaks rules and has helped me to change, grow and relax… somewhat. But Shane has shown me patiently and lovingly that some rules can and should be broken. It’s Shane that makes me even.
Mullins, who was named NCAA Athlete of the Year in 1998, met her husband at a track meet when she was a sophomore. Watch her perform at justange.com.