Paulara Hawkins shares her aspirations: “I just want one of my creations to be the launching pad for another one of my creations, then another. I want to build my own empire. I want to become the African-American Nora Ephron.”
When Leimert Park resident, Paulara Hawkins sees an opportunity, she waste no time in seizing it. After a visit to the Taste of Soul about four years ago, it didn’t take the Texas native long to recognize the potential, not the frustration the event presented. “I love the Taste of Soul but when we have the Taste of Soul it shuts down the whole street—you can’t get anywhere, you can’t do anything,” said Hawkins. “So I said to my neighbors and my friends instead of fighting this, let’s work with it.” The idea to work with it became clear after Hawkins and some friends stopped by Los Angeles City Councilman, Bernard Parks’ section at the Taste of Soul. “Bernard Parks had a section where you could go and sit down and listen to oldies but goodies and me and my friends went by…I think we paid five dollars to get in,” Hawkins recalls. “We sat there all day and just watched people walk by. We watched the show, we listened to old music, we danced to old music, we went and got food and brought it in there, we laughed and we just hung out. Then it hit me. I was like you know what, I could do this at my house, I’m a block away!” she said with a laugh.
Today, what started out as friends taking off on an afternoon adventure has morphed into an unofficial neighborhood block party. “I just approached my neighbors and my friends and said, ‘this is what we’re going to do; we’re going to have a barbeque and we’ll take off, walk over to the Taste of Soul, try a couple of things and then we’ll come back to the house,’” she explained. “So what we do is we go to concerts, listen to the music, we see a couple of things, we visit the vendors, we walk around then when we get tired, we walk back to the house and sit up. We can still hear everything and if somebody does fireworks, we can see them from the front porch and we just have a ball. My goal is to get the whole neighborhood involved so this will be an opportunity to come out and meet your neighbors and speak to your neighbors.”
As demonstrated by Hawkins, events like the Taste of Soul are the perfect venue for people to interact with each other and meet the interesting individuals who live around them. Hawkins herself is just one of the many fascinating residents of Leimert Park. Perhaps if it was not for the Taste of Soul and the impromptu turned formal gathering it spawned in her neighborhood, many of her neighbors wouldn’t know of the hilarious artist and budding playwright right next door.
“I started out at the Steve Harvey comedy house in Dallas and Erykah Badu was a waitress there. Steve Harvey and Erykah told me to quit my job and become a comedienne. I told them, ‘I had medical, dental, a 401k, I ain’t quitting my job,’” she says with a laugh. “I became a regular at Steve’s Comedy house in Dallas. I used to get standing ovations, I was incredibly funny and then I did Showtime at the Apollo and they booed me for the first time in my life. I said ‘Oh Lord,’ I can’t do comedy anymore. I went back one more day but I decided I wasn’t funny any more and I quit doing it.” Luckily, Paulara had other talents that have been able to sustain her after she left her comedy career behind. “I’ve always been a writer,” she says matter of factly. “One of the reasons I was doing standup was so that I could into the clubs free and tell comedians, ‘I got a script for you.’ I must have told Chris Tucker 150 times I had a script for him and he ain’t read nothing,” she says jokingly. Hopefully all that will change soon.
Paulara just premiered her first play, “She Who Finds A Husband.” The play about a church mother who gets more than she bargained for when she plays matchmaker for the singles in her church, initially started out as a staged reading back in December of 2012 at the Museum of African American Art at the Baldwin Hills Macy’s. However, after many phone calls and standing ovations, the play finally premiered this past September. The play was written by Hawkins based on the non-fiction Christian novel, of the same name, that was written by her close friend, E.N. Joy. “I went to see a play about three years ago that was absolutely horrible. I finished the play and I was in the car and I was calling my friend while at the same time she was calling me,” she remembers. “She was trying to tell me she had seen a play that wasn’t good and I was calling her because I saw a play that wasn’t good. We both decided then we could write a play. So what we did was she wrote the book and I took the book and turned it into a play. It was a collaboration.” “She Who Finds A Husband,” is the first book in a series and there are more novels and plays based on other characters to come, says Hawkins.
In addition to being a playwright, Paulara is also a novelist and plans to use her creative talents to some day take over the world. “My ultimate is to get paid for what I do—I want multiple streams of income,” states Hawkins. “I just want one of my creations to be the launching pad for another one of my creations, then another. I want to build my own empire. I want to become the African-American Nora Ephron.”