Ask MoNique LeRoux her age, and you’ll get more than you asked for. “I’m a cool, smooth, and level 35,” she says. Although LeRoux was born in Lufkin, Texas, she was raised in the Charleston, South Carolina area. But, she’s quick to add, “Texas is better.” Ask how she identifies, and her quick wit leads again. “Certainly not straight!”
LeRoux is a self-described “underground” artist who owns and works at Mo LeRoux Art Studio, a fine-art gallery. “I create amazing art, and currently I am filming, directing, and narrating a docuseries here in Houston called Meet Houston’s Artists.”
She has always wanted to be an artist. As a kid, LeRoux was fascinated by how cartoons were made, so she imagined she would be an animator one day. But this changed when she discovered other media.
“[When] I got my hands on paint, tools, and so much more, I decided to just try it all until I found my favorites.” But instead of exploring her artistic options, she explains, she followed her parents’ advice. “My parents encouraged me to join the military instead.” After completing her service, she became a police officer, a dental assistant, and a firefighter—the last of which, she says, was her favorite.
“I just kept trying to figure out what I liked and what I wanted to do, since I believed being an artist wasn’t a real career or option,” she says. “Some have said to me, ‘I just didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.’ But I knew. I just kept trying everything else, up to the truthful moment of finally becoming an artist.”
And now that she has landed solidly on her dream, she says, “I love it, and I’m happy.” LeRoux can tell that art is “her thing” because whenever she’s creating, her heart becomes incredibly warm and she feels nothing but happiness and peace.
Looking back, LeRoux sees that her different career paths offered her a great deal of perspective. “I understand that mankind needs empathy and compassion, now more than ever before. And finding love within is the key to that.” This is especially true now, amid rising COVID-19 infections, deaths, and protests in the streets over the shameless murders of Black men and women.
But despite everything going on, filming her first docuseries has kept her universe exciting. Each episode tells the stories of 14 local multi-level career artists who continue to create amid COVID-19, economic downfall, and a seriously divided country—all from the vantage point of Houston, Texas. The artists, which include figurative painter Hugo Perez, muralist Amy Malkan, and more, share their stories of making it all work, from painting out of their living rooms and studio spaces across the city to doing pop-up art shows and festivals.
“Each artist has his or her own story of how they got started in Houston, and we visit some of those locations and see how they are managing the mess that is 2020,” LeRoux says.
Episodes of Meet Houston’s Artists will debut on social media at 5 p.m. November 10. People can watch the docuseries trailer on YouTube by searching Mo LeRoux Art. Those who would like to see the making of the film can follow the film’s social-media accounts on Facebook and Instagram at Meet Houston’s Artists.
“I’m excited to do this for the city, its art enthusiasts, and the artists,” she says. “I’m especially excited about the artists in the LGBTQ community that are on board and will be featured in the series.”
LeRoux’s commitment to the LGBTQ community inspired her to create artwork themed around the Houston skyline and the rainbow colors. “I have many LGBTQ friends, and I support their projects and passion,” she notes. “I encourage them to continue to be themselves—it’s what makes us all beautiful.”
LeRoux sees art as vital and inspirational because it can be anything—“all the time, and anywhere.
“It’s important to understand that a lot of things are simply just made up. Some have purpose, and some do not,” LeRoux explains. “Either way, if it’s all made up, it means that you can make things up, too. You just have to find your thing, the things you like to make. Because if you like what you do, you make the world and yourself better.”
In fact, LeRoux says she’s figured out that that is the key to happiness. “Stop doing things you don’t like!”
This article appears in the September 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.