The real person behind the personality RoxyOTM, the emceeing maven and nightlife guru.
Text by Kelli Gratz | Image by Jonas Maon
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,” she says. Recently, despite a calendar full 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: interior structure of design and woodworking.
Instantly recognizable by her spiked, jet-black hair and business-meets-party swag, Bunda first gained notoriety as an emcee wunderkind more popularly known as Roxy on the Mic (Roxy OTM). After moving home from Northwest University Bible college to be closer to her family, Bunda found herself at a crossroads: She could stay in accounting, which was where she found consistent work, or she could risk it all to be Roxy OTM full time. She took the latter journey, traveling through the United States as an emcee. “I didn’t have a plan,” she recalls. “A two-month tour turned into a three-year tour. It was fun, but I sort of became a slave to Roxy, where all my other parts were put on hold.”
Since then, Bunda, now 34, has managed to stay in the moment without sacrificing the rest of her identity. Roxy is her platform in the nightlife scene, but it’s Bunda who goes above and beyond. She spends her days working as a youth therapist for one of the largest health and human service agencies in the state, as well as with various nonprofits specializing in youth grief and trauma care, social development, emotional support, advocacy, and transitioning into adulthood. “Emceeing is a great platform for the work I do,” she says. “It’s helped make fundraising easier, and the youth really look up to me.” She even has plans to create her own nonprofit certification program for teens in the foster care system. “The program puts them through a series of courses related to the trade they are interested in,” she says. “Instead of starting from square one, they will have these courses under them, making it easier for them to get a job.”
Bunda’s careers empowering youth and rallying the masses are rooted in her own experience growing up in Halawa and Honolulu. As an adolescent, she often wondered 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 felt like I had to work harder—prove myself so that I wouldn’t become stereotyped.” In confronting issues like racial and sexual identity, and reflecting on the generation gap she feels between herself and youth, Bunda is motivated to push ahead. Be it selling Primo Beer, hosting parties, leading worship, or acting as water girl at construction sites, this Renaissance woman proves she can easily lead the charge for a wiser and better community—one where people throw out the stereotypes and see people for people. For Bunda, Roxy OTM will always be merely one expression of all that she is: a ferocious businesswoman, passionate nonprofit entrepreneur, humble role model, and a powerhouse soul with a knack for ushering in celebrations.
If you only have a few nights in Hawai‘i, Roxy OTM suggests barhopping to a few key nighttime hotspots. “Start your night off at Café Duck Butt, where you can down watermelon soju from a freshly halved watermelon pitcher, sing some karaoke, and nosh on Korean bar comfort food—a perfect way to prep your tummy for a full night of drinking. Next, head over to M Nightclub, with 7,000 square feet of space, which has hosted DJ Vice, Lil Jon, and Diplo. The bottle service and special effects lighting will have you on your feet all night long. For a nightcap, make your way to The Study at the Modern Honolulu. Or, if you’re looking to take the party up a notch, head upstairs to Addiction Nightclub, owned by the same masterminds behind DBA in Los Angeles. “The music is always on point,” she says. “My suggestion is to put your hands in the air and just dance.” Get her full advice here.