A big talent in a little package, singer and actress Mya has made her name in a variety of fields, from platinum albums to placing second on the ninth season of the hit show “Dancing With the Stars.” ShockYa recently had a chance to talk one-on-one to the 32-year-old multi-hyphenate, about the new-to-DVD romantic comedy “The Heart Specialist,” her thoughts on sex tapes (celebrity and otherwise), her view of changes to the music industry over the past decade, and what she’s doing with her free time. The conversation is excerpted below:
ShockYa: It’s hard for me to believe that your first album was released more than a decade ago. [In that time], the music industry has changed a lot, with digital downloads and all that stuff. Does that impact how you view music and the creative process, given the nature of those changes?
Mya: There’s a positive and negative side to any business. There’s the corporate world and then there’s the creative side of music. I find it has its benefits regarding the Internet and fans — getting connected, and being able to promote something at the touch of a button or keyboard. Uploading music and being able to edit things with all kinds of software — technology has definitely progressed and changed over the course of just a decade. I remember on my first album I recorded to tape and an ADAT machine, which are pretty much obsolete now. (laughs) Now I work pretty much with ProTools, and it’s pretty fun, creatively. Social networking is also one of those powerful positives. The downside is how it’s affected businesses, and the risks that they take in investment dollars. They may be a little gun-shy, and chase after things that are already independently making noise, which is usually 100 percent on the artist, financially. And you find a lot more singles deals instead of albums coming out, where you may have more artists with one single, or maybe three if they’re lucky. And they’re never really heard from again, because it’s just a fast-paced business, and a lot (business) people jump on what’s making noise out of fear. They’re afraid that albums aren’t selling as much, but there are still plenty of albums selling, both physically and digitally. There’s a great compilation (in those numbers). Creatively, I’m not in a position where I have the pressure of a label, because I’ve been independent since 2007, and putting out albums since 2008 for myself. But I’m sure major artists feel the backlash in [more pronounced] ways.
ShockYa: You got your start in music, but you also worked product endorsement deals from a very young age. Do you think of acting and everything else as an adjunct and sidecar, if you will, to singing, or do you just think of yourself foremost as an entertainer, encompassing many different mediums?
Mya: Well, I’m just an artist and entertainer. I love to create, everything from drawing to engineering and the playing of an instrument. I’m kind of all over the place and scatterbrained when it comes to what I love to do, because it entails so many things in one project. I enjoy that. Singing was the platform as far as how people initially viewed me — as a recording artist. But there were so many other things that I did before I got a record deal. But I love being a part of projects that include acting, singing and dancing — then I’m really living. That’s a natural high. Those projects (incorporating all three) are rare, but they do exist, and I ultimately think all artistic endeavors are kind of complementary of one another.
ShockYa: “The Heart Specialist” is a kind of unusual blend of memoir and romantic comedy, and in it you play Brian J. White’s ex-girlfriend. How many days did you shoot, and what was that work like?
Mya: Oh, just a couple days. I took a couple of meetings with the director, Dennis Cooper, one-on-one. And my dad and I met with him a couple of times as well. This was way back in 2006. Brian is pretty easy on the eyes, but it’s a little difficult to have a love scene with a guy that could be my brother, too. He kind of resembles certain family members. So I think the hardest part of that character was having my dad behind the camera, where the director was and watching me do this. He said he had to leave the room, that he couldn’t look at his baby girl in lingerie, playing a woman, as I am, and having an actual relationship take place, even though it is acting. He didn’t want to be confronted with it. Other than that it was a breeze. I have a very small part.
ShockYa: Your character, Valerie, does have a private intimate tape, I guess you’d say, that she’s trying to get back. In contrast to that, what do you make of the modern-day culture of sex tape celebrities?
Mya: Well, I tend to look at things in a balanced format, I’m a Libra. (laughs) I commend those people that have that bravery I just don’t have to reveal their entire body to the world. I wish I did have that confidence. (laughs) In a way, I’m shocked. And in another way I’m commending and praising. But there’s a backlash to anything that you do, and I’m sure people are very critical. Those are the things that tend to get more attention than philanthropy. (laughs) Sad to say, but people will spend more time praising or even criticizing, just giving attention to things like sex tapes. And they can make or break a person; they attract a certain type of energy, I think. When you sell yourself in a certain kinds of light you just have to be concerned with that, but to each his own. Whatever floats your boat. (laughs) I can’t get with it myself. I could never see myself putting out a sex tape of my own, I’m not that brave.
ShockYa: But even “sexting,” with all these hacked celebrity phones —
Mya: (interrupting) Oh no, not even that. I don’t think anyone is protected, with iChat and what not. I think about those things all the time if I’m going to be in a relationship. And even marriage — I mean, when divorce happens, even if they’re private, what happens to those sex tapes? (laughs)
ShockYa: Maybe split custody?
Mya: (laughs) With the blink of an eye and the touch of one button these days, it’s all over the world.
ShockYa: In the movie they have that conversation, though — your character says “my tape,” and [White] says, “It’s our tape.”
Mya: Yeah, [they can] ruins jobs, endorsement deals, reputations. You can’t walk in church after you have a sex tape out. (laughs) And it would feel a little strange when I’m talking to young girls about self-esteem. Valerie maybe doesn’t really appreciate that at first, but she learned a lesson, and eventually White’s character learns a lesson too.
ShockYa: You did so well on “Dancing With the Stars” (placing second in season nine). Is there an informal fraternity or sorority of the contestants? Do you still follow the show?
Mya: I haven’t really followed it so far this year, but I check in from time to time when I can, which usually means when I come home. And my mom watches it all the time, so she’ll keep me updated if I can’t catch an episode or even a season. It’s really a great family show, and people have “Dancing With the Stars” night — well, the ladies, anyway — which are these gatherings, as men do with sports.
ShockYa: What else are you up to, personally and professionally?
Mya: Right now I’m recording my eighth studio album, which is my fourth independent album, and I’m training for a marathon — the ING NYC marathon, taking place November 6. I’m running for Team Animal League, and AnimalLeague.org/RunMya is my sponsor page. I’ve worked with the Northshore Animal League for several years now, and been a spokesperson for them, as an animal lover and pet owner. They’re the world’s largest no-kill shelter, and they do all kinds of adoption events every year, so I’m raising money for them along with a team of runners.
ShockYa: Have you run a marathon before?
Mya: No, never. (laughs) I haven’t done a bunch of training. I just started about a month-and-a-half ago, fresh off of ankle surgery in May last year. (laughs) So I’m getting MRIs, and I just came from a bone scan, actually. They’re detecting stress reactions, which could mean a potential stress fracture. So I have to take it very easy during the race, and I may end up finishing in 12 to 14 hours, who knows. But I have a trainer that I’m speaking to virtually, and I got together with him for one session. Otherwise I’m [preparing] independently, as I travel. I have a running schedule, with exactly how much mileage I need to do each day, and how to increase it.
For more information on Mya’s sponsored marathon, visit www.AnimalLeague.org/RunMya
Written by: Brent Simon