Sarah Granholm Creative | Mya and Me
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Mya and Me

About This Project

It is Saturday night and Brandon is about to change his pants and sneakers to a dress and high heels. Brandon will soon be gone for a few hours and Mya will appear. It is her night. 

We are in the changing room of the club where Mya Crafone is due to perform in a few hours. It is intimate and filled with colour. There is a leather couch against a brick wall. Opposite it is a table filled with make-up and props, in the middle of all the styling products there is a coffee mug and a phone on charge. A few head mannequins take up space in the room, with a disco ball sitting in the corner. Mirrors stand tall, waiting to be of assistance in the process of becoming Mya. A signature signed in lipstick with a kiss smudged below is left on one side of the mirror, a greeting from one drag queen to another.

Outside the changing room the stage is still empty, waiting in silence, no musik is playing yet. Atop Brandon’s head is a black hat with sparkling gems that spell out the name ´Mya,´the only thing that indicates Mya’s existence. Brandon organises his belongings and the transformation begins.

While gluing down his eyebrows, I notice a tattoo of a microphone on his right arm. When pronouncing the name Mya Crafone it sounds like “Microphone”, Brandon explains. Mya’s age is undetermined, “a lady never reveals her age”, Brandon dismisses with a smile. When I first came out at 18, people asked me if I was going to do drag. I said no because it was not something that appealed to me.” Brandon brushed the idea away but encouragement from weekly performers at the club where he worked, led him to eventually give it a try. “I never believed them but when I tried, I instantly fell in love with it. For one night I get to be someone else. I get to take Brandon out of the equation and Mya comes out”. Drag queen ‘Martini Ice’ became his drag mother, the person that guided him and helped him sculpt his queen. Joel Kennedy, known by night as Imogen Nation, was another drag queen that encouraged him to perform. “She actually came up with me on stage, literally drag.”

Joel enters the room, filling it with even more colour and character. The make-up for tonight is impressive and artistic. The outline of a skull begins to appear on Joel’s face. “Going out as a male in costume you made or some wacky make-up will get you stares, even within the gay community, but drag is slowly becoming mainstream so more people think it’s normal. I love performing and it gets me on the stage and interacting with a lot of people”, Joel comments. It is evident that Joel and Brandon are good friends. They laugh, giving each other suggestions about styling as they discuss their upcoming performances. Almost half way through the transformation now, a couple of friends enter the changing room. The atmosphere is light and joyous. Their friends are excited about the performances to take place. Brandon believes that people are beginning to change their stereotypes on gender. In his opinion, to be a drag queen forces people to think twice about it. When questioned why Brandon performs he replies, “I do it for the fun, but I also do it because it’s an escape. I get to escape Brandon’s reality for one night and get Mya out and about. If I am having a bad day and it’s time for me to perform, I can just switch all that off for one night and not let it worry me.”

The transformation progresses, time passes ad the sound of people entering the club draws my attention. The vibration of the music begins to shake the carpeted walls. I hear laughter, people singing along to the songs and feel stomping on the ground. Mya’s presence is not far off. I am curious about her personality, wondering if she is much different from Brandon. Brandon Describes himself as being quite blunt, whereas Mya is Nice and sweet to anyone regardless of whether she likes the person or not. Even if it can be challenging at times to not let Brandon shone through, it is important for him to keep Mya’s personality different, so that Mya and Brandon remain separate. Mya is an act and Brandon is a performer. Mya does not exist outside of her performance. However, Mya is also an extension of Brandon. “She is the reason I can let my creativity flow, she is the reason I can express myself on stage. I am a born performer. I am a singer”, Brandon explains.

Amongst fake eye-lashes, multiple pairs of shoes, sun feathers, wigs and endless colors of eye shadow, Brandon tells me that Mya lets him express his feminine side. According to Brandon, being a drag queen is not only being referred to as “men in dresses”. He likes the charade, the reactions and the ability to make people question his gender. He explains that he is feminine but not nearly as much as Mya. “A common misunderstanding is that people think that because you are a drag queen, you want to be a woman”, Brandon says.

Brandon takes a few steps away from the mirror and studies his look from a distance. He turns his head sideways to examine his profile and then reapplies some eye shadow. I notice that although Brandon is wearing Mya’s make-up, Brandon’s personality is the only one evident. “Mya isn’t there even half way through getting ready. I’m putting on Mya’s face but I’m still very much Brandon. As soon as I do the full transformation, Mya is there and Brandon is gone. I can just let her take over”.

I had entered the room with Brandon, but now he is gone and I am leaving with Mya. All the pieces are put together, the full make-up is applied, the hair is styled, the clothes are on and the high heels make Mya a few inches taller than Brandon. The air breathes of passion and originality. There is an appreciation and a pride for oneself.  I smile as I watch Mya perform, because her performance is out of love and freedom to express herself. The audience is cheering and nobody is judging or looking the other way. Mya is still a new queen, some keep on performing for life, while others only do it for a few months. Which direction Mya will venture is yet to be figured out. “Ask me again in a year and we’ll see if I’m still doing it. I might have gotten it out of my system and Mya might be put away, or she will be there in full force, loving every minute of it”.

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Dance, Documentary, Photo essay