INTERVIEW: Mya, D.C.’s Ghetto Superstar

Gurgled though streams of water, the words echo. They slip slowly with the steam, under the bathroom door and into the hall. Soap circles the sinkhole as the words escape. Eyes clenched, I prepare, ripping down the showerhead with both hands. As the roommates begin to beat the door, begging my silence, I raise my voice, basking in fiery crescendo:

“Ghetto superstar, that is what you are
Comin’ from afar, reachin’ for the stars
Run away with me, to another place
We can rely on each other, uh-huh
From one corner, to another, uh-huh”

Don’t lie, you did it, too. OK, so maybe not last week, but you know where I’m coming from. This one infectious hook is all it took to turn a tap prodigy into a full-fledged pop princess. Mya (born Mya Harrison) has been doing the showbiz thing since she was a tiny tap-dancer, making her way on smaller stages. Nowadays, she’s a renowned pop singer, famous for collaborative cuts including “Ghetto Superstar” and “Lady Marmalade,” as well as two successful full-length albums. So what’s the secret, Mya? How does a D.C. dancer grab a nation’s attention?

As Mya herself explained in a recent Hatchet interview, success often means catering to a very certain aesthetic.

“Sex sells, it’s a fact,” Mya said. “It catches the eye right away.”

Of course, Mya’s success is not based solely on slinky outfits, but as the singer herself admitted, sex appeal is important in the music business.

“Is love at first sight very true?” said the singer, explaining the presence of scantily clad women in music videos. “No, infatuation is.”

So what makes Mya different from other pop divas? She is paying attention to the way her actions affect people, and she actually cares.

“There is a lot of pressure on the youth to look at certain way, speak a certain way,” Mya said. “This is the age when they’re trying to find themselves, and they turn to media to feel qualified as a human being, which is very unhealthy.”

So how does Mya reconcile her pop-star status and her concern for her audience? One way is by working on the advisory board of The Secret to Self-Esteem, a group dedicated to helping young girls become strong women.

“It can be very stressful trying to dance like a diva or a rap star,” Mya said in a quiet, unassuming whisper. “It’s just impossible to buy diamonds and new shoes every day. I went through it. It is unhealthy to certain youth who don’t have opportunities or activities to be involved in.”

So she does care about the kids, but Mya is also out to have a little fun with her image. She’s a spokeswoman for Tommy Hillfiger and even has a shade of lipstick bearing her name.

Mya, now only 24, admits she still has some growing up to do herself. She’s focused on music right now, but she said it has never been her true passion.

“Right now, the focus is establishing myself as a recording artist,” she said. “Music right now is first. Broadway is definitely something in my future because that’s what I was originally focused on before I got my recording contract.”

Born in Maryland, Mya spent her early years traipsing around D.C. in search of a dance career. She made appearances at the Kennedy Center at a young age before moving to New York to study dance. Mya speaks with passion about her musical career, but when she speaks of the stage, she’s almost giddy.

“I would call it very spiritual on a live stage,” Mya said about the thrill of performance. “If something’s not written in stone, there’s real interaction with the crowd.”

Perhaps in an attempt to move beyond the world of R&B, Mya recently made her screen debut, appearing in the celebrated movie adaption of Broadway’s “Chicago.”

Maya said she is currently reading through a few scripts in hopes of once again adorning the silver screen, as she enjoyed working on Chicago. Mya may light up the stage and screen but, as the star stated, such pursuits leave little time for anything else.

What does she do in her free time, that is when she’s not singing, acting or dancing?

“Not much,” Mya said. “I hang out. I have friends. It’s hard to be focused and committed.”

Mya might be committed to her work, but what about her love life? According to Mya, she’s not quite ready to do the whole relationship thing.

“You have to give 100 percent,” she said, addressing her work. “Even though I say I’m serious about who I’m seeing, it’s almost impossible to show the affection and give the time that’s expected in a true relationship.”

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