music: "Celebrity Skin" by Hole .... "don't make me over - I'm all I wanna be ... "
First -- I want to thank Amiyah (pronounced AH-MY-AH) Mizrahi for the interview. I truly believe stories like Amiyah's and Brenda's prove that stereotypes are useless. Both Amiyah and Brenda "keep it real" because life in the ballroom scene, or being transgender, is not gummy bears and dew drops -- they are HONEST and that is as positive as you can get. There was a moment in Amiyah's interview that I felt was truly universal and not particular, which was when Amiyah said, “I just want to be normal, I want to blend-in.” That is a statement of TRUTH because … isn’t that what we all want? Even if we do “fit-in” technically, many of us feel so disconnected from each other and want some sort of affirmation. Even the alternative punk rock kid wants to fit-in with her, or his, crowd. We ALL want to be heard and respected for the qualities that we work on everyday to make us better and put us on our journey ... enjoy!
Remember in the late ‘90s when Beyonce and company first hit the scene? Beyonce was all the rage, applause and considered to be the “next big thing.” In the subculture of the ballroom scene that is exactly who Amiyah Mizrahi is – Baby Beyonce. She is a “new girl” so to speak and just started walking balls in late October. She has snatched trophies and cash for her category, which is “femme queen face”– where femme queens who have the best “face” (bone structure, teeth, skin, etc.) battle to win. She has sat down legends in the scene and continues to make a name for herself. However, just like fame in Hollywood, fame in the ballroom scene can come with a little drama … from people questioning how much plastic surgery she’s had to heightened emotions that sometimes breaks-out into altercations.
Amiyah’s story is not just about ballroom, actually ballroom is a small piece of it, considering she and her family survived the horror of Hurricane Katrina, which has obviously given her some insight and knowledge well beyond her eighteen years. Amiyah opens up about her new “fame” in the ballroom scene, her transition to being a woman and the impact that Hurricane Katrina has had on her life.
In the small amount of time you’ve been in the ballroom scene, how would you describe it?
Amiyah: I like the ballroom scene. I think it’s very whimsical, it allows you to go out and enjoy yourself … but it’s very a competitive in a way and I think sometimes it brings out the worst in people. They just take it way too seriously – it should just be for fun, or a hobby, not anything that serious.
There have been moments when you’ve walked categories and people got really worked up. What is your reaction when emotions are heightened and fights break out?
Amiyah: The way I feel about it is, it’s just a ball … it’s a hobby, it’s something to do, it’s extracurricular. I have so many other problems going on just with everyday life. I’m not going to make this hobby another problem in my life. When they fight – I just don’t see what the big deal is. People take things seriously for different reasons, but when it’s not fun anymore – I’m not going to do it.
You are fairly young, 18; do you think there is such thing as being too young to be in the ballroom scene?
Amiyah: I don’t think so; I look at the ballroom scene, especially for homosexual youth, as an outlet. A lot of us aren’t accepted by our family -- that’s why a house is more or less like our family, which is why we have family figures in the house. It’s a place to go to be accepted. I think if it’s done in a positive way and atmosphere, you can’t be too young. Of course not like ten or eleven, but I think anything from seventeen and up, or somewhere around there is good.
What’s been your favorite moment so far in the scene?
Amiyah: My favorite moment was at the P.O.C.C. ball in April. It’s so funny because I was just watching it today with some friends and that was really the highlight of my “ballroom career” so far ….
Were you transitioning to be a woman before you got in the ballroom scene?
Amiyah: It just so happened I was in the ballroom scene while it happened. I had been doing drag for two solid years. I played in it since I was 15, but really doing it consistently from a year to two years. When I was in the scene I decided that I wanted to live my life as a woman everyday, so I transitioned to becoming a femme queen.
There’s been some debate if you have, if you haven’t, or how much work [plastic surgery] you've had done -- do you want to clear it up?
Amiyah: Yeah, I’m open with that because I feel like people think I’ve had a lot more work than what I actually had. The only work I actually had done was cheek work, but it really wasn’t for the face category. It was just me living my life everyday as a woman; I just feminized my face more. There’s rumors that I’ve had eye snatches and my nose done – no. I guess it’s just good genes.
Being a femme queen do you feel pressure to have plastic surgery?
Amiyah: Not pressure, but I think it does influence you in the scene. To me, all femme queens want to be the quintessential woman, like perfect. I think that’s what gets us what we say “clocked” – that’s what gives us away because women aren’t perfect. We have the option of creating our own selves and I don’t want to be perfect …I just want to be normal, I want to blend in.
Is it challenging connecting with other men being a femme queen?
Amiyah: Not at all, I don’t deceive people … it’s not like I walk around shouting I am a transsexual, but I’m more or less one of those people who are content being by myself. If someone does come along that I do find interesting, or I want to take things further, then communication is the key. As long as you’re honest with the person things can work out fine. I’m in a relationship now so I haven’t had a problem.
How did your family react to you being transgender?
Amiyah: At first it was a big change …. I came out my sophomore year in high school. They took being gay okay, but cross-dressing -- it really bothered my dad, not so much my mom … my dad was just having a hard time dealing with it. After awhile you have to do what makes you happy. In the long run you are all you have. That’s how it is, and I don’t regret it. I have a story, I know how hard it was for me to come out and do the things that I wanted to do. I just want to help others and say, it’s okay. I want me and everyone else who is in my situation to get the recognition we deserve.
You now live in Atlanta due to Hurricane Katrina … if you could walk me through how Hurricane Katrina has affected you and your family’s life.
Amiyah: Basically, by living in New Orleans we have a lot of hurricane watches, it just so happens right before Hurricane Katrina there was another hurricane that was suppose to hit us and everybody evacuated the first time, but nothing happened. So, when they said Hurricane Katrina was supposed to hit we -- I know my family wasn’t the only one -- and almost everybody took it for granted. I was actually at a friend’s house; my parents told me to come home, pack an overnight bag and said we’re going to my cousin’s house in Atlanta, Georgia. We left everything …. we took our dogs, an outfit, or two, and just went. It was devastating because the first time we didn’t prepare and not pack everything is when the Hurricane actually hit. To sit down, watch the news and see the roof being ripped off your house … it’s just so hurtful. I think about what I should’ve brought, or what I could’ve brought – imagine one day, waking up and leaving your house with basically what you have on and not being able to have any of your personal possessions. It’s just hard …
How are you and you’re family dealing with the one-year mark coming up shortly -- how do you move on, so to speak?
Amiyah: We’ve moved on – I don’t want to say everything happens for a reason, but you can’t dwell on unfortunate events … it was horrible and it took us awhile, but I thank God. My family and I tried to get some of our personal possessions back, but we’ll never have what we had. My parents just bought a house in Louisiana, about four hours away and I have my own apartment in Atlanta. We’re just trying to get back on track, but I can’t complain – we’re making it.
Do you think you would ever go back to New Orleans and live?
Amiyah: I don’t like to ever say never ... but I wouldn’t go back to live in New Orleans. Logically, if that is a hurricane prone city and after what I just went through, I wouldn’t want to go back, reestablish myself and then have to do it again five years later.
Do you think they should rebuild New Orleans?
Amiyah: I think they should, there is no place like New Orleans. It should be part of a tourist attraction, they should rebuild it just for that, but as far as people living there … I guess it’s a chance you take.
Back to the ballroom scene - is there a ball you are looking to walk in the future?
Amiyah: Actually as of now I’m just focused on everyday life, like work and everything else. The ballroom scene has been fun, but recently it’s just been so much drama that I’m going to give it a rest for awhile. I will probably walk a category around January of next year, which is around my birthday. Other than that – unless it is like a humongous grand prize, I won’t be participating. I’ll go, but as far as a walking, I don’t think so.
Are there any other categories outside of femme queen face you would consider walking?
Amiyah: I’m going to venture into realness, but I just feel like even though I am a femme queen – I am a “junior” femme queen and I wouldn’t want to start walking realness until I’ve developed completely as a woman. Also, sex siren but it is the same reason for both -- I feel like I have so much more growth to do.
Who are some of your favorites in the scene?
Amiyah: I really look forward to seeing Sania Ebony – she kind of draws you into her. She is one of those people when she hits the floor, it is all eyes on her and you want to see what she’ll do next.
What is life like for you outside of the scene?
Amiyah: I’m basically a homebody – I really just enjoy relaxing at home and working on myself. I do work, I’m a waitress at an Italian restaurant not too far from my house and I do freelance make-up. I’ve been building my portfolio and I’ve been inquiring with MAC about working there so that’s in the making – hopefully that works out!
Why do think you are the “it-girl” so to speak in the scene right now?
Amiyah: Honestly, I can’t tell you … I just wake-up everyday and try to see what makes Amiyah happy. All of the attention comes from that and I appreciate it. I’m not going to say I don’t like it, but I just be myself and I guess that works.
You can check out Amiyah at http://www.myspace.com/amiyahscott!
Also, pasted below is a clip of Amiyah in action and winning grand prize for femme queen face at the P.O.C.C. ball in April '06! If you can't see the video please CLICK HERE.
Labels: Ballroom, Transgender