Words by Adrian Samano

Tangerine is a story that follows Sin-Dee, Alexandra, and Razmik. Sin-Dee and Alexandra are transgendered prostitutes hustling the streets of LA while Razmik is an Armenian cab driver with an addiction. Sin-Dee, who has just been released from jail, is in search of her cheating, pimp boyfriend Chester while Alexandra works the streets and tries to draw a crowd into her singing performance at a club later that night. This film is loud, depressing, shameful, funny, and exciting. But it’s just as fun as it is gritty and heart-breaking. It takes you for a ride along the streets of LA and shows you another world within Los Angeles that most people do not see. It’s also astonishing to see the varying degree of emotions that are played on screen. At times, I’m on the edge of my seat while watching Sin-Dee tear apart the town in search of Chester and then I find myself on the opposite side of the spectrum while watching Razmik’s addiction unfold right before my eyes. Tangerine is definitely a unique piece of art, it is indie filmmaking in its most raw and charismatic form.  Not only was it shot using three iPhone 5’s but it takes a look at a group of people that have been vastly under-represented in the film industry.

I was able to sit down and speak with actress Mya Taylor, who plays Alexandra, about the film, LGBT representation in film, and some of her own personal strifes.
Adrian Samano: How was it to make a feature film on an iPhone?

Mya Taylor: It was the same as a regular camera! Whether he [Sean Baker] was holding a banana up filming me with a banana, I didn’t see the difference.

AS: What do you aspire to accomplish in your acting career?

MT: I don’t know, I just go day by day with everything.

AS: Who are your influences? Musically or theatrically.

MT: Musically, Tamar Braxton. My influence as far as acting is Taraji P. Henson. She’s really really gorgeous, really amazing she blew me away the first time in this movie (Taken from Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story) where her kid was abducted by her father and taken to Korea, she broke my heart.

A: How has the response been from your fans, peers and your community overall?

M: Everybody is really sweet and I mean I expect everybody to be nice, like, there’s even people I normally just never talk to that just come up and try to be nice. Theres even people that I felt never did like me and now they’re just trying to be all nice. You know how it goes.

A: What about the response from the film industry?

M: You know, I think the film industry is doing better, you know, being more accepting because my career is going amazing, I mean, here I am developing a T.V. show, I have two other films that haven’t been released yet, I’ll be getting into music sometime later this year like, everything is going really, really well for me so I’m pretty happy about that.

A: That’s really great, can you tell us a little bit about your TV show?

M: No, everybody asks the same thing!

After connecting with Mya some more during our conversation, she eventually let me in on her TV show, “My TV show is basically a lot of the stuff that’s happened to me in my life and a lot of experiences are going into the tv show but it is not a biography of me and Im not going to be the main character. I want to give somebody else a chance, another trans person or a gay person a chance to strut their stuff and make something of themselves, I don’t have to be the lead all of the time.”

A: How do you want to see your work opening doors for members of the LGBT community to be able to create art that is more representative of their own individuality rather than their sexuality?

M: You know, I love what you just said. But I don’t want to just be known as the transgendered actress, I really don’t. I know what I am, I know who I am and everything but I want to be able to play roles that are fitting for a regular woman, you know, so I wish people didn’t see so strongly in gender. I transitioned to be a woman, true enough I am a transgendered woman but I wish people just saw me as a woman. In all of my headlines I notice it always notice ‘The Transgender Actress Is Taking The Oscars By Storm’ you know it’s always something like that. Why does it always have to call out my gender? I just wish and hope theres going to be more roles for other trans people and people stop treating us like we’re a disease or something … people just be mean and don’t want anything to do with us because they’re hateful. But, I believe in this particularly industry, it has opened up a lot.

At this point in the conversation, she spoke about how difficult it was for her get a job due to her being transgender. “I also had issues finding a job in L.A. when I lived there because Im transgender. It’s not based on the way I looked or anything ‘cause I look like a girl but my ID wasn’t changed to female and it still had my other name on it and I couldn’t get it changed because I had a ticket that was $612 that I couldn’t pay for. Plus, to get your name changed and gender changed costs money too and I couldn’t afford it. So I’d go inside of an employers office and they’d see the other name there, they know that I’m transgender and they discriminate. I applied for 186 jobs in one month and did 26 interviews…My life was constantly about applying for jobs and doing interviews. Because I’d be sitting at the bus and then I’d see a Jag or a BMW or an Audi and the people inside of it seemed like they’re happy. They’re going to work and drinking their coffee and then going home to their families and everything, I wanted to do that.  I wanted to get off of my best friends floor, you know, I didn’t want to sleep on the floor any fucking more and have to sneak around the manager so the manager didn’t know that I lived there with her. I got tired of that. … I went through the worst shit, I was sucking dicks and everything to make me some motherfucking money just to eat.”

Following this, we shared some more personal stories and after a while, we decided to change up the mood. I asked Mya if she had any advice for aspiring actors or actresses.

M: Yes, when you go in, you have to focus your tunnel vision on exactly what you want to do and don’t let anything else step in the way at all. Don’t get sidetracked by little bullshit. Just go in and do what you have to do, show your talent and believe in yourself. Don’t listen to what other people have to say about you, feel strongly about your craft.

A: Who are currently listening to?

M: Tamar Braxton! Tamar Braxton has a phenomenal voice … she has the Toni Braxton low range and she has the Mariah Carey high range. I love Tamar Braxton and she’s my influence when it comes to singing and she pushes me to try new things with my voice.

A: What about a favorite film of the year?

M: My favorite movie of the year is Straight Outta Compton. It is so real, so real. Ice Cube did an amazing job and I actually got to meet his son O’Shea Jackson, I didn’t get to meet Ice Cube but I met his son at the Governors Awards . He’s really gorgeous, I felt like I got to meet Ice Cube at the same time. I can totally relate to him though because he was there for his first movie and I was there for my first movie and we’re the same age. I was very starstruck. I was like ‘OMG HE’S SO BEAUTIFUL’.

A: So what’s next for you?

M: I’m working on a short film this march, it’s called “Viva Diva” and it’s very dramatic but I can’t give you too much information about it but I love the role because it’s very dramatic and I get to cry and everything and it’s about love and romance so, Viva Diva lookout!

A: Alright, so tell us a fun fact about yourself.

M: The fun fact about me is ever since I got into this business, nothing has changed me. I still do the same things, hangout with the same people, eat the same food I’m still the same sweet person that I’ve always been OR you can say that I’m in love with James Allan Behnke! Who is my fiancé. … I do plan on making a book about our relationship.

It was an interesting experience watching Mya play her character on screen and then talking to her as if we had known each other for a couple of years. She is rising quickly and should not be slept on. We look forward to seeing and hearing what she comes out with next. Be on the lookout for Viva Diva, her Untitled short film project, and her album.

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