This young stage performer has only been doing drag for a few short months before becoming a finalist in the esteemed Lady Liberty competition. Let’s meet the queen and get to know about her life as a trans stage actress, her response to the recent “Drag Race” winner, what she’s got in store for us next week, and the interesting origin of the name “Mariyea!“
Thotyssey: Hello Mariyea! It’s September and it feels like autumn already… is this a good thing or a bad thing?
Mariyea: Thank you for having me! I’m so excited for autumn; I think it’s my favorite season by far. The breeze is everything–watching the trees change truly boosts my serotonin. And I don’t know, I just feel more centered in myself during the fall.
Plus, it’s the perfect drag weather! Which brings us to congratulate you on all your success in the Lady Liberty competition so far! As of this past Thursday, you advanced to next week’s finale. How has that whole process been for you–fun, stressful, educational, etc?
Thank you so much! The process has truly challenged me in every sense of the word. I’m only two months into drag, and Lady Liberty is teaching me so much so quickly. Overall, I’m really grateful for these past few weeks showing me that I am capable of more than I give myself credit for. I can be really hard on myself, and extremely particular about what I expect of me. This competition has really helped me to let go and live in the experience of it all. I have a blast every week, and it really means the world to me to be so well-received.
Where are you from originally, and what were your early creative interests?
I’m originally from Columbus, Ohio and I’ve been here for about five years. I feel like I literally twirled out of my mother, and haven’t stopped since. That’s to say, I’ve been performing for as long as I can remember! I started singing in church when I was young, performed in school plays and musicals, played “Just Dance” almost day. And it all kind of led me to here.
Was it partially your identity as a young trans woman that brought you here to NYC, or was it more about pursuing performing opportunities, or otherwise?
I came here for school, actually. I went to NYU and studied in Tisch. Something about my experiences here really forced me to really be honest with myself. With transitioning, I feared the idea for so long until I realized it was my only choice. It took me a very long time to embolden myself to just live for me, and this was like my big first step. And it’s crazy, because I feel like that has further empowered me as a performer.
You’ve already done your fair share of stage acting. I see you were in a well-received play by Nazareth Hassan called Untitled (1 – 5) at The Shed.
Yes! Untitled was everything… and such an honor to perform, really. The process coincided with the start of my transition, so it was quite monumental for me. I really discovered freedom as a performer, so I will definitely carry that show with me forever.
The Shed is such a beautiful space to have a performance. The cast and creative team are some of the most mind-blowing and talented people that I know. It is always a privilege to work on anything with or by Nazareth; he’s truly a prolific artist. I think acting will always have my heart; it was my way into performing and self-discovery.
You must have some thoughts regarding UK producer Cameron Mackintosh’s much criticized recent statement, where he claims that casting trans actors in theatrical roles is just a “gimmick.”
Oh, absolutely. I think people fear boundaries being cluttered, and what it means to actually see humanity in someone so drastically different from yourself. I think thoughts like Cameron’s are representative of people who are uncomfortable with their worldview being challenged. The theater, in theory, should be a space where everything exists. We [trans/enby folx] exist, therefore our place in theater, performance and art in general is anything but a gimmick… it’s a necessity. I did not have the privilege of seeing media that reflected a world where I could be trans or non-binary. It’s so important to me that we continue to make visible and support the marginalized artists and stories that so many people need to hear. And those who don’t understand that should kindly pass the torch to those that do.
You said you’ve only been doing drag for two months! How did you discover that world?
I’ve always wanted to do drag, from the time I moved here up until when I started. I held myself back though, because I was too nervous to see myself in the process; I didn’t have the courage to welcome people into my growth. But something about the past year and transitioning has really helped me to love and accept myself in every capacity, so I decided to just dive in and take the chance… and it has been a dream come true.
Where does the name “Mariyea” originate from?
So, my mom tried to combine her name with my dad’s–his name is Maurice, and hers is Tonya. She didn’t want to name me “Mauriya,” so she named me Mariyea instead! I hated it when I was younger, because no one could pronounce it and everyone thought I was a girl… which, they were right, haha! But I made it my drag name, just as a little reminder that the power I feel in drag and in performing is always available to me.
A lot of your stage dancing is vogue and ballroom inspired. Are you part of that world at all?
I’ve been wanting to walk balls forever, and just haven’t conquered the nerves. Drag is helping me build up that confidence, and I intend to get out on the floor soon. I’m always inspired by–and in awe of–the femme queens of ballroom. Their contribution to and foundation of modern queer culture is undeniable. I try to channel them in all of my performances!
You’ll surely be a star of that world too! By the way, how cool is it that Kylie Sonique Love has just become our first trans winner of a season of Drag Race? It seems like just yesterday when RuPaul was discussing how trans drag performers shouldn’t compete on the show.
It’s so well-deserved; [Kylie] killed this entire season, and I’m so very happy for her! The contention between trans bodies and drag has always been very late and tired. Trans people are and have always been so influential to drag, and that’s just without question to me. Identifying as trans and non-binary, I think it’s really important for me to exemplify that the art form is for anyone. But I will say, Kylie’s win definitely excites me to see how things will shift for the trans and enby dolls in the drag community.
So, can you give us any spoilers regarding your Lady Liberty finale performance on Thursday? So exciting!
I’m definitely trying something a little out the box, and I hope the audience is ready for it. There may be a live component, and you can always expect a little twirl or two with me!
Good luck and have fun! In closing… what was your Song of the Summer?
“Overthinking IT,” by Willow.
Check Thotyssey’s calendar for Mariyea’s upcoming appearances, and follow her Instagram.