(Originally published on The WILD Magazine November 19th, 2015)
“I’m the motherfucker rookie of the year.” The bold declaration as heard on 2012’s “Wavvy,” the debut single from Michael Quattlebaum’s alter ego Mykki Blanco. We’ve seen the avant-garde music maker graduate from rookie status with confidence, but it’s not been without bruises and bleeding along the way. Nowadays, Blanco serves up subversive disruption simply by being. He’s raw, he’s sharp, he’s challenging. Indeed, there are but a few as convincing in delivering such progressive beats.
What attracted you to the idea of investigative journalism? You’ve always been a writer but, at some point, there was a thought of going in a new direction.
That was a personal message I posted on my Facebook at a time that I was going through a confusing period. Writing is my passion, it is how I stay sane, and it’s a really spiritual thing for me actually. Songwriting is fun and there is a dimension of that I love because performing is also a next level high for me—I will perform until I can’t walk anymore and knowing my body, I most likely will always be able to walk. I’m a very physical person I’ll be 100 years old on stage. I’m very holistic, even before the HIV, and especially after I’ve always eaten superfoods. Stuff normal people are too scared to eat but that actually kinda keep you insanely healthy. Raw garlic, blue green algae, wheatgrass. The point is I was depressed, I was at the peak of a depression; I had just signed this amazing deal with !K7 records and wanted to become open about my life for my love life and spiritually but felt that wasn’t possible in music and entertainment. I didn’t know if I could be the “first one to be open about it and still be publicly accepted to create and produce art and music.” It was dark, but oh boy do I see how wrong I was…and how times have changed…and how much the universe supports truth!
Where does Michael ends and Mykki begin? Is Mykki an extension of your own self or an artistic concept and form of expression?
I’ve gotten this question from the beginning of my career. This whole question lies in this weird position contemporary society has chosen to take on entertainers since Beyoncé said “Sasha Fierce” was an alter ego. Mykki Blanco is a stage name, like Rick Ross, like Goldie Hawn. Let’s not get too deep people. It’s a stage name.
In the beginning, were you purposely out to provoke, to tackle perceptions of gender?
No, in 2010 and 2011, I was a gay man living as a transgender woman. Not biologically but aesthetically, which then became my reality. I’ve never had to try to provoke; society is conservative, even mundane things offend people when it comes to dismantling sexism, homophobia, and white supremacy. Often times very ordinary things piss people off. Normalcy and acceptance is what these people fear, not someone trying to provoke, trying to shock. That behavior is nostalgic now.
In a way, people got used to seeing you in drag, or as a crossdresser, like you were living inside a fantasy. Why did you feel the need to change things up in your lifestyle?
I still dress in drag, but I’ve never been a part of drag culture. I’ve always been the feminine image of what I’ve wanted to be, whether that was butch femme or glamorous, or the It-girl, or the cold arty chanteuse, or the southern black femme, or the California hippie child; I’ve always expressed my femininity from within, my own traits. I can give a look, and people obsessed with the stereotypical view of drag culture may desperately try to find a woman they think I look like (trust me people have done this and it’s so desperate) but most of the time I try and look like “Mykki Blanco.” I know I’ve nailed a look when no one says I look like any other woman but me!
Were you worried at all as to people getting who you are, stripped of wigs and makeup and high heels?
The trick was letting people realize I wasn’t using drag as a gimmick. It felt like a battle at first to get people to understand that I will be me and you’re going to see me as I really am. Yes, because naturally most people like entertainers to be one dimensional, they like to be able to easily target who you are and what your about, but I had to change how I viewed. People expect me to represent something, and I think with some maturity now and with how I’ve controlled my image, people understand if I am being femme or not. It’s not a gimmick, it’s how Mykki is being today or on this tour or etc. I mean, I’m a showgirl you’re never gonna see onstage with a look—only if were six songs into my show and I’ve said, Fuck it, the look is coming off!
One of the most compelling things I’ve seen is your “Baby Steps” essay. You wrote, “I guess my job is to be some sort of light, to give people an incredible and magical experience, to elevate them beyond their own troubles, just for one evening. But at the end of that evening, I’m often kept thinking, what about me?” Let’s talk about fear of feeling lonely, which is fair to say, is common in the gay community.
I’ve just started to really feel this change, with how I’ve become open with my life. I’m a spiritual person and I’m a person who seeks love, so there is this part of my personality that constantly thinks, Who do I have to become to attract what I want in my life? But, what I’ve realized, is that the spiritual path is not a destination, there is no point A to point B. Loving and being genuine and honest are qualities of a lifestyle you strive to implement everyday, not just when you think it will benefit you. I’ve come to realize that my “fixing myself” will always be a continual thing, it will always be something that I should be doing. Since that’s a constant, when it comes to love, I need to be tell myself: I am enough. I am perfect as I am. I strive continually to be a better person but that striving doesn’t mean there is something currently wrong with me, no, I am good enough. I am good enough and worthy of real love.
We live in a world that’s rapidly changing, but I don’t see much change in music, especially when it comes to accepting and encouraging openly gay performers to do their creative thing freely. Do you feel the industry is having trouble with that issue?
Yeah, but the industry is only responding to their audience. The American music industry is run by straight heterosexual men with lineups targeted for straight heterosexual men, and the people attending these shows are straight heterosexual men. This isn’t some feminist position I’m taking, it’s the truth. American music is SUPER STRAIGHT AND SUPER MALE in almost EVERY GENRE.
You’re turning 30. Are you excited about what’s next for you? What are you looking forward to experience personally in the near future?
I’ve started to eat way more raw food and I exercise more. Most people don’t believe 29 or that I’m gonna be 30. I think it’s hot actually. I’m living transparently; I’ve entered the most awesome part of my life.
Finally, what is your WILD Wish?
My wish is to be an example to the people who look up to me, not as a role model, not as a guide or a teacher, but something even simpler. You don’t have to let society fuck with you. Be smart, and keep dreaming, success CAN be an overnight condition, but often times it’s cumulative. If you keep going you will be successful. That is something that is not arguable, it is the truth.