Don’t let the pretty face fool you: Maiysha is more than some trumped-up eye candy—she’s a true artist, doggone it! Forget about the years the New York resident spent gracing major fashion campaigns. Nowadays, Maiysha has a brand-new bag filled with harmonies, melodies and feathery vocals. Her debut effort, “This Much Is True,” offers up her personal take on relationship do’s and don’ts. ESSENCE.com talked shop with the beauty about her recent breakup with her musical collaborator, recovering from binge eating, and breaking old habits.
ESSENCE.COM: You’re new album is intensely personal and passionate. As women, don’t we tend to focus on love, loss and relationships?
MAIYSHA: As women, so much of our personal biography centers around our relationships, parents, children and sisters. When I began my album, I was a young woman in my twenties going through a process of self-discovery. I was in a significant relationship, so my material reflected that. I was at a place where I was very much about wanting to connect with that special someone. I was definitely in a personal space where I needed that affirmation of love and feeling gratified, which I believe is a part of everyone’s story.
ESSENCE.COM: Not too long ago you became single, so the relationship that inspired many of these songs no longer exists. Is it therapeutic or painful to listen to this album in retrospect?
MAIYSHA: It’s not bittersweet, it’s sweet. I don’t really have any regrets when I can touch someone’s heart. There’s a certain gratification in that. I identify very closely with each of these songs. At the end of the day, I like having that touchstone to see where I’m really grateful—it’s helping me put a lot of things in perspective. Some of it might be a little painful, but it reminds me that there’s a way through and out of everything.
ESSENCE.COM: Your fashion industry fame is legendary. You have made great strides for plus-size models. Which song is your opus and would help folk get to know you as more than just the former face of Lane Bryant?
MAIYSHA: Although all of my songs are autobiographical, “Wanna Be” pretty much sums up who I am and lays it all out there for you. It’s about me coming into my own. I’m a study in contrast; even my longtime friends are like, “I had no idea you could sing.” I enjoy surprising people and defying conventions particularly when people think, You’re just a face, you’re not a personality. So I’m still in front of people, but now I have a voice.
ESSENCE.COM: What’s the one thing folk would be shocked to learn about you?
MAIYSHA: That I am an emotional binge eater. In fact, I was very pleased when Kerry Washington admitted in ESSENCE that she was a binge eater. In our community nobody talks about it, and no one would ever have known how insecure I was. I’ve just started talking about it and dealing with it. I started pretty young, around 8 or 9. My parents got divorced, and although I’m close to both of them, I never admitted my problem to them. I was a latchkey kid coming home alone and I’d sit at home and comfort myself with food so I wouldn’t be lonely. [I used food] to fill up this empty space. One of the things I’ve learned in therapy is why people with addictions develop coping mechanisms. In my case, I was a precocious kid having mature conversations with adults, so it was important for me to appear as if everything was okay. It’s a habit I’ve carried into adulthood, and I happened to be able to make a career out of my weight. I was never ashamed of my size, but I wasn’t proud of not having control— why I always felt empty and bottomless. I didn’t feel like I had a right to feel depressed because I didn’t have some tragic childhood. For a long time I felt like I was a fraud because I was successful yet absolutely miserable and not taking care of myself. People don’t want to acknowledge that binge eating is like any other addiction, but the difference is there is no BE anonymous because you can’t [put a complete] stop to eating. You can never have another drink and stay out of bars; you can get rid of the crack pipe, but you have to eat—not only for nourishment but to develop a healthy relationship with yourself.
ESSENCE.COM: What’s a bad habit that you’re still trying to break?
MAYIASHA: I’m still trying to reconcile the fact that it’s okay to want certain things and to be alone. Sometimes it’s scary to shift back into bad habits. I had to be between a size 16 and 18, but now I’m a healthy 8 by simply changing my diet and attitude. I can never, in an unconscious way, go back to where I was before I got help for my addiction. I don’t have it all figured out at this point in my life, but I’m brave enough to be aware to sit with whatever I’m feeling. I know better now.