Before the days of feeling connected to our favorite artists through their social media accounts or reality shows, we relied on their body of work to tell their stories. Often, this led to mystique and difficulty in uncovering the artists' actual personas.
Mya Harrison catapulted on the R&B music scene in 1998 with a breakout single, “It’s All About Me,” a quintessentially 90s video with geisha-inspired attire, Dru Hill dragons, bucket hats and headbands. Onscreen Mya was confident, dominating a stage set for Sisqo’s eyes after playing the aloof, uninterested fan. The video introduced us to the melodious voice - the light crooner who’d go on to collaborate with the most popular rappers of the day like Jay-Z and Jadakiss - and dancing phenomenon that is Mya.
We’d later learn she’s an actress, too, given her role in the play Chicago. Offscreen, we would learn little about the private triple threat’s life. That has changed. We recently caught up with the starlet who is living her best life two decades later, starring in 5th Ward, the Urban Movie Channel’s, original drama series that premiered on March 2.
In her role, Mya plays Mina, a single mother of two boys in Houston, Texas’ troubled fifth ward. Mina is trying to make a better life for her family following the murder of her husband two years prior but is having trouble making ends meet. She is also fiercely protective of her sons James and Ray Ray who are navigating their adolescence in a rough neighborhood, especially following the murder of her youngest son Ray Ray’s friend.
When asked about how the actress prepared for a role that took her out of her element, she joked, “I grew up with brothers in real life. I’ve got some personal experience being the oldest and was told I was ready to take on the role of Mina for that reason.” But her character Mina isn’t anything like the actress. “You see [Mina] struggle throughout the entire series to find a way,” she adds.
The show focuses on everyday struggles and survival. “I think the show is so real and gets into everyday life. It’s relatable in the sense that we are all out here trying to survive, and work through obstacles in our environments,” she offers. “In the inner cities and communities of those economically challenged - intentionally - we deal with a different set of problems.”
It has an alternate storyline, too, featuring actor Carl Anthony Payne playing a local elected official up for reelection and plagued by violence and a tarnished image of doing too little to solve the troubled district’s problems. The overarching, dual storylines center around death and drama, but also offer glimmers of hope and lessons in survival.
And when Mya isn’t on set, she’s releasing new music and promoting healthy lifestyles to her fans. She’s planning to release a new album later this year through her own record label, Planet 9, that will have a contemporary R&B sound, compared to her 2016 release which had a more traditional R&B feel. Each month she also runs a seven-day vegan challenge across social media platforms, @MyaPlanet9, taking pride in what she consumes, along with the chemicals she puts on her body and the energy of those who surround her.
Given that she’s a vet in the game, we probed how she’s lasted this long, especially in light of a #MeToo movement. “Understand that you are going to have to address several things navigating through the world as it pertains to men who have been conditioned to think that they are superior, which I don’t believe in the natural world that is the case,” she said. “There’s a balance of feminine and masculine energy. Unfortunately, it’s an imbalanced world because of the people that are in charge, and that’s egotistical men...Understand that you can create your own door (and) your own company and it will be harder, but ultimately you, at the end of the day, decide what you walk away from and what you’re willing to deal with.”
You can watch Mya in UMC's 5th Ward at umc.tv.