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 Photographer — David-Simon Dayan  Stylist — McCall Alexandra  Grooming — Karl Pua

Photographer — David-Simon Dayan

Stylist — McCall Alexandra

Grooming — Karl Pua

 

David-Simon Dayan

The charismatic, playful, generous multi-dimensional being that is Mela Murder. Where do we even begin? Photographing you both before and after Amethyst’s birth were two beautiful experiences. During that earlier shoot, I remember just waiting for the drops to fall on the seamless… I had fully accepted that we may have ended up at the hospital.

Mela Murder

Yes! I was so happy to have those last moments of pregnancy captured by you. I just knew she was coming to make her debut (and fast)! Our shoot was February 6th and I delivered Amethyst just after midnight on February 9th.

DSD

I realized that day, waddling to your car with you, how time must have changed for you. From go, go, go, to that zen state of carrying a child. How everything has its time…

MM

At times, I felt as though myeline never really slowed down. Perhaps I didn’t want to allow myself to accept that it had. I stayed super busy. I was proud to carry my daughter inside me, and I spoke often about what was happening to me physically. I had never felt more beautiful, so I showcased that with every chance: posing nude on my Instagram, riding the train in the dead of winter with my belly exposed… Unapologetically basking in all my womanly glory.

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DSD

Let’s talk about your dancing for a moment. When did you begin? And how did you get involved in balls?

MM

When I was fifteen or sixteen, I started dancing competitively with a team out of my high school on Staten Island. We soon joined forces with a next-level team, Settle the Score. They were well-known in the city’s competitive dance world. Rehearsal was a bootcamp and I loved it. Then I got introduced to vogue. All of my dance leaders were queens from Harlem and the Bronx, and they were teaching me to duck walk and do dips during a time when vogue was still an underground thing. It was rarely showcased in any performances, where we only ever performed hip hop and reggae routines. Never vogue, but we would have little kiki sessions after rehearsals or on the train, and I fell completely in love with it. Something about vogue made me feel so free. I used it as an outlet to release whatever I felt I needed to release.

DSD

And then you eventually were dancing with Wes [Diplo], traveling the world, getting lost in the hustle and glam. Did you have any clue what was to come?

MM

Even thinking about it now gives me chills. He hadn’t seen me dance yet when I met him at a drag bar downtown, but we caught a vibe and he was like, “I’ll see you next week for

 

your first show.” It was some cosmic, magical shit. My life completely changed after that, and there’s no way to prepare a person for that capacity of living. With all the grind comes the glamour, and it’s extremely easy to get lost in it. I was addicted to that life, and although it was amazing, it did get scary and dark. When I ended my journey with Major Lazer, I thought that was the worst thing to happen to me. Now I realize that it actually saved me.

DSD

When I saw Clayton Vomero’s short film GANG, I thought, Of course she can act, fully knowing you hadn’t trained at all. It was just because you have such a presence. How did you find yourself acting in that project?

MM

GANG was another cosmic occurrence. The stars aligned and everyone involved was tapped into the same frequency. I hold that project very dear to my heart because it was the first time I had ever allowed a creative like Clayton Vomero into my world, my circle of friends, our personal conversations, our thoughts on life. When he first hit me ump about his film I wasn’t into it, until he let me throw all my ideas and interests at him. I introduced him to Denasia and Infinite and when he saw our vibe, our lingo, our energy, our vogue, all of our magic… The rest is history.

DSD

And from there you were cast in Sean Baker’s The Florida Project?

MM

Yes! The universe is always giving. Sean loved GANG and he reached out to me about

having written the character Ashley with me in mind. I didn’t have to audition; I didn’t prep beforehand. I just flew to Florida and was on set filming the next day. I met with my acting coach Samantha Quan who is just so caring, passionate, and talented. Working with her felt like being in a dance studio with an instructor, but instead of working with our bodies, we were working with our words and emotions.

DSD

The Florida Project is not only an important part of film history, but also an important piece in your life. You signed on, signifying a new chapter in your life. This chapter meant film work, of course, but you soon realized it also meant motherhood. Was there a moment in which you doubted keeping your child? I have so much respect for you making the difficult decision to keep and raise your child on your own.

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MM

I am always very honest whenever I’m asked that. Yes, I absolutely doubted keeping my daughter. I grew up poor and Puerto Rican, in a society that expects us to be pregnant at fifteen and depend on the government to take care of us. I was conditioned from a young age that pregnancy was not a happy thing, it was not something to be celebrated. Pregnancy meant life over. I cried and cried and cried when I found out I was pregnant. I was on birth control, so I was shocked, and I thought, What am I going to do? What about my life, my career… me, me me. I was thinking so selfishly, the fact that I would be handling motherhood alone didn’t set in until much later, but it was all written. My journey played out exactly the way it was supposed to, and I accept that responsibility with an open heart.

DSD

We were texting just days before your arrival to Los Angeles about you coming to visit sometimes in the future, then I get a text saying you actually had to come for a couple days straight from Turkey so I was tasked with getting a team and location in a couple days. It was such a wonderful whirlwind.

MM

The universe always delivers, babe. You and I are tapped into some deep shit where we can speak something instantly into existence and make anything possible!

DSD

I remember pulling up to your hotel in Beverly Hills so we could work on this script, and feeling overcome with pride. You were traveling internationally every few days, from Q&A’s in Turkey, to screenings in Los Angeles and festivals in Mexico, all with a newborn. Laughing with you and discussing our purpose on Earth into the wee hours of the morning, while we ate vegan chocolate chip pancakes and chilaquiles from Swingers was one of the most precious moments of my life.

MM

I couldn’t agree with you more. Traveling with Amethyst is an absolute dream come true and I am so grateful that I am able to do so. But I would be in the hotel rooms trying to mentally prepare myself for an appearance and all the while I have a voice in my head that is constantly tormenting me and I am always worrying about Amethyst. Even having to push a stroller and a luggage by myself, the little things, were hard. So when I finally got to see you in LA, your spirit brought much needed peace into my mental. I felt safe and I can unload any thoughts I had because you nurture me. I love you so much.

 
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DSD

You have told me before about a mental break you had many months ago that led to your work with #LETSTALK. Would you talk about that?

MM

It happened while I was in Antalya for a film festival. I attended a beautiful dinner overlooking the Mediterranean. I felt the spirit of the city all around me and was intoxicated with joy and happiness. Dancing, laughing, being swept away by the wonder of life… Then, suddenly, a wave of sadness crashed into me. I had a huge emotional breakdown.

I released things I had no idea I was holding onto. I was screaming, “I’m not happy, I’m not okay, I need help, I’m a mess.” Elsie, my step-grandmother, told me, “Mamita, you are not a mess. You are strong, you are capable of anything, look at where we are, look at who we’re with. You have your daughter with you. You’re an amazing mother.” I had never been handled that way after a breakdown… Elsie was there for me exactly the way I needed her to be, and the next day I felt like I was looking at the world through different eyes. My senses were enhanced and my focus was more sharp. I was so fully present in the beauty of that moment. For that, I hold Turkey so dear to my heart.

 

DSD

And that inspired you to create #LETSTALK, a gathering of single mothers seeking emotional support. What do the events look like? Can you tell me a bit about the project?

MM

I create #LETSTALK because I was finally beginning to allow myself to be open and truthful about what I was going through emotionally, about being a single mother. The response I got really blew me away. I had so many women hitting me up to share their stories, to offer kind words and support. There are so, so many single mothers out there, carrying the weight of every single aspect of their lives without an outlet. Why are sources of mental help not as common as a seven-week postpartum check up?

need a chance to be heard and nurtured. That’s what #LETSTALK is about.

DSD

Towards the end of our shoot, we ended up wrapping the day on the floor laughing because of your alter ego that decided to show up. What was her name? Jessica?

MM

I feel like when situations arise that we do not anticipate its a direct test from God and how we go about handling it determines which directions we walk on our path. We took that bizarre situation and laughed so hard about a person we created with our imaginations. Hey Jessica!

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DSD

I remember ending that night going to a yoga class and feeling so overcome with hidden sadness and feelings of helplessness, the kind of emotion we experience when a weaker version of ourselves needs to find a way out so we can grow. I got through maybe four minutes before I just laid down with tears falling down my face. Then the moment I got up and tried to swallow it and be strong, I started bawling. And the moment I finally felt like I just needed a hug, I guess the instructor felt it, and she came over and put her hand on the nape of my back. Just a simple touch, so powerfully maternal. Then the next morning, I woke up to wonderful news that The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston had just acquired a handful of my prints. It made me consider the beautiful mystery of life itself, how we can never truly see around the corner.

MM

Exactly and that is the simplicity of life and how we are tested in life. Howe we go about these test truly determine our next chapters, you handled what you were feeling the way a human is suppose to. You surrendered! There is so much power when you allow yourself to make friends with your demons or your sadness, such strength in making friends with pain and not running from it like we all tend to do.

DSD

If you could give advice to youth today, what would it be?

MM

Speak your truth, Speak your Truth, Live your truth. Stand up for yourself and what you believe is right. Do not tolerate pain in any degree. Seek Knowledge, Ask Questions, never stop pushing forward. There is enough world and opportunity for all of us to

co exist peacefully. Do right onto others. Drink more water. Let go often and remember the be fully present in the now!

DSD

And for young women in entertainment?

MM

Keep expressing yourselves. Keep sharing your stories and experiences with all of us. Be mindful of the people who look up to you and aware of the example you set for them. It’s easy to say, “I’M NOT A ROLE MODEL..” But the moment you chose to be apart of this world you inevitably took on the responsibility of being one. It is a beautiful role to take on and it makes you want to change for the better to make an impactful difference on a person’s life. We are saving the world in a sense. The goal is making this world a place filled with more love and hope.

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