FRESH FACE MYA IS READY FOR HER DUAL CLOSEUPS — AS RISING R&B STAR AND BUDDING STYLE ICON.
Byline: Janet Ozzard
Now that she’s on the way to becoming a full-fledged star, R&B prodigy Mya Harrison is able to indulge her fashion fascination as much as she wants.
The 20-year-old singer-dancer, who is about to release her second solo CD, has always loved clothes. But Mya (nobody calls her Harrison) wasn’t really allowed to go wild in the malls, like other teens.
“My parents wouldn’t allow me to have that kind of freedom, because they wanted me to learn first about really important things, about values,” explained the slightly built, soft-spoken singer.
And besides, Mya didn’t have a lot of time for mall-ratting. She started taking dance classes when she was barely out of toddler shoes, added violin in high school and eventually landed a prime spot with the touring tap group Tappers With Attitude.
In the last two years, it’s her singing career that has taken off. Her first CD, “Mya,” went platinum with two hit singles, “It’s All About Me” and “Movin’ On.” She sang backup on the Pras Michel and Wyclef Jean superhit, “Ghetto Supastar” last year. Now she’s got fans panting for “Fear of Flying,” scheduled to be released this month.
But all those videos, concerts and public appearances require a pretty pumped-up wardrobe. Her values presumably well accounted for, Mya now works with stylists and loves to stroll New York’s streets, checking out the stores. She’s also been a model-spokeswoman for Tommy Hilfiger, and might be doing a campaign for the Italian brand Iceberg this year.
And she has one story of logo love from her childhood.
“When I was in my last year in elementary school, all the girls had Guess jeans, and I really wanted a pair,” she recalled. “My mother had gotten a pair from a thrift store, so I took the little tag off the back, and every day I’d sew it onto another pair of my jeans. So one day, I would wear it on this green pair I had, then the next day I moved it to my red jeans.”
Mya also worked on her creativity in other ways.
“For my first video project, my mother made clothes that I sketched,” she said. “Now, we pull things from different showrooms and if they have to be altered, we buy them. I’m not a big shopper, mostly because I don’t have a lot of time. When I do shop, I get pretty basic pieces I can wear with a lot of other things.”
When Mya is cooling down from her hectic travel schedule, she hangs at home in Maryland, and her wardrobe is likely to be “very casual — Timberlands and sweat pants.
“But when I come to New York, everybody is so fly. People look perfect. You don’t have to do that in Maryland.”
Mya also developed a lot of personal style during her hours in the dance studio.
“It was tap and jazz, not ballet, so everything was very hip-hop flavored,” she said. “It’s not my style to wear shorts, so I would wear a little T-shirt with big pants — something that was rugged, but feminine at the same time.” When she was 13, Mya performed solo at the Kennedy Center in Washington.
Now, Mya consults with a couple of stylists to put herself together. They pull looks from various showrooms, and Mya brings in her own special tastes.
She described the process: “I went to Niketown in Los Angeles recently and bought a bunch of stuff. Then I brought it back and tried on a bunch of stuff.”
Her favorite fabric is leather. Indeed, her outfit for the interview is leather pants and a leather shirt, all from Gucci, and all bought in one intense hour of shopping after a flight from Los Angeles.
“It was so warm in L.A., and I landed in New York, where it was freezing! I ran into Gucci and said, ‘I have one hour,”‘ she explained.
“Leather is comfortable, but it’s kind of rockin’ and entertainment at the same time. I wear leather pants with hiking boots a lot, so my feet don’t hurt.”
Mya also loves working with the New York leather designer Agathe, who does one-of-a-kind outfits.
“I can design something and know that no one else will have it,” she said.
The evolution of her style is now accelerating, thanks to the forces of public scrutiny. Now that she’s become a regular on MTV and her recordings are getting more and more play, she’s getting more attention from fans and paparazzi. So far, although she’s shy, Mya likes the fan part, and now even dresses with them in mind.
“You want to meet expectations, but not be defensive,” she said. “I think every entertainer wants to be approachable.”
But then there are photographers with cameras that don’t embellish. So Mya, who never wore makeup growing up, is turning up the intensity on her beauty routine. She’s had her eyebrows professionally tamed and doesn’t leave the house without some mascara on her enormous brown eyes, some lipstick and maybe a bit of bronzer or foundation, even though her skin is flawless.
Growing up, Mya’s favorite style icon was Madonna, who is just a little familiar with the fame drill herself. But what drew Mya to the Material Girl wasn’t what she was wearing so much as how she was living.
“As a kid, I was scared to listen to her, because of songs like ‘Like a Virgin,”‘ Mya confessed. “My parents didn’t want me to listen to edgy music. But it was like an escape. She didn’t care what people thought of her. As a female, you’re always supposed to care. Now, that script has flipped. It’s about me and how I feel. I’ve learned to stay within myself and stay true to myself.”