Mya Mehmi is feeling particularly stimulated this morning. Last night, the DJ and musician went to see Sound of the Underground, Travis Alabanza’s unbridled ode to queer nightlife, at London’s Royal Court Theatre. It was so good that Mehmi couldn’t stop thinking about it until 3am. “Props to Travis,” she says, Zooming from her flat in North London. “It was an emotional rollercoaster!”
Mehmi’s no stranger to emotional rollercoasters, nor to the spoils of underground queer nightlife. She moved to London from Leicester at 17, “in pursuit of a music career and to run away from Leicester, because the girls were not ready for me over there.” Mehmi was so hellbent on getting signed to a label she followed a man through a restaurant because he was wearing a Def Jam records T‑shirt.
“I went up to him and started singing Valerie,” she says, cracking up at the memory. “He looked at me so confused. The next day, at college, I saw two people with the same T‑shirt on. They were selling them at Primark! I was that girl – very ‘Fame, I’m gonna live forever.’”
From then on, Mehmi chased her tail for a long time, performing in as many pubs as possible, trying to find her sound and her voice. “Little did I know, I hadn’t even found my correct gender yet, so that helped!” As a proud British-Punjabi trans artist, Mehmi soon came into contact with renowned queer music collective Pxssy Palace (volunteering as a “badge bitch”). The rest, as they say, was history.
“As soon as I walked in, for the first time in my life, I felt like I could be my authentic self,” Mehmi continues. “I could be brown, femme, slutty, all the things that are innate in me.”
Within a few years, Mehmi started producing Pxssy Palace parties and has since become a mainstay of London’s queer nightlife scene. She hosts the podcast Straight No Chaser and, fired up by finally finding her place in the world, has launched her career as a musician.
“I’m finally making music where I’m not thinking about pleasing anyone, what’s palatable or what parts of me I have to hide,” Mehmi says. Her soulful debut single Parivaar (Interlude) is about the death of her uncle during the pandemic. “I’m puffin’ /If I say we fam you my cousin /And you know I ride for my cousins,” she sings over deep bass and trap-inspired production. “I wrote [the song] in less than half a day, in my bed,” Mehmi says. “I produced it and wrote it purely out of emotion.”
With her future releases, Mehmi wants her music to make listeners feel sexy. “I make music for the trans and queer community! So whenever they can feel sexy, I’m like, hell yeah.”
Get to know the rising musician with her 100% interview below.
10% Where were you born, where were you raised and where are you now based?
I was born in Bradford and raised in Leicester. My upbringing was very brown! I’m now based in East Finchley, North London.
20% If you were cooking food to impress someone, what would you make?
It would take me five hours. I’m a good cook, not a fast one. I would make a dish called keema. It’s basically minced lamb curry with peas and potatoes, some rice, yoghurt, mint and lemon. It’s the best thing ever. Even if that’s the only dish you can cook, if you give that to somebody, they’ll swear down you’re a chef. I only do that for the best dick appointments.
30% What’s the strangest DM you’ve ever received?
Now we are opening Pandora’s box, because the DMs get wild. One time someone was like, “Nice belly button”. I sent a question mark back and he said, “How much could I pay you to eat something out of it?” I was like, sir. Probably £500.
40% What can feasibly be eaten out of a belly button?
Maybe, like, a peanut.
50% Love, like, hate?
I love getting my toes sucked. I like horror movies. I hate the patriarchy.
60% What’s your favourite horror film?
The Strangers with Liv Tyler, because it could really happen. That shits me up. At the end, the couple are like, “Why are you doing this to us?” They just say, “Because you were home.” No rhyme or reason. That lives in my head rent free.
70% What’s a bad habit you wish you could kick?
80% What’s a piece of advice that changed your life?
Me and my friend, in year 10 or 11, were sat in graphics together and hadn’t finished our coursework. The teacher came around and took all our folders. My friend and I looked at each other because we were panicking so much the night before. I thought I was going to die. Then she just looked at me and said, “Move on and allow it.” I was like, wow. That rings in my head all the time. It means a lot to me.
90% How did you celebrate your last birthday?
Getting high as fuck with my friends and my mum. She didn’t participate in getting high, but she was in the room smelling the fumes.
100% If you ruled the world for a day, what would go down?
Free and accessible healthcare for trans folks.