Need to Know: Mila Jam
By Brett Edward Stout
Photography by Eddy Barrena
Pop artist Mila Jam is back, unveiling her new dance track, "Masters of the Universe," with a finely polished new music video than hardly be described as anything but fierce. Mila’s latest track and video is produced and directed in collaboration with her team, the JamFam, so we caught up with her to find out being from the South, what happened to her Drag Race superfriend Sahara Davenport, and whether the universe is ready for more Mila Jam and the JamFam.
Out: What were you like as a child?
Mila Jam: Extremely energetic. Focused. My childhood was painted with so many difference colors. I was extremely active. I was submerged in art.
So, being a performer has a long history with you then.
I was into a lot of child acting, singing. I grew up a singer. I did local TV stuff in Illinois. My mother was really about pushing the dream of being a performance artist but it was too big of a gamble to pick up and move to LA so we moved to Georgia.
So you’ve always been a performer at heart.
It’s not to be popular or cool. It’s what I was born to do. I just wanna sing and dance! WHY CAN’T I SING AND DANCE!
Tell me about Georgia.
Georgia for me is one of the best places to discover yourself. It allows you to be imaginative because it is like the country, but it isn’t destitute. I grew up in a suburban city outside of Atlanta. You’re in all these after school activities. I can’t imagine what it was like for children who grew up here [in New York City].
Do you consider yourself a Georgia girl or a New York girl?
I have the heart of a Georgia woman and the experience of a New Yorker. When I moved here, right out of school, I knew I wanted to be here. I didn’t experience a lot of growing up in my town, getting here was like “ok, now it’s time to learn.”
Do you consider becoming Mila a second birth?
Honestly, no, it may sound different than another person’s experience. I always felt being born physically is one thing and having an awakening at a very early age is something else. I was always 10 steps ahead of everyone else saying “people, come over here!” I like to think of (who I am today) as a continuation. Every single day of our life is a continuation.
You mentioned your mother earlier, are still close?
She’s my hero—cliché as it is. Not because she birthed me; this is a woman learned what ‘real’ love is about through the course of our lives and our relationship. I commend her for being able to love me unconditionally. Even if there was a moment of disappointment of misunderstanding, she has allowed her heart to think as opposed to her mind, her doctrine or other people’s opinions. She’s the giddiest little thing. She’s seamlessly connected me and she gets it. I think that’s fucking amazing.
There isn’t much about you on the web, so what do we need to know about Mila?
I’m an open book that’s in a glass case. You can see that I’m open, I’m very engaged but in order to get the pages turning there’s gotta be some access. That key to access that really comes in times when you’re one on one, sharing, giving and taking. There’s an inconvenience with someone’s intentions when you do don’t have a moment that you can connect. I have “love freely” tattooed on my arm. I know love is not everyone’s motivation.
But “love” is very abstract. Can you define love and put it in a box for me?
There’s a problem with boxing "love." My definition of love is, letting go of control. I really believe, the people we love, you cannot control them. It is something that has to flow: a stream, a river. A lot of people consider love putting a damn on that river, to control it. If you put reigns and restrictions on love, that’s when it becomes tainted. I’ve learned that from experiencing people.
Can we talk about Sahara Davenport?
Amazing. Dear friend. Sahara was an influence on me because we were two artistic people who met out-and-about in new york nightlife and she just had this energy that said, “I’m here to do what I’m here to do.” She knew her strengths. And, when it came to her weaknesses, she was determined to defy them. Finding out about her passing away was a real wakeup call. She was like family that you don’t see all the time.
What did she wake you up to?
She woke me up to reaffirm that I need to live my life and be strong in that. We don’t have a blueprint that says you’re gonna die on August 1st 2006. Losing her was like, “Oh shit, you got to stay focused and continue what you’re doing.”
You’ve built your own family around you, the JamFam, what is family?
Family is foundation, that sounds cheesy, obviously for support and comfort but also for critique and reflection. I believe in the universe and the universe put them in my life. I tried to force it two year ago. I constructed a family and it was a stylist, a choreographer, some dancers, and an entrepreneur. It didn’t work because everyone was connected to me but not to each other. The reason the JamFam works is they are connected to each other.
Your song is titled "Masters of the Universe," are we really masters of it?
It’s a combination. It’s a duality. It’s a lesson, It’s a schooling. Being mastered by the universe makes me a master of my universe.
When did you decide to make such a fierce video?
I’ve always been ready to make a fierce video. I LOVE THE ART OF MAKING VIDEOS! The Jackson’s taught us how to make videos. But, it really is the JamFam. I call them my limbs. I have four limbs and a core. With us all working together we were able to accomplish something amazing.
It takes a village.
This is the thing that no one talks about, Beyoncé probably has 40 people to put something together so of course it’s gonna be amazing. Try it with three. The credit is always given to Gaga, it isn’t given to the Haus of Gaga.
If you ran into that child you described earlier, what advice would you give?
I’d say exactly what my mother says: “Stay focused.” When you have focus, you can put all that kinetic energy into something that goes somewhere.
Is the universe ready?