Sunday, 9 November 2014

Interview with Ahya “Yah-Yah“ Nicole

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Ahya “Yah-Yah“ Simone, a young woman of many talents from Detroit, model, aspiring make-up artist and harpist. Hello Yah-Yah!
Ahya: Hi! Let me first say that I am so happy that you found me interesting enough to interview. Thank you!
Monika: You were featured in the Barney’s “Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters Campaign” which was targeted towards bringing trans positive awareness within fashion. There are more and more transgender models that are successful in the fashion business…
Yah-Yah: Yes!! And I am so excited for that. Visibility and diversity is very important. It’s time for a breakthrough for trans people in the US. It is time to stand up and be recognized.

Courtesy of Yah-Yah.

Monika: How does it feel to be a beautiful model?
Ahya: Beautiful model? Thank you!! But I wouldn’t consider myself a model as that is not my profession. I would like to say that I have modeled before. I am a harpist first.
Monika: Could you elaborate more about you and your music?
Ahya: Well, I was born and raised in Detroit, MI. As a child, I always had a penchant for the performing arts. I initially wanted to be a singer. I sang in numerous ensembles early on in grade school, including a local traveling choir such as the Courville Concert Choir under Willard Hines, where we toured every summer all over the country. In high school, I accidentally started on the harp. *chuckles*.
Monika: You “accidentally” started the harp?
Ahya: Yes. I accidentally started harp as a freshman. I attended Cass Technical High School in Detroit in late 2006, the only public school in Michigan that offers harp as a class. I honestly at the time had no intention on learning the harp. I actually had never seen a harp in my life before high school.
So in my second semester, I signed up for health class as part of my curriculum. My counselor said all health classes were full and she placed harp on my schedule. And ever since, I’ve been playing the harp, including performing with Harp and Vocal, which is the only harp and voice ensemble in the country.
Now, I attend Wayne State University as student classical harpist and play for my school band. I do freelance work whenever possible. I am actively working on securing my own harp as they are quite expensive. I’m also launching my website,, to help bring more opportunities in the early new Year. Otherwise, I’m looking forward to graduating in December 2014.

Courtesy of Yah-Yah.

Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in the American society?
Ahya: Well, for black trans women, there is much work to be done. We need resources, adequate health care, and basic rights. We often times are pushed on the margins and not a priority.
We are murdered at a vastly higher rate than non-trans people and our narratives are consistently silenced. It’s refreshing to see more women of color standing in their truth and being heard. Our lives matter.
Monika: At what age did you transition? Was it a difficult process?
Ahya: I affirmed my true self at 18 and I'm 22 now. And what a MIGHTY 4 years at that! Honestly, I don’t think “transition” accurately describes my particular narrative. I was always a girl/woman. I simply got to a point in my life when I had the need, resources, and strength to affirm my true self and express it to others. Difficult??? HECK YES! Rewarding? More than I could ever imagine. 
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Yah-Yah: Well, I wouldn’t say at the time I had any. I simply drew inspiration from cisgender women (Women assigned female at birth) I admired. But, now I have quite a few role models - or “Possibility models” in the words of the lovely Laverne Cox.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Yah-Yah: The hardest part of affirming my true self was the possibility that I would lose loved ones, and at the time, that I would never find love or a significant other. But that’s definitely was not true for me.

Courtesy of Yah-Yah.

Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Yah-Yah: Well, I sometimes speak to college classes about my story. I support my black trans people in every way I can. Would I call myself an activist? Not really… but I contribute to my family the best way I know how.
However, in the near future, I plan on expanding my creative pursuits to include social justice/activism. Maybe “Artivism”?
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Yah-Yah: As I mentioned before, I’m working on a website that’s launching in the new year. I have a couple performances in the works. I also, am working towards makeup artistry. I want to utilize my talents to the fullest. Looking forward to opportunities that come along.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with their identity?
Ahya : I would say “You have your process.” Do not let anyone tell you who you are. You grow at your own pace. Be consumed with being YOU! There are countless ways to be successful despite what we have internalized. Greatness is in us.
Monika: Ahya, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Yah-Yah Nicole.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

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