Thursday, 16 September 2021

Interview with Pia Notoriyas

Monika: Today we are going on a journey to the United Kingdom where we are going to meet a talented female artist. Pia Notoriyas is a Filipino-born singer and songwriter, model, YouTube vlogger, social media influencer, and transgender activist. Pia is known for The Euphoria Song Project, a song about the discrimination and the empowerment of trans lives, which in 2020 became the transgender anthem of the year. Hello Pia, I am so happy that you have accepted my invitation!
Pia: Hello Monika! Hello everyone!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Pia: My name is Pia Notoriyas. I’m a transgender singer-songwriter and producer, Filipino, and based in the United Kingdom. 
Monika: Why did you choose Pia for your name?
Pia: Choosing your name is probably one of the most important stages in our transition, I wanted something that meant something to me and a name that embodied femininity and my culture, Miss Universe is a beauty pageant competition that celebrates femininity and countries from all around the world compete for the crown, in 2015 the Philippines won miss universe and she happens to be called Pia, and at that moment I knew that as the name I wanted, it represented strong femininity and my culture.
Monika: How did you start singing?
Pia: I spent my first 7 years on a little island called Boracay in the Philippines, life was simple there but I was so spoilt when it came to the landscape, white sands and coconut trees, true island life.
The family was so important, and one of the things that brought everyone together was music, every time we celebrate we would always sing and dance, and it wouldn’t be a Filipino party without a karaoke machine. It really fascinated me so much so that I would literally sing all night to a point where I was told to be quiet.

"The family was so important, and one of the thing
that brought everyone together was music."

Monika: How could you define your music?
Pia: I create music depending on how I feel, and I really try my best to not put myself in a box when it comes to genre, but generally you will hear a lot of Pop, Hip Hop, and Rnb influences in my music, songwriting has always been a form of self-expression to me, almost like my diary that I’m willing to share, I think if you listen to my songs you will definitely get an idea of what kind of person I am.
I don’t really tend to share myself in other ways but in my music, I also feel like I do try to make music that is relatable, experiences that we have all been through! I have a body of work “The Transitional” available everywhere that embodies the life of a struggling transgender girl who is trying to make it in the real world as she faces issues with love, battles with herself, and embodying all the emotions that a person who is still transitioning.
Monika: The Euphoria song is probably your most popular song. What inspired you to write it?
Pia: I was getting tired of writing about things that didn’t inspire me, and I have already done before and I remember one day I was in the car and I was like “what if I wrote a song about being transgender” and it was kind of like why the hell have I not done this yet, so I rushed home and started to write and record and that’s how Euphoria was created.
I really wanted to embody the struggles of being transgender and ultimately finding closure and empowerment within the song, and I couldn’t have done it without all the girls that were featured in the music video, it wouldn’t have been such a moment without them all.
Monika: I might be wrong but you have not released your album yet, right? When can we expect it? 
Pia: I have a few actually! My latest album “The Transitional” I have 3 Ep on my Soundcloud, which I did prior to transitioning, click here if you want to listen! And I’m always working on music! So I will be releasing something very soon!

"It is common for transgender girls to get
overly sexualized themselves."

Monika: Did the transition change your artistic perception of the world?
Pia: I mean kind of, but I personally don’t feel like I’ve changed that much as a person, I’m still the same person! But I guess how others treat me is different, sometimes as a woman, we have to be careful about sharing parts of ourselves.
I do think sometimes I have to be aware of what I’m trying to emulate, as I don’t want people to get the wrong idea of me, especially being too sexualized. It is common for transgender girls to get overly sexualized themselves, and people have that perception, which is a powerful thing! But I don’t want that to just be that main focus, because there are serious topics that need to be brought up and how will we ever be respected as human beings and for people to understand and respect our feelings if we overly sexualize ourselves.
Monika: We all pay the highest price for the fulfillment of our dreams to be ourselves. As a result, we lose our families, friends, jobs, and social positions. Did you pay such a high price as well? What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Pia: Even though my family are super supportive now, it wasn’t always like that. My parents are divorced, at the time I was living with my mother, stepfather, and younger brother, I remember sitting in my room, and she came in because I was at a very low point in my life, and she asked me what was wrong, and I told her I was transgender. She was so confused and she started to question my intentions.
I guess she was really scared, and I remember we both started to cry, we were both hurting in our own ways. Living at home made it very difficult for me as I felt like I couldn’t fully be myself. So I made the choice to move in with my father who was always understanding of me. He is the only person who truly understands and accepts me. Thanks to living with my father, he gave me the freedom to grow and become the person I am today.

"Thanks to living with my father, he gave me the
freedom to grow and become the person I am today."

Monika: Were your parents and family surprised by your transition? Did they accept it easily?
Pia: My mother was very shocked and scared. I think she always knew but I think she always thought it was just going to fade away. My father was very accepting he told me: 'I knew from the moment you got your robe from the church choir and you did a full turn that you were meant to be a girl.'
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Pia: Yes, hormones have done wonders for me. I have seen a lot of positive results such as hair growth, skin texture it has softened my face features and body, but most importantly the way I think and handle my emotions. I feel calm and relaxed, and I can handle anything.
Monika: We are said to be prisoners of passing or non-passing syndrome. Although cosmetic surgeries help to overcome it, we will always be judged accordingly. How can we cope with this?
Pia: I think we need to educate society about transgenderism, we need to have more representation portrayed positively in the media, films, and politics and to show that we are normal people who want a normal life but we need to be open and vulnerable to share about our struggles and experiences.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed?
Pia: Yes so many! Especially someone I can identify with, I love Geena Rocero, who is a Filipina supermodel and transgender activist, Caitlyn Jenner is another one who is so inspirational in so many ways, Another Filipino trans woman Isabel Sandoval who is paving her way in the film industry with her amazing Netflix series Lingua Franca which is about a transgender Filipina woman who is a caregiver in America, I think each one of these women is respectively inspirational.

"Hormones have done wonders for me."

Monika: Do you remember the first time when you saw a transgender woman on TV or met anyone transgender in person?
Pia: I haven’t really come across many transgender people in my earlier life, obviously now I can spot a trans person right away! But once I went to a Thai restaurant here in the United Kingdom, and I remember most of the waitresses were transgender. I could tell because of their deeper voices but I remember thinking to myself how amazingly glamorous and feminine they all were.


All the photos: courtesy of Pia Notoriyas.
© 2021 - Monika Kowalska

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