Sharing a pot of tea with Mia turned out to be the perfect way to get to know her. I met Mia at her beautiful home in Venice, CA where she welcomed me with the warmest hug. She had already set up the table for a traditional tea ceremony and as I settled in, she began to warm the kettle on a little heater just next to the low table. Lying across the table underneath the earthenware bowls was a cloth delicately handpainted with blue water dragons. We sat across from one another on either side of the table on cushions on the floor. With delicate movements of her hands Mia began by swirling some of the hot water around the tea bowls and lighting a little curl of incense. She poured first the tea leaves and then the hot water into the teapot. Then she waited, smiling slightly, with index finger resting gracefully on the lid, the other three wrapped gently around the handle until the tea was ready. I didn’t notice her measuring time, but somehow she knew when the tea had steeped long enough and she poured us each our first bowl.
We began by talking about what she does for a living. Mia is an actress and a singer who truly embraces the strange and extreme demands of both worlds. As an actress she becomes complete strangers with full and yet fictional pasts, presents and futures. As a singer she must practice a whole other language, the universal language of music, in order to reach and connect to any ear that might catch her melody. Both tasks may be rather uncomfortable because they require her to get up close and personal with the huge spectrum of human emotion and experience, but listening to her talk, it is clear that it has become somewhat of a second nature to Mia. What interests her are the families that form on set or in the recording studio, the travel and adventure of new locations, and the real connections and stories she is able to help create. Acting and singing are unlike other professions because they require the acceptance of a degree of instability. For Mia this is a blessing, in her words, “acting and singing are opportunities to live a dance between stability and instability where the unpredictability of each moment makes magic.” From Mia’s perspective instability is a gift that helps birth creativity, which is what allows her to make a living with her acting and singing and prevents her from ever settling into complacency.
Mia has an immense gratitude for her career. She moved to the United States from Argentina by herself when she was 20 years old and immediately started pursuing her dreams of being an actress. I asked her if she remembers feeling scared or lost in those first months. She took a moment and then said that now, looking back on her younger self, she sees just how scared she was, but that at that time, in that moment, she didn’t really have time to even think about it. Almost as soon as she moved to the US she began to work, and because she was so immediately successful and busy, she said she remembers telling herself that she was ‘adjusted’ and not scared or lonely. Now however, with older and wiser eyes she says it is clear she didn’t have it as figured out as she wanted to believe. These days, Mia says she’s shed some of the layers that kept her nose so close to the grindstone and gradually has found “her own dance and rhythm” that keeps her busy, but also allows her enough time and space for herself and her own feelings.
Mia travels a lot, both for work and in pursuit of her own adventures. I asked her what she liked most about traveling. She replied, “traveling is a recipe for creativity. Anything can happen. You find that over the meetings with strangers over breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and teas in a foreign country you can truly live true unique moments. Also, you find yourself in a different context and you can decide what parts of yourself you want to keep and what parts are not serving you any longer and you can let go of. You reinvent yourself and run with it.” Mia used the spanish word ‘atrofiar’ to describe this process of reinvention. The literal translation, ‘atrophy.’ has the same meaning as it does in spanish, but Mia explained her more metaphorical use of the word - rather than to weaken or degenerate muscle due to lack of use, she meant it in terms of erasing or forgoing paths not taken and personality traits not practiced. It is the idea that within ourselves are many multiple possibilities, but over time and depending on the company we keep some parts are neglected and forgotten and we evolve without them. The possibility of reinvention while traveling is an opportunity to really learn about oneself and embrace who that is as well as share it with others.
Mia recently released her first album, Si Agua. I asked Mia to talk about the recording process and the inspiration for the album. I learned that she recorded the album in Iceland after visiting it when she opened for Emiliana Torrini a while back. She described being awestruck by the transporting intensity of the landscapes and the powerful presence of water. She says she felt an immediate connection to the land and the people and knew that it was the place where she needed to record. Huge mountains, deep pools of crystal clear water, and vast landscapes of volcanic rock and tundra provided a setting of real majesty, which is all made slightly bizarre by the shifting hours of the days and nights. The long summer days without dark and the long winter nights without day can be disorienting, but to Mia they are inspiring in the same way that instability is. She recalled the finding an immense sense of freedom in the break from her usual surroundings and measures of time that allowed her to create with a focus and passion quite different from anywhere else. The encompassing presence of water in Iceland was also a strong influence on Mia’s music. A lot of her ideas for the album were born either at sea or near some body of water, so naturally water developed into a subconscious theme and the title for the album. Water has a softer, cooling quality and is also a subtle but strong feminine power. It is an energy that Mia says instantly pulled her in. We talked a bit more about the mysterious power and pull of water and its presence and Mia hinted at plans forming for her next album, something energetically opposite to Si Agua...
And then I had a few more questions for Mia, which she answered as we finished our last bowls of tea.
Story and Interview by Miwa Sakamoto
How do you create a sense of home while on the road?
I always have tea. It is a beautiful and grounding meditation for myself in the mornings, but it can also be a great way to share time and silence with people I meet on the road.
Do you remember your dreams?
I do! It is actually something that is kind of a tradition that I have with mother to talk about our dreams. I try to ask a question before bed and let my dream work on the answers.
Where do you feel the strongest?
When I am on a long hike by myself - I get to reconnect to nature and tap into my survival mode.
Where do you feel most vulnerable?
In a relationship. Being in a serious relationship brings out some of your biggest insecurities and fears. But that’s why you’re in a relationship though right? To help you realize these things and grow.
Where do characters of past roles go after the movie/project has wrapped?
I save them within me. Especially ones that I've been living for a long time with. I always like to keep something from them... like a piece of jewelry or something. But I am also pretty quick to move on, it's part of the job...
If you could have one magic power what would it be?
Flying. It would be amazing to transport myself through the air.