Mya Xeller is America’s next big thing. She stars in Amazon Prime’s new reality show “Next Big Thing NYC” which follows the successful yet young lives of thriving teenagers. For Mya, she has made tremendous footholds in the pageant and fashion industry. She has won various titles including 2019 Miss Teen World Connecticut and 2020 CT Royal International Miss Teen. She has also modeled for a variety of designers at New York Fashion Week and numerous magazines.
Mya is, above all, a person. She has hopes to use her platform for good and to use her voice to help others. Learn more about Mya’s plans for herself and others, for now and later.
What was your first experience on a reality TV show like?
This was my first time ever filming for TV, so I wasn’t really used to having all the cameras that like every angle of me catching every single word that came out of my mouth. Definitely had to be careful there because sometimes you say things under your breath and well, that’s on camera now so it’s definitely different for me, but I’m a very outgoing person so it didn’t make me nervous at all. It was a lot of fun the first time we ever filmed. I was definitely more held back then than I am now, because I’m so used to it now since we filmed for a full year.
But definitely has been a dream since I was very little, so having that dream come true and actually being on a TV show now is incredibly insane because I didn’t know that it would come too soon in my life, and I know that this is only just the first step to being really a TV star, and my expectations for filming “Next Big Thing” I didn’t really have any to be completely honest because I didn’t cast for the show. I actually just got reached out to and casted for it, so I didn’t really plan on it to be 100% with you. So going into it, I was kind of just free falling. I didn’t really know how it was gonna be, I didn’t know what it was gonna be like filming, it was really just me walking into it being like, “Alright, I guess I’m doing this now”.
I went and I filmed and from there we kept getting, you know, emails and stuff that we were going to be filming here and here, doing this and this. It was really cool because I knew everybody on “Next Big Thing” before we filmed, but some of the cast members I didn’t know too well. I just saw them at New York Fashion Week in previous years so filming day one was really like getting to feel everybody out and see, “oh I know you but I don’t really know you, do I want to know you” all that kind of stuff, and I definitely formed, really good friendships with the cast throughout filming.
In addition to that, did you have any concerns with the camera not really picking up on the entirety of your person? Were you worried about the camera not picking up on other facets of your personality?
Definitely one of my big concerns (after at least the first day of filming) was that I could be portrayed in many different ways. Because once you’re on a TV show and you sign those contracts and you agree to be filmed and put on a show, they can really manipulate and edit that show however they want to, so you have to be very careful about how you’re acting and what you’re saying, on camera for sure.
One of my concerns definitely was, you know, I don’t want to be portrayed as someone that I’m not, and I don’t want to come off as someone that I’m not because I’m a very down to earth person I like to keep it very real. I like to be very genuine. So when I filmed I really didn’t put on an act at all I just stayed 100% myself, and I acted as I would in my everyday life, just because that’s how I want to be portrayed on the show. I didn’t want to look like I was putting on an act, because that’s not me at all. So throughout filming, I never was trying to be something or somebody that I’m not. I was always just being 100% myself, and I said you know what this is going to go on TV and either people are gonna love me or hate me and that’s just how it works. You just have to accept it that way.
What do you think then you’ve learned from your time on this reality TV show? What kind of lessons did you take away from your experience?
From my time on “Next Big Thing NYC”, I’ve definitely learned that friends will always be there. But there are friends that turn family, and those are the people that I will look back at “Next Big Thing” in forty years and be like, “Wow, I remember this time with Isabella and Peter and I remember when I did this with Eden”, and I’m going to look back at that say they were really there for me. And the same goes with the entire cast because we have really become a little family of our own, just from filming and spending so much time with each other because we always were that little support group for each other. And so my biggest thing that I’ve learned from “Next Big Thing” is definitely cherish those moments with your friends because you never know when that will be your last, and you never know when you’re going to want to look back on this and reminisce about the memories you’ve had with your friends that literally turned into your family. It also taught me that there’s friends, and there’s best friends that turn into a family. Friends will say they’re there for you, but it’s different when somebody says it and when somebody shows.
The focus of Next Big Thing NYC seems to be trying to channel your stardom and really achieve your aspirations even at this early stage of life. So my question is what is your definition of being a star?
Well, let me start here: “Next Big Thing”, yes, is defined by teens who are up and coming and trying to reach that all-star level of stardom, but it also is meant to show what goes on behind the scenes, and who we are as people, and the stuff that we do that shows our normal teen side because I think a lot of people see what we all do and they think, “well they’re missing out on you know being a being a teenager and doing all these fun things and they’re all they’re doing is like all this series business stuff”. “Next Big Thing” really does let you get a grasp of us being normal teenagers and just having fun and doing fun stuff that everybody in the world does so, I think that’s probably the most awesome and relatable part of the show because you really get to see relationships being formed or ending.
My definition of being a star is having a platform that you use in a positive way because I think there are a lot of stars in the world and a lot of people who are considered famous, but not all of them really use it in the right way sometimes. I know for me, with pageants and stuff and holding a big national title, my biggest goal is to use those platforms to be a positive impact on people and be a role model for people that are looking up to me. The platform doesn’t really mean anything unless you’re using it the right way because then you don’t have an army behind you when you’re really somebody who is a role model and inspires other people and you are likeable. That’s what makes you have an army, that’s what makes you have a fan base. I always tell people, my goal is not to be famous and be rich, my goal is to gain a big platform so that I can do what I love and my dream, but also it will give me such a big platform to be able to be the role model and be the leader to younger generations that are looking up to me.
I know in your pageant days you started All About Pink to support breast cancer awareness, so what kind of positive impact besides, or in addition to that, do you want to do?
Being a role model to me means that you take the platform that you’re given, and you use it to inspire younger girls and boys to be the best versions of themselves and to do good, don’t sit there, don’t allow people to hate on you, don’t allow people to hate on those that you love. Always keep striving for what you want to do, no matter how mean, or, you know, hateful people can be. We live in a really, really sad society sometimes when it comes to things like social media and people having dreams that they’re really working towards. People like to kick people down when they see them trying to do good.
And so for me being a role model is inspiring younger kids to keep up the hard work, keep reaching for your goal because someday you’ll get there. It might take longer than it does for other people but you will get there it will happen for you, and you know just inspire younger kids and anybody looking up to me, really, to use your talent and use your platform to do good things, not to be famous, not to have money, not to have followers, but to really inspire other people to do the same because I inspire them, they inspire somebody else and that person inspires the next person in the list and it just keeps going on and on. I like to inspire young people and anybody looking up to me, to do good in your community and put hard work into doing community service and all that kind of stuff because it really, it’s a very gratifying feeling to do good things like that and I never used to prioritize that when I was younger but now that I’ve grown up and I’ve been given big pageant titles, that’s something that I really cherish and that I actually love doing, with or without pageants, I’ll always continue to do my community service projects.
Could you tell me about these community service projects that you’re involved with?
Yes. So last year 2019 I was the Miss Teen world America Connecticut, and I placed first runner up for Team World America. I was actually the youngest one in the top five, which was really awesome. And when I won for Connecticut and I was preparing for Vegas for nationals, I decided that I wanted to have my own platform. At this point in the pageantry, you kind of need it.
And so I was planning and I was thinking what do I want to do, I need something that’s personal to me that I can really connect with on a personal level, because that’s what will inspire me to do it. I lost my aunt when I was younger to breast cancer, my entire family did, so at a young age I kind of got to see how that affects a family when you lose a loved one. I was young but still old enough to realize you know how it was emotionally affecting everybody and I got to see how if you don’t know that you have a gene, or you don’t know that there’s a possibility that you could get breast cancer or any type of illness for that matter, how do you prevent it? You really can’t. Once you have it and you don’t know for a while and you’ve had it, there’s not really a way to backtrack. Starting All About Pink, the goal is obviously breast cancer awareness in the fight against breast cancer, but really to help have these fundraisers and donate the proceeds to bigger breast cancer organizations that work in all different areas: genetic testing, simplifying health insurance difficulties, all of that kind of stuff. Those are the things that prevent other families from losing their loved ones because then they can have the means to find out if there’s a chance that they could be diagnosed with cancer, breast cancer more specifically.
My grandmother had the gene, my mom had the gene, my mom actually had preventative surgery so that she did not risk, you know, not being here today. And yeah, so I definitely connect with all about pink in the work that I’m doing very personally because it’s been in my own family so I definitely feel that in my heart when I do stuff with that. And All About Pink has recently partnered with a nonprofit More Than Likes, it is run by another local teenager in Connecticut. We’ve teamed up, we actually have our first fundraiser started, Pennies for Pink. The proceeds will be donated to See More Pink, which you might not know but that’s a Connecticut breast cancer organization. I’ve actually done work with them before, I love what they stand for, I love what they do. So yeah, the proceeds will be donated to them, and this is just our first fundraiser and there are many more to come.[The partnership] is basically all about breaking the stereotype of teenagers just being a like or follow on social media and actually having them do good in the community and put hard work into helping others that need it more. We have a lot of fundraisers planned and we are in the works of all of those but currently Pennies for Pink is out and running.
Furthermore, with my pageantry, I’m currently holding a new title: Connecticut Royal International Miss Teen. I’ll be headed to Florida in July to compete for Royal International Miss Teen, and also the role model competition as well so I’ll be going for two national titles. Royal International Miss the Pageant Circuit is very big on community service work, and, you know, your platform. It’s not just about beauty, it’s not just about the dress, it’s not about money, it’s about seriously the hard work that you put into earning that crown and with that crown and with that title. Every month Royal International Miss has a monthly service project which I’ve been partaking in. I spend countless hours just driving around. We did eyeglass donations that were donated to the Lions Club in Connecticut. We collected toys, I’m grateful to everybody who donated all these things but spent so many hours just driving around and networking on social media posting about all of these fundraisers, and it’s really awesome that this pageant circuit gives me an opportunity to do such good things every single month, as well as the things that I’m already doing on my own with my own platform.
Well, congratulations. I know you might need a breather after listing all those accolades. It seems like pageantry and activism takes up a lot of your time but how do you wind down and enjoy this normal state of just being a regular teen?
I’m also a competitive dancer, so I dance at a dancing studio and it’s actually competition season right now, like in full swing, so dance is kind of a crazy schedule for me right now more than usual, but I’m actually really happy about it because I’m grateful that we’re able to do competitions, even though it’s COVID style. I’m just grateful because we did miss out on a whole year last year. I dance pretty until pretty late at night most nights that I’m there.
When I get home, I obviously take a nice shower, I lay on my bed and I find a new Netflix show to binge watch until I just get too tired and I have to turn it off and go to sleep. I also do online school at home so hours go into that as well. But being online actually works so much better for me with my schedule so it kind of worked out for me this year.
I definitely have a packed schedule. I really wouldn’t have it any other way because everything that I’m spending my time on I actually love doing so I don’t mind being busy with it.
Even though you have so many things going for you now, what do you see yourself doing either in college or adulthood? Are there any concrete goals that you’re working towards now or you hope to achieve?
I am a big makeup and hair junkie, I love everything to do with beauty. I definitely want to get my cosmetology degree so that I can maybe one day have my own salon or be a traveling makeup and hair artist. I love that kind of stuff. That’s definitely something I would do.
But in reality, my dream and what I’m really working towards is continuing to be in the TV industry and hopefully book more jobs and just get bigger and bigger and bigger, and as well as modeling, that’s something that I hope to carry on. And you know I love performing. I love dancing, I love singing, and that’s stuff that I’ve been training for for years, so I don’t have a solid one direction plan, but I hope to just be able to accomplish all of it. But like I said, I do want to get my cosmetology degree so that I can open up my own business or be a traveling makeup and hair artist, because you know it’s always good to have a plan B for everything.
School wise, I’ve been thinking about a few different performing arts schools where I could focus on dance, singing, acting, stuff like that because that’s what I really enjoy. And yeah, I mean I always tell people, if it comes down to not doing what I love and working in an office, I might just live in a cardboard box. I cannot see myself working in an office or working at a counter. it’s just not something I see myself doing and I’m definitely not the person that wants to be working a job that turns into a lifestyle when it’s something I don’t love, because I feel like then yes, you’re making money, but you’re not happy, and I’m not somebody that thinks that money makes somebody happy. It definitely can make you happy in the moment but when it comes to your life, definitely is not something that would keep you happy.
I really have to be doing something that I love and that I have a passion for sure.
I can just tell that your passion is probably not going to lead you anywhere near that carpet box. I know you’re already in the very early stages of your career, but has being in the public eye been taxing on you as a regular teen that’s just going through development?
I think that even though I am only in the first milestone of my career, there is a lot of hate.
I’m a very, very strong person. I don’t let most words get to me. Yes, it makes you feel down for a second, but I think that I’m very, very strong, so a lot of people’s words they just come in and they go out, because I, I know where I want to be, and I’m not going to let anybody tell me I can’t get there. I know for myself that I just have to put in the work and I just have to wait until it’s my time. I’ve faced a lot of hate, a lot of negative comments, a lot of people who just definitely don’t like me for some reason. And it really hasn’t thrown me off track. I just listen to it, throw it out and keep on moving.
But for a lot of other teens, words really strongly affect them. And I think that’s one of the cons with social media, is that there’s a lot of bullying and a lot of hatred spread on there. Although there is good, there’s also a lot of hate and negativity, and it can be very detrimental to, you know, becoming an adult and growing up because it makes you feel like you’re less than you really are. Being in the public eye and just on social media in general can be, can be very stressful to young teens and young adults because it’s just for some people that can’t handle that pressure that hate being put on them, can definitely put them down and throw them off track of whether where they’re really trying to go.
How did you develop this strong of a mindset, able to deter every hateful comment that you come across? Would you say that it was something you were born with or can you attribute the development of it to something?
I would definitely say that growing up as a little girl, my mom definitely she’s my biggest role model. I love her to death. She definitely taught me how to be strong, and not to let people or my losses get me down. Like I said I’ve been competitively dancing since I was very young, and I never used to be the big winner out of my age group, let’s be honest, I never really won. As a little girl I would always start to cry, and then my mom would grab me by the ponytail and say, “you don’t cry, do not cry one more tear right now”. She taught me that if you’re going to cry over a loss, we can’t do this because that loss might be a win next week. It doesn’t matter because you’re not really losing. You’re just getting the experience and you’re growing and you’re learning, and from that you’re just going to keep working hard. You don’t always win, not the same person is going to win in every single aspect, every day of life and I think that’s what I’ve grown up to learn because of my mom.
For me, I definitely think it has developed though. I would say definitely through elementary school and middle school even. I was always worried about what other people thought of me, always worried of what other people thought of my clothes, how I acted or even how I talked, just basic anxiety and worry that people might not like me. That always really got in my head, really trying to like change myself to make sure that I was making other people happy or satisfying other people. Now that I’m in high school, I’ve learned that people are going to love me, or they’re going to hate me. As long as they don’t hate me because of me treating them badly, then I don’t worry about it. I’m going to be nice to everybody and I’m going to do me and I’m going to be 100% and whether people like it or not. I just have to leave it because people sometimes just aren’t going to like you just because they don’t want to like you and that’s how it works today
My mom has definitely been that role model who taught me how to be like that. And I’ll be forever grateful for that.
I think that concludes our time together. Are there any last words that you would like to say, or include in the article?
Definitely just my instagram handle is ‘at’ myaxeller
This article has been lightly edited for clarity
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