Why Mya Taylor Gave the Most Important Performance of 2015

At this time last year, Mya Taylor was hardly a known quantity. Then "Tangerine" premiered at Sundance and everything changed.

The transgender actress delivers a fiery performance as Alexandra, one of two vibrant L.A. prostitutes at the center of Sean Baker's freewheeling, shot-on-an-iPhone comedy. By turns joyful, quietly observational and fierce, Alexandra attempts to tame her unruly pal Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and a frisky cab driver (Karren Karagulian); later, she attempts a lively musical performance to an empty bar. With her gentle mannerisms offset by occasional outbursts, Alexandra becomes an unexpectedly relatable protagonist over the course of the chaotic Christmas Eve events. While gay marriage may be the most progressive achievement in sexual politics last year, "Tangerine" provided one of the most forward-thinking narratives — a movie about marginalized people accessible to all. 

Taylor didn't make the cut at the Oscars, but with all the fanfare surrounding her performance, she came pretty close. An Independent Spirit Award nominee for Best Supporting Female, she also won the Gotham Award for Breakthrough Actress at the Gotham Awards in December. Meanwhile, the transgender community has offered its support, with no less than Caitlyn Jenner hosting a screening for the film in recent weeks. At the start of the year, the actress signed with talent agency ICM, which suggests that "Tangerine" was anything but one-off; by this time next year, there's a strong chance we'll be hearing from her again. 

In the videos below, Taylor discusses her unexpected success and why it was hard for her to watch her own performance.

Photo credit: Daniel Bergeron

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  • Jon Flores January 22, 2016 7:55 PM

    I loved Mya's performance. Can't wait to see her in "Happy Birthday, Marsha"!