Krista Michaels is someone I have a great deal of respect for and have wanted to interview for a long time, so I’m very excited to have this opportunity. She is socially aware and has strong opinions about the issues we face, and is very accomplished in a variety of areas. Krista has an eclectic mix of interests and reminds me in many ways of a modern-day renaissance woman.
Hi Krista! It’s a pleasure to be able to interview you!
Hi, Becca! Pleasure’s all mine. 🙂
You are a very creative and artistic person and you express your creativity in numerous ways. Can you tell us about what influenced you artistically early on in your life?
From an early age, I had first been influenced by cinema. In particular, I was rather fascinated by the early works of Disney, as well as the master directors of the 30s and 40s. I can’t seem to recall whether the first film I ever saw was “The Wizard of Oz” (’39) or “King Kong” (’33); it was most assuredly one of those, however. Very soon after, I fell in love with the works of Steven Spielberg – a director in which I owe a lot of my imagination to.
Where do you find inspiration for your art these days?
Oh, one can find inspiration in just about anything these days. I find inspiration in nature, by watching people interact with one another and their surroundings, and, of course, by watching animals. More specifically, I’m inspired by truth-seekers, great films, comics, and music. My favorite era for film and music would be the 70s; I happen to think that many of the messages delivered during that time are well worth listening to, and still hold up to this day.
Some people who inspire me greatly would be John Lennon, Stanley Kubrick, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Alfred Hitchcock, Nikola Tesla, Bruce Lee, etc.
Films that inspire me: “Barry Lyndon” (my favorite film), “Vertigo”, “Sunset Blvd.”, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, “Taxi Driver”, “Midnight Cowboy”, “The Godfather”, Carpenter’s “Halloween”, “Fellini Satyricon”, “Rosemary’s Baby”, etc.
Can you tell us about your interest in the Japanese culture and arts and how it influences your work?
Early on, I was really into Japanese manga, anime, food, culture, and the language. I actually took Japanese language classes throughout high school, and I have self-studied ever since. I’d say that I’m much better with reading than I am speaking, though that tends to work to my advantage, as I love and prefer the original Japanese manga with any story. I only watch international cinema and anime with the original language and subtitles, also. Anything else is impossible for me. When asked why – and I often am – I simply respond with a question: “could you tolerate, say, a German dub voice for Homer Simpson?” I couldn’t, personally, because there is only one. Also, the question of accuracy of intent and/or translations comes into play here.
With that, I can tell you that the original creators behind my favorite stories – “One Piece” by Eiichiro Oda being a huge influence, for instance – have given me more than I could possibly describe. I’ve also been highly influenced by the films of director Akira Kurosawa, as well as those of Hayao Miyazaki. One thing that the great artists all have in common is that many of them felt passionate enough to deliver strong messages – whether they are political in nature, social commentaries, or otherwise. And this is what influences my personal work. I just happen to think that the Japanese have such a wondrous and beautiful way of delivering their messages.
Music is one of your many talents and at one point you were the lead guitarist and vocalist of a popular band and have played a variety of genres including punk rock, blues and psychedelic music. Is music something you still enjoy and actively pursue?
Music is one of the loves of my life; I’ll always have a special place for it in my heart. I feel that it is a very powerful tool for conveying emotions, messages, and even peace. The last time time that I was in a band was in 2007. Though it was a fun blues/rock band, the lyrics that I wrote were very politically-charged, and perhaps one day I will post a few of them on my personal site.
I’ve greatly missed playing music, and, for years, I’ve been somewhat hesitant about playing again due to my transition. I love to sing, and I had been mentally trapped into thinking that I couldn’t – either out of embarrassment, fearing it to be an impossibility, or simply because of a likely negative reaction that I would have gotten. The truth is, those thoughts and feelings are behind me now, and I’ve only received the strength and inspiration to try it again fairly recently. So, yes, I would absolutely love to play music again, and, in all likelihood, I will in the future.
Writing is another area in which you excel, having written several feature-length screenplays by the age of seventeen, but it sounds like comics are where your true passion lies. Can you tell us about “A Sky Beyond”, the sci-fi adventure series that you and your fiancée created?
I love to write, but not without a fresh cup of black coffee! 😉 I’m a very visual person, so writing comics works out well for me where I fail in other areas. I tend to see the action in my head, and I even make audible sound effects while writing and doing the illustrations, I’ll have you know! I’m very passionate about comics, but I’m even more passionate about film. I just happen to be focusing on comics currently. However, my fiancée – Jessica D’Amelio – and I have created a universe that we call “The Starbot Universe”, which consists of the combined, canonical works of us both. Which is to say… this very universe encompasses our comics, novels, future films, etc. You can always check out my website to see which works are officially included.
As for “A Sky Beyond”, well, it was originally a sci-fi story that we developed as a love letter to the Japanese sh?nen genre of manga. Jess and I have a lot of common interests, and we felt that it was necessary, as we have a great story to tell. Though, at the time of this writing we have only officially released one issue, it is an epic in the works. We currently have numerous books of notes and illustrations for future characters and story arcs. It is a very personal passion project for us both. The trouble is that ideas come much faster than it takes to draw the story! And we are also busy with other endeavors and obligations, of course.
What is it about comics that appeals so much to you?
The ideas that I have are many times larger than life. And, with comics, the budget is always the same, regardless of what you dream up. And if I can create incredible things without worrying about financing, then that allows my imagination to soar. And, so, it’s a good reminder that the only thing stopping me from creating is, well, me. As I said, I’m a very visual person, and I love to show other people the images that I am thinking with pictures rather than with words. This would also explain my attraction to cinema. Though, with that said, I have also learned that sometimes things are best left to the imagination. But, as an artist, it is up to me to decide when and what to show the reader. I would never claim to be the best illustrator, though. In fact, I’m oftentimes not thrilled with my work at all, but it’s no reason to stop. I have a story to tell, and I will connect with people through my work, or I won’t. It’s really as simple as that. It’s all subjective. I just happen to feel that the heart of my story, and our universe at large, is more important than my opinion of my doodles. Lol 🙂
Do you have any other projects in the works that you’d like to share with us?
Yes. In terms of comics, I am working on a second series (also set within the Starbot Universe) called “My Memory, Ophelia”. It is greatly inspired by the mah? sh?jo (or magical girl) genre of manga. I can’t say when it will be released, though the first issue is about halfway finished. I can tell you that the story will have cosmic consequences even for “A Sky Beyond”. Perhaps of interest to the readers of this interview, it will contain a transgender character as part of the cast, though she won’t appear for several issues.
Also, if I can find the financing, I am currently writing a screenplay for a small sci-fi/horror film. It’s not something that I’m ready to discuss at this time, but know that it is something that I’m taking very seriously. I have a lot to say with this piece, and I intend to direct it, as well. In fact, were it up to me, I’d love to make films for the rest of my life.
You’ve had a variety of jobs within the world of theater, including Film Division Director, designing posters, sound production, event & promotional cinematography, and set design. Did you enjoy your time working in theater, and why did you decide to move on to other interests?
Ah, theatre. Yes, I worked for a few years at a performing arts theatre in Virginia, and I loved every minute of it. I really got a lot of my initial hands-on experience there with really expensive equipment, I might add! Of particular interest to me, I learned how to operate dual-35mm film projectors, and I screened many films from various eras in history. It was also a ton of fun to work with the director of a stage play, as I designed the sets. To see the sets being constructed from my original blueprints was something very magical, indeed.
I did design most of the promotional materials for the theatre, as well, such as posters, invitations, a playbill or two, schedules, etc. It was a lot of work, but I’ve always enjoyed Photoshop and design. I don’t exactly remember the nature of my departure, as it was about a decade ago now, but the theatre sadly closed soon after due to a change of ownership, I believe.
You have your own business, Krista Michaels Photography, and have photographed cities, animals, and still life, but it sounds like you are most drawn to photographing people. Was this part of the reason you decided to work for Grooby Productions as a photographer?
Although currently inactive, KM Photography will always be something that I’ll keep around, most probably. Photography is, without question, one of my true passions, and I feel that it goes hand-in-hand with cinematography, and film, in general. I really do love to capture nature in exactly the way that I see it through the lens… even if that differs from what other people see.
I do love to photograph people… all sorts of people from various backgrounds and cultures. I love to learn, and pictures are worth a thousand words, as they say. I happen to find many trans women and men to be very beautiful subjects, so it is only natural that I’d be attracted to such a photographic position with Grooby. And I love to meet new people.
What sort of style can we expect to see from you in your work for Grooby?
I’m not so sure that you should expect any particular style… at least not right now. I’m not currently in the best of locations, nor do I possess my preferred lenses, props, sets, etc. I’m working very minimally currently, which is not always a bad thing. However, when things are in order for me, I will then begin to show a bit more of my style. For now, I have a few Grooby photoshoots up that you may take a look at. I come from a background in fashion photography, and so my ideal shoot would be somewhat glamorous with high-key lighting. I have some samples of fashion and headshot photography on my personal website.
You had previously worked in the adult entertainment industry as a model; can you tell us about your experience working in front of the camera?
It was an interesting experience, to say the least. I think it helped a great deal in terms of expanding my confidence as a trans woman, as well as with my exploration of my sexuality. In all honesty, I hadn’t been too sexually-active prior to my time in the adult industry. To my surprise, people seemed to have liked my work under my stage name as “birdmountain”. Truthfully, I can’t watch any of that stuff; it’s just really uncomfortable for me. After a shoot, and especially if I didn’t have to edit the photos/footage myself, I never saw any of it. I suppose I enjoyed some of the experience, though I can’t say that I’d ever do it again. Sadly, though, I never got to work with hardly any of the models that I wanted to. Again, some things may best be left to the imagination.
Do you feel that having worked on both sides of the camera will give you an advantage as a photographer, such as being better able to relate to the models you work with?
Absolutely. And this is one of the biggest reasons I had for doing this job. Not only do I have a background in modeling, myself, but I’ve also experience when working with other photographers. Let’s just say that I intend to do a few things differently, as I’ve had a few sketchy experiences in the past… and I want to ensure that the models that I photograph are 100% comfortable, and happy with the shoot. And I think that many models are happy to hear that they’ll be working with a trans producer, especially first-timers. I’m very patient, and I try to be understanding. I know exactly what it’s like on the opposite side of the camera.
You began your transition at age 24, which is relatively young. What advice would you give to young trans people who are just beginning their journey?
I could honestly write a book on this topic, though I’ll try to keep it brief here. For starters, and perhaps most importantly, be absolutely sure – beyond a shadow of a doubt – that this is what you want. It is not an easy life, and it isn’t for everyone. For me, it was something that I knew would keep eating at me alive until I did something about it. To tell the truth, it is something that I ran from for years, because I was in denial, perhaps, but I was also afraid. I had no one, and I didn’t even think that it’d be possible. I was in a small town with no support groups, no trans-friendly doctors, and no friend close enough that would understand. I joined an online forum, I watched YouTube videos, I self-medicated, and I did everything to ease my longing of finding myself. And I’m glad that I did, because I’ve had zero regrets. But I have known people who jumped into it without giving it enough thought, and that’s a dangerous game, I think. So, please, spend some time to do some soul-searching first, and educate yourself on everything. Only you can know for yourself. You may lose friends and family along the way; I know I did, but I don’t regret it. You will eventually find your true friends and family along your journey. Stay tough. 🙂
Have you always known you were trans, and was it a process to come to terms with that?
I don’t want to claim that I’ve always known, as I so often hear. I can say that I’ve always felt different, and I still do. I didn’t know from an early age what it was that I was feeling, but I knew something was off. I didn’t relate to my peers. To be honest, for a while, I just considered that I was gay. Having had gay experiences, I soon learned that my sexuality was completely irrelevant. It’s easy to deny transsexualism from the perspective of someone who isn’t trans. Unless you’re trans, you’ll never know the horror of looking into the mirror and seeing a reflection that doesn’t feel like you. And it’s completely different than just enjoying women’s clothing and makeup. There is a real difference between transsexuals and transvestites. I can tell you firsthand that I have always hated the bone structure of my face, and my adam’s apple, and that, somehow, it just didn’t feel right; it still doesn’t feel right, and I’ve yet to have any surgery. If I can ever afford such a thing, I will correct these things that I feel do not belong. I’ve now come to terms with myself, but I sadly have a way to go before I’ll truly be happy.
Even legally changing my name to Krista seemed to uplift my spirit in so many ways. It feels… right. I really hated just about everything about my pre-transition life, and I feel that I can now begin to enjoy the good things in life.
Now that I’ve transitioned – though I do not in any way consider it to be complete – I feel so much better. My lifelong depression has subsided, and the hormones that I take seem to balance me in such a way that I never felt before. It was only after transition that I was able to continue in the arts. Prior to transition, my work started to decline as I became overwhelmed with these feelings. I feel, well, free.
It’s still somewhat difficult for me to explain how I feel, but it’s everything the opposite of what society, at large, says that I should. Still, I hope that the science will eventually shed more light on this than what is currently provided. Though it may not be important to others, it is very important to me. In the meantime, I have my own views, even if they don’t always align with the mainstream narrative.
Has your family been accepting and supportive of you?
Yes. My mother and father, as well as my brother all accept me as Krista, and refer to me as such.
While the trans community has made great strides in gaining acceptance and equality over the past few years there is still a long way to go. What do you see as the biggest issue our community faces?
Honestly, I think what’s lacking is individuality. I don’t personally find too much in common with the community, because I’m off doing my own thing, and thinking my own way. Not to sound negative, but there’s a bit of a hive mind situation going on currently. And for those free thinkers, they are often shunned by the LGBT community for having differing views or opinions, not only about the life, itself, but also for having a different political outlook.
I also believe in acceptance of all people, obviously, though I never try to force my views on others, nor do I even care if they happen to accept me or not. Because I know who I am, and that’s all that matters. Just live your own life. We don’t have too much time here.
You seem to be very politically aware and describe yourself as a Constitutionalist. How do you feel about the current state of the government?
Politically-speaking, I’d describe myself as someone who agrees with most views of the Libertarian party, but, for the sake of hating labels, I’ll call myself nonpartisan. And, yes, I greatly support the Constitution. I feel that there are many people who are seeking to destroy our rights as Americans, and I do not like the current administration. I feel that there are many treasonous people in power that do not have in mind the best interests of the people, and I will certainly not be voting for Hillary Clinton, that’s for sure.
You recently tweeted that you are a supporter of the Second Amendment and don’t feel we need more gun laws. What are your thoughts on how we as a nation should address the mass shootings which are becoming all too common in this country?
Yes, well, before I begin, I would like to quote the Second Amendment:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
The Founding Fathers couldn’t have been anymore clear about this amendment, and it is the only thing preventing anyone from taking away all of our other rights. The people are in power, not the government, and I feel that this is something everyone often forgets… or perhaps something they never learned. It’s clearly stated that the Second Amendment “shall not be infringed.”
The thing about gun laws is the fact that criminals, by definition, do not follow rules. What do they do? They commit crimes! It is already illegal to kill people. Law-abiding citizens are the only ones being negatively-affected by these gun laws, as their right to defend themselves is being stepped on. Do you ever notice how many shootings take place in gun-free zones? It doesn’t do a thing to prevent mass shootings. It’s the same with drug laws. Drug users still get their hands on illegal drugs, just as criminals will find any gun that they wish to use.
One thing to keep in mind is the fact that the Second Amendment isn’t just the right of conservatives, it isn’t just the right of hunters, and it isn’t just the right of “that hick down yonder”; it is the right of every American. And, so, I stand strongly in support of the Second Amendment, because I am an avid lover of history, and I know all too well what can happen when a populace is disarmed by a shady government.
Where would you like to see yourself ten years from now?
I would hope that I’m living in a free society, one where the masses have awakened to the truths of the world – both good and bad. And I want to have furthered my transition, surgically-speaking. I hope that I’m busy making films, and still doing my part to make the world a better place.
Thank you again for taking the time to do the interview Krista. You are an inspiration to me and I hope this interview can inspire others by showing that there is no limit as to what can be accomplished with dedication, hard work, and a passion for life.
You can learn more about Krista and her work on her website at Website: www.KristaMichaels.com and follow her on Twitter at KristaMichaelsX