There’s nothing easy about anxiety, but when it comes to dealing with it, hiding from the issue is the most simply way out. Putting it on full display to discuss in front of thousands of people is another thing entirely. But if that’s what it takes to address something often considered taboo, then that’s what Mia Love Live is willing to do.
Drawing on her experience as a radio personality, poet and writer, Mia Love Live is the force behind This is My Brain on Anxiety: The Detailed Experience of an Anxious, Black Woman, a one-woman show that focuses on navigating through life as … well, an anxious Black woman.
While she has toured the show around colleges in the Carolinas such as Appalachian State and Wingate universities, the creative Charlotte native will host a homecoming production of the act at Booth Playhouse on Feb. 10.
She told Queen City Nerve it’s all about drawing attention to an uncomfortable topic.
“I just want the influence and the impact to be great so that people will start to have the conversation about their mental health, their well-being, and what it looks like,” she said. “A lot of people are probably sitting around like this is the norm. I don’t want people to feel like that’s okay, because it’s not. It’s not the norm. It feels like the norm because that’s the only thing you’ve done for so long.”
We caught up with Mia Love Live in the lead-up to her February show to discuss the creation of This is My Brain on Anxiety and what comes next, among other topics.
Queen City Nerve: How do you describe This is My Brain on Anxiety to people?
Mia Love Live: I have created, produced, directed, performed in a one-woman show called This is My Brain on Anxiety, The Detailed Experience of an Anxious Black Woman. The show is a five-part, creatively curated show that details the experiences, literally, of a Black woman dealing with anxiety. The Black woman is me, but also, people who’ve seen the show will sometimes feel like it’s them. That’s how relatable it is.
What inspired you to do a one-woman show as opposed to a full cast production or some other medium?
Before this show in 2021 — that’s when I first debuted the show — I was doing a show, a mini web series called So Anxious, and it starred me. I was the person that it was centered around. So genuinely, This is My Brain on Anxiety, is an extension of that, a little bit more in-depth, a little bit more, obviously, longer, because it was a mini web series. And that’s really where it was fun.
It’s just an extension of where I had the show, where it focused on my life. Other people were in it, but it focused on anxiety, and I just was the main character. So I brought that over to the stage. I don’t think it was my intention all along. I wasn’t like, “Oh, I should do a one-woman show.” I think as I kept creating it, that’s what it fell into, and it worked.
How does it feel to know that people are feeling seen by this production and its specific topics? What do you say to people who tell you that?
This shows for people like you, right? Because I think you’re like, “Yeah, I’ve just gotten used to it. I suffer in silence.” But also, the thought is that you’re the only person who could be dealing with it at that height. You’re like, “No one could possibly be feeling that, too.” You just don’t think anyone else is feeling it that way.
The show is also to point out, like, “No, sis. No, bro. No, human. It’s not just you. Here’s how it’s been for me. Here’s how I’m working through it. Here’s the lens that I view it through. These are the things that I’ve gone through. These are the things that I’m trying to overcome. These are the different facets of anxiety and mental health in general.” So it is for people like you where you’re like, “I’m the only one.” No, you’re not. And here’s how we’re going to start this convo up.
What does that conversation look like?
My attempt with this show was to start the conversation of mental health within the Black community, because traditionally, we don’t usually talk about it. It’s kind of taboo. And so I wanted to make it a conversation starter. It’s kind of funny. It makes you cry, makes you laugh. It makes you think it’s like a mirror. And I just wanted to start the conversation about mental health within the Black community and even in other communities as well.
I hope that it acts as, like, it caught on fire and now the fire is spreading. I want you to get some therapy. I want you to talk to somebody. It’s okay to talk to somebody because that’s the thing, too. Within the Black community, I think we’ve grown up to believe that you don’t talk about your problems a lot, right? Or don’t talk about things outside of your head or outside of your home or outside of your family, when in some cases, a lot of cases, you should talk to somebody outside of that space, because that’s probably the more sober brain. If you’re anxious and you are having issues, why would you give yourself advice? That would be anxious advice, would it not? You’re going to give yourself an anxious resolve, and it just is going to continue to talk your way out of something or talk your way into something.
With your anxiety, where do you get the courage to do a one-woman show?
Child, your guess is as good as mine. I really don’t know. I sometimes sit back genuinely, and look at that. God, I guess; that’s the difference between just doing something and, like, purpose. Purpose gives you that drive. Sometimes I’m like, “Yo, what is making you say, ‘Yes, we’re going to do this?’” And then a lot of times, it’s not within a long period of time that I have to do these things. So that also makes me question myself. But I don’t know. I think it’s God, and I think it’s purpose. And I think somewhere deep in me, I understand and believe that it is purpose. And I believe that is the thing that gives me the courage and the drive to even do it.
What has your own journey through anxiety looked like?
[I have struggled with anxiety] since I was about 13. Okay, so now I will say this: I am in a better space than what I used to be in dealing with it. I meditate now. Meditation is like a must for me. It’s how I keep my head clear. It’s how I keep things from surfacing or when they surface. I can quiet them. I know how … That’s how I’m able to do a one-woman [show].
So everything that I’m telling you in this show is what has happened to me or currently happening to me. The evolution of it, the rise and the falls, the laughing. Every emotion that you feel in the audience is the same emotion that I have felt in that space with anxiety.
Sometimes you just got to laugh at it because it’s like, “God, this is stupid.” And then sometimes you cry, right? Because you just really feel like, “Nah, I don’t want to live the rest of my life like this.” And then it’s all of the above. But I’ve gotten a lot better. But I’ve also done the work. I’m doing the work and I’ve done the work. It hasn’t just gotten better just because things get better with time.
Your previous production at Blumenthal was called Sincerely, Charlotte. How does that relate to This is My Brain on Anxiety, if at all?
Well, they don’t necessarily relate. They both are me — a Love Live production, one-woman show. But Sincerely, Charlotte was genuinely a love letter to my city. I am born and raised in Charlotte. I told the stories of different people. I dressed up as them, [acted] similar to them, changed my voice in some of them, changed my mannerisms for some of them. But I tell people the whole show is literally a love letter. It was just to teach people who aren’t from here about this beautiful city. Sometimes some people who come here just kind of think of Charlotte as just what it is now. But it has not always been this.
Also to reminisce and to show the beauty of Charlotte and remember Charlotte to the people who are from here, or who have been here for a long time, who remember these places. It was like a big trip down memory lane. And that connection to be there with my audience. It was a beautiful show. It was a beautiful time. I talked about home, and I show love for the city that raised me.
So what’s next for you? Do you have any other ideas in the pipeline or any productions that you and your team are working on?
Well, right now, I think I am very careful to not overdo it, bombard myself, pile things on myself. I am learning, and I learned through a book years ago called The One Thing: Sometimes you have to focus on the one thing instead of all the things. So it’s not that I don’t have ideas. I have ideas every single day, but you got to focus on your focus. And so I did Sincerely, Charlotte and then I think after that, I said, “I will do other shows in surrounding cities,” but focusing on This is My Brain on Anxiety and how to expand that, how to grow that, how to nurture that, how to continue to cultivate it, and setting up a tour for it and going to other places.
Right now it’s just focusing on taking it to other cities as well as how can I utilize that offstage with smaller kids? Performance and storytelling and writing and mental wellness practices in which I created a program called Stories, which I am implementing with young girls of color in high school and middle school. So that is a way of expansion. But in terms of productions, really, it is focusing on cultivating and growing and bettering This is My Brain on Anxiety.
What do you hope people take from the show on Feb. 10?
When I’m on stage, one of the things that I hope that people feel is love — love live. I’ve embodied it. It’s always present wherever I go. It’s a part of me.
This is My Brain on Anxiety will show for one night only on Feb. 10 at the Booth Playhouse. Visit blumenthalarts.org for tickets.
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