Get To Know An HBG (Happy Black Girl)

Folks stay talking about The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Once a week, we take a different approach and highlight the fascinating array of happy black girls and guys (hbg’s) we know and love. Sometimes we even feature those we admire from afar. It’s our humble attempt at sharing the wealth of information that comes our way about great people.

This week I get to share the beauty, wisdom and charm that is Ms Mia Paschal. I met Mia a few years ago immediately following her performance during Fresno’s Rogue festival. I remember being struck by her powerful performance and overjoyed that I’d found something hbg relatable. Y’all know how it is. Well, I asked Mia if she would share a little about herself here on the site and she agreed. So, now you can sit back and get to know her too.


in paris 2009
HBG’s in Paris | Source Mia Paschal

1. Please tell the readers, who you are, where you’re from, stay, dwell, wander, whatever. Mia Paschal, an actor and solo performer living in San Francisco. I was born in Arkansas, and have lived in Paris and Milan. 

2. Do you wake up happy? Yes, actually. That’s the default, even if a minute or two later I remember an ongoing problem. My mother says that I was a very happy baby, and I do remember being a happy child for as far back as I can remember – when I was three years old or so. So even in long periods when I most decidedly was not happy, that knowledge – that I was and therefore am a naturally happy person, was a large part of what helped, and helps, me through the hard work of recovering and maintaining that equilibrium.

3. What’s your 1st line of action when you’re happy & it unexpectedly gets high jacked? It depends on what’s happened. I try to protect myself, my mental and emotional well being, and I try to  take action somehow. If I can personally fix it, I try to. If it’s something I can do nothing about, I try to take action internally, which could mean seeing the new possibilities of the situation and changing direction, accepting the situation, or finding a way to distance myself as soon as possible from the situation. It’s not always the case, but ideally, I’d approach it with a sense of humor and with grace and ingenuity. 

Make it happen with a smile | Source Mia Paschal

4. Five things in your HBG “I’m gone be alright” Survival Kit. 

  • 1Remembering and reminding myself that I’ve made it this far. Through all kinds of things, and it hasn’t been easy. And that it isn’t easy for anybody. 
  • 2The principles of Judaism that keep me grounded and going forward: among which, gratitude, being present and aware, questioning, taking action, the importance of community. Attending services at my synagogue, being observant, studying.
  • 3. Using my mind: Writing, which is my way of making sense of the world, of making my place in the world, and of keeping a line of communication open to others. And to myself, now that I think about it!
  • 4. Using my body: a.) Dancing.  A few years ago, to counterbalance being too much in my head (I was studying film and screenwriting), I started ballroom dancing (waltzes, foxtrot), then salsa and bachata, and for almost a year and a half now, I have completely fallen in love with Argentine Tango. It’s a partner dance – and I’m fortunate to have met a wonderful tango partner – but one where not only do you learn to work intensely and intimately with another, you are ultimately and always responsible for your own axis, and of being aware of your partner’s. b.) Running. I started running in September of 2012, and in the spring of 2013 I ran my first race ever – a 5K. In November 2013 – on my birthday! – I ran my first half marathon. However, I feel before I start running, running always makes me feel better.  I run listening to music, and  it’s as if I’m dancing my way forward. Heavenly. I also like the simplicity and the autonomy of it – I just put on my shoes and go, which is a perfect counterbalance to the partner dancing I do. And the funny thing is, growing up, I never thought I was athletic at all, and I definitely thought that I’d be bored after twenty minutes of running, if not sooner. Also, running, both during my training and racing runs, has taught me something so important that carries over into my non-running life, since I am competitive, and at times fall into the trap of comparing myself to others, whether it is a runner who just passed me as I’m running along the Embarcadero, or an actress who just won an Oscar: “Run your own race.”
  • 5My cat, because she’s funny and sweet, even if she’s also a handful. And she keeps it simple, which is also something I like to be reminded of. That I need to be reminded of! It’s nice to have a little being who trusts you, asks very directly in her own way for what she needs, but really she asks for so little, and yet gives so much. 

5. Tell us a little bit about “Heartbreak Velocity This is the latest solo show that I am working on. It’s about being female, trying to communicate with the world through any means available, trying to break through the barriers of language, of grief, of sex, of faith. 

I started writing it when I wondered about how the language(s) we use affect how we live our lives, since every language expresses our thoughts differently. And from there, I thought about other forms of expressing our interior selves. It’s very physical, or at least, more physical than I have been, I hope it’s very funny, at least in places, and I hope it resonates with people.

heartbreak velocity divafest sf may 2013 photo by steve bollman
Heartbreak Velocity Divafest SF 2013 | Source Steve Bollman

6. Share something you think the 12 year old HBG version of yourself would appreciate about you now. I think she’d be happy to know that even though I didn’t become wise and all-knowing at 21 – as I thought I would, looking at my older cousins who seemed wise and all-knowing! – I’m still enjoying learning, and life is constantly revealing new and beautiful mysteries. That I’ve done and seen even more than I dreamed of – acting, writing, traveling, living in France and Italy, scuba diving, to name a few things. That I learned that she was fine as she was, back then, and I wouldn’t change a thing about her.

7. In your opinion, how important is the company you keep? It’s crucial. Treat yourself well, and only associate with people who treat you well. And treat them well! Treat your family well – it’s so easy to take our relatives for granted, in action and in word. Same for our romantic partners – how many times do we say “please” and “thank you”? I also would extend “company” to the books you read, the movies you see, the food you eat. It doesn’t have to be “high art” or “haute cuisine”, not at all, but do think of what you’re taking into your body and mind and heart.

Even if – especially if –  that company you’re keeping is just me, myself, and I, make sure you’re being good company to yourself. The same way you’d want a friend to listen to you when you’re talking, pay attention to what you are saying to yourself, out loud and silently, through your body and your mind. Honor and cherish your senses, and notice what is surrounding you as you make your way in the world. 

8. Anyone ever give you the side eye because they didn’t get you?  Or just plain wasn’t ready for you? Details… Details! This is the question I’ve been thinking about the longest, because nobody comes to mind. And I bet I’ll remember somebody tomorrow. But I’m pretty oblivious to that sort of thing, since I do tend to focus on what I’m doing. Or maybe I just forget it. Because I have a hard time believing that everyone I’ve come into contact with has liked and accepted me! 

Tango in SF
Tango in the park SF Style | Source Mia Paschal

9. Any upcoming events etcthat you’re involved in that you’d like to share with the folks? I hope to bring “Heartbreak Velocity” to Fresno’s Rogue Festival in 2015! Otherwise, I don’t know what 2014 will bring. 2013 was very busy and wonderfully productive – I performed at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, at City Lights, and at the Oakland Museum of California, among other places, and I have no doubt that 2014 will be even more fun.

10. Last but never leastany final comments and or shout outs? One of the ways I stay happy is that I set goals in as many directions as interests me.

With my acting and writing, it’s an ongoing process. With running – I have four half marathons lined up for 2014, and one day I would like to run ultramarathons. With dancing – I want to be a very good tango dancer, which is going to be a lifelong process.

So when I have a setback in one area – which is normal – there is always another that is going well, something to look forward to. I also remind myself often that the period right before a breakthrough is often the most difficult – think of a  plant sprouting from a seed, or a chick breaking from a shell – it can’t be easy! My life is far from “perfect” or easy, but it’s mine, and that leads to a quote I read recently, that I like a lot: Never compare the inside of your life with the outside of somebody else’s. 

Also, I am so fortunate to have so many wonderful friends who are people I respect and admire, who inspire me in many different ways, and who are very patient with me as I disappear for long periods, and resurface from time to time. They don’t forget me, which is very kind of them. So I try to be a good friend in turn.






one dayDevoya Mayo is Co-Creator of The Happy Black Girl

Get To Know An HBG is her favorite column to write.

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1 thought on “Get To Know An HBG (Happy Black Girl)

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