The journey of two-spirit drag-pop recording artist VIZIN is one that movies are made from. But with a five-octave voice (like Mariah Carey) most singers would kill for, it was only a matter of time before the Native American singer was able to shine.
VIZIN, who says she once weighed 700 pounds, had gastric bypass surgery to lose weight, eventually breaking free from her past emotional trauma, an unsatisfying job, and ongoing health issues.
Now, the shooting star has released a reimagined version of Sylvester's classic disco hit, "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" with world-renowned remixer Hector Fonseca and producer Chris Rosa. She also did a new dance single, "I Was Born This Way," a remake of the 1975 song written by Chris Spierer, which is currently spinning in seven countries.
Showing off her still curvaceous (but 500 pounds lighter) body, VIZIN shared the stage with Chaka Khan and Jodi Watley at Long Beach, Calif., Pride earlier this year. But while the crowds cheered her fierceness, she's the first to tell you it wasn't always rainbows and accolades.
While working the Bismark, North Dakota, drag scene in 2008, VIZIN admits she was unhappy with her survival job and, due to a series of "unfortunate events," she ended up moving back home.
"I felt defeated and fell into a depression that involved me basically living on the couch and ... eating myself up to 703 pounds," VIZIN recalls. "My mother was the one who got me to see a doctor about having gastric-bypass surgery. I was scared of dying from the surgery. I decided I could either eat myself to death or die on the operating table. I'm happy I took that leap."
That decision changed her life and gave her a newfound confidence to carry her back onstage.
"My escape was always music and listening to the divas of the '90s," she says. "I never realized I could really sing until I was about 12 and I shocked the entire school when I sang 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' for a seventh-grade recital. I remember some of my teachers telling me I had made them cry. After that, I just kept singing and knew I could always stand out that way. It was nice being known as a singer."
VIZIN says her strength comes from her identity as two-spirit (what many Native American tribes consider a third gender). And while she identifies as Christian, she says, "I'm also passionate about my Indian beliefs."
The spirit may actually move her during performances.
"When I'm onstage, my mind goes blank -- in a good way," she says. "It becomes like a tunnel and I feel the energy of the crowd. I become a different person. It's like a time warp, because when I'm up there, it's never long enough. It's like having the best sex of your life -- it's never long enough."
Knowing that fans look up to her as a role model, VIZIN's advice is to "fake it until you make it. Stand up, be proud and make sure your eyelashes don't fall off. Confidence also comes from the practice of doing something over and over until it becomes perfect and you master it. In my case, it was developing my voice. All of the practicing over the years helped me to develop the confidence to become a recording artist."
But just because you're confident doesn't mean you won't fall into despair from time to time. VIZIN says, "I cry every day because I think it's healthy. And when I'm feeling down I take the time to reflect. I like to have my moments of reflection to gather my thoughts. I reflect on the big picture."
VIZIN's music video for her single featured cameos from Manila Luzon and Mariah Balenciaga from RuPaul'sDrag Race, Eric Leonardos from Finding Prince Charming, and Cassandra Cass from Oxygen's Strut, a show featuring an all-trans modeling agency.
"As I was standing on the set, [Balenciaga] would come in to fix my makeup after seeing the previews," VIZIN remembers. "It was an amazing moment because it was the beginning of her becoming my drag sister. On top of that, Cassandra Cass was fixing my boobs. It was a win-win for me."
Still, no matter how successful she gets, her idol will always be the singer she shares her five-octave vocal range with: Mariah Carey, citing her as the one performer she'd love to sing next to.
"I can always harmonize my way through a song and let her go," VIZIN says. "And I know that she wouldn't have any choreography for me."