Piyah Martell, AKA Honey B Diva, Transgender Performer Born With Caudal Regression Syndrome, Talks About Making Videos, Lady Gaga
Piyah Martell -- aka Honey B Diva -- has become an Internet sensation with her YouTube cover videos of songs by artists like Lady Gaga and Mariah Carey.
The singer and performer, who was born with a rare condition called Caudal Regression Syndrome which kept her spine and legs from fully developing in the womb, uses a computer given to her by her godmother to create and edit her own videos. She also shares videos documenting her everyday activities -- like walking on her hands through a shopping mall -- so that the world can see what living her life is like.
We caught up with Piyah, who told her parents she was trans when she was 15 and began taking hormones earlier this year, to find out more about making her inspirational videos, why Lady Gaga means so much to her, and her message to all the haters out there.
How did you first get started making your videos?
That happened in 2008 when I first got my laptop. It was donated to me by my godmother -- she got it from her work. I was just exploring the computer and I knew it had a webcam and I just started recording myself and making music videos.
See an interview with Piyah, the premiere of her "Hair" video, and 9 other videos (interview continues below slideshow):
Had you always wanted to create videos but just didn't have the means to do it?
I'm a very creative person. When I didn't have my computer I still loved to sing and put music together. I would record myself from a radio and hear my voice and then re-record it and layer it with backgrounds. When I got the computer I was suddenly able to do both of those things with my voice and the webcam. It was amazing.
Who are some of your favorite artists that you like to cover?
Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga, Beyonce
What do you love about Lady Gaga?
She is not afraid of being who she wants to be. She speaks her mind and doesn't care what other people say. She sings songs about being OK with who you are and who you want to be. She sends a message to her listeners that really touch them -- it's a comfort to know that she has the power to send a message out to the world that being gay, straight, bi, or transgendered is who you are and nobody should hate someone for being different.
If you could meet Lady Gaga, what would you say to her?
I would first give her the biggest hug ever. She has been probably the most supportive person in the entertainment industry who stands up for the LGBT community. I would thank her for being so courageous for taking the stand for me and for the rest of the GLBT community. I would just keep thanking her and then I would ask her if I can be in one of her videos [laughs].
You're premiering your cover video of Lady Gaga's song "Hair." Why did you choose that song to cover?
I really loved the lyrics in the song -- they really hit home for me. "I've had enough, I'm not a freak -- I just wanna be myself and I want you to love me for who I am." I am lucky to have such a supportive family but there are many people out there who have called me names. This song is my anthem -- I am me and I am my hair.
When did you begin to transition?
All my life I've always been feminine. I've always been into girl things -- girl toys, everything. All my life. [Being a woman] was something I always knew. It wasn't like I woke up one day and thought "I want to be a woman" [laughs]. No, I always knew. [Transitioning] first started when I was doing videos. I began wearing makeup and it was just for fun but I realized I loved it. I loved being free to be feminine. When I finally told my parents, they already knew I was going to do something. And I told them I wanted to become a girl. I loved that day. I will never forget it. They were just so supportive.
What happened on that day?
It was a normal day. My family was cooking dinner and it just felt like the right time to tell them. So I said, "I have something to tell you and I just want to say I'm transgender." And they just said, "Baby, it doesn't matter what you do as long as you're happy. That's all that matters."
What about your other family and friends? How did they react?
Some of my uncles and aunts didn't really like it. They have always known me as a boy and all of a sudden I have a lot of things on my body that are different and things are changing. They're not really supportive of what I'm doing.
That must be hard.
I've decided I'm not really here to satisfy them. I'm doing this for me. That's how I see it. I used to be so sad but I realized I'm not here to please anyone else. If it makes me happy, I'm going to do it.
Does being trans have any influence on your musical career?
Ever since I came out as trans, I've had a lot of people writing me [after seeing my videos] and saying "I'm going through the same thing. How do you do it? How do you live your life just going out places and doing your thing?" I try and tell them it's simple: do what you want to do. And going out places -- sometimes you get the lookie loos, but you just have to be ready for that. I don't worry about it.
Tell me about your fans.
Oh my gosh. It's amazing to have people write me and tell me that they can relate to me -- whatever I'm doing, whether I'm just talking or making videos or going shopping. They're loving the view of how I'm living my life and I think it gives them the courage to be like, "Hey, she's living her life -- what am I doing?" It's amazing. I love my fans. They're more than fans -- they're like my freaking family!
Do you ever get negative comments about your videos?
I get negative comments every single day, whether it's on email or on Facebook or on YouTube -- every single day!
What do people say?
"You're not a girl -- you'll never be a girl" or "You're stupid" or they'll even bring my family into it. It's like, you're the one who watched the video! If you don't like it, don't watch it.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I hope that I'm out there expressing myself through music, performing all over the place.