Faces of AWNY: Meet Mi-kaisha

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Mi-kaisha

Here at AWNY, we love being able to introduce some of the amazing women who are living and working in NYC. Meet Mi-kaisha—a proud First Nations woman who also happens to be one of the most talented up-and-coming Aussie musicians. Beyond her obvious talents, Mi-kaisha also brings her brand of authentic and genuine energy to every room she walks into. We were inspired to share her story after she brought down the house singing “Girl on Fire” at the recent AAA Gala dinner. From her hometown roots and what she misses about Oz to her favorite local spots in the city—let’s get to know, Mi-kaisha.

Where did you grow up in Australia, and what led you to make the big move to the US?
I was born in Sydney’s south, and I am a Sydney (and now Brooklyn) girl through and through. I am a Darumbal (Aboriginal) and Tongan woman with connections to Rockhampton and Eua. I first moved to NYC in the Fall of 2019 for an undergrad in Recorded Music (Minor in Native American and Indigenous Studies) at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music.

As a lot of us know, the emotional toll of moving so far away from home can be challenging. What do you miss the most?
I definitely miss my family and my community the most. I am such a Sydney girl; it’s not funny. I miss the beaches and the quiet. As an Aboriginal woman, it’s also challenging being out of the community and having such a large part of my connection to culture taken away from me (I’m aware I did it to myself, lol, but still!)

Do you have any tips for managing homesickness while here in the city?
There’s nothing a good Kath & Kim or Heartbreak High episode won’t fix. I also go for walks in my local park, grab a coffee at an Aussie joint, or FaceTime with my friends and fam. The more I fall in love with the city, the less homesick I feel—so I am super intentional about connecting with people in the city and immersing myself in the creative scene here.

What has surprised you about living, studying, and making music in New York?
NYC has been so refreshing (challenging, too) for me as a musician and songwriter. It’s a cliché, but it’s true—the city can be incredibly creatively and professionally energizing. On the other hand, it can be emotionally and socially draining. What I’ve loved most about being in NYC is being surrounded by quirky, dorky, and focused creatives like myself. I feel a sense of boldness when I am here that I don’t often feel when in Australia. I also love when Aussies visit! Because I feel the comfort of home, with the craziness of the city. Literally feels like two worlds colliding.

How important has it been to connect with like-minded people in NYC & create new friendships and a network of support?

Even by living in the States for the short amount of time I have (a year, in cumulative total), my world has grown exponentially. The people I now get to call my community in NYC are such inspiring people who balance the hustle and calm in the city really well. I don’t know if I would have adjusted as well as I have if it weren’t for their example. I now have such wonderful connections all over the world thanks to my time here in the city. Being in NYC has made me realize that community is SO IMPORTANT. Your community are the people who you can turn to for advice, ask for a couch to crash on, get inspiration from, and share their wisdom.

Have you come across any major differences between American and Australian culture that have surprised you?
Yes! There are an obscene amount of Aussies in the city, and selfishly I LOVE IT! It’s so nice to be able to say, ‘I’m going to the toilet’ or ‘What do you reckon?’ without being met with a confused face. That being said, I think we’ve, as ex-pats, also created our own new kind of Aussie culture here that challenges the ways I used to think. I’d like to say I think BIGGER now.

Ok, since you’re becoming a bit of a local now, what are some of your fave haunts?
Most of the spots I love are my fave because they’re convenient, but they’re definitely faves nonetheless.

1. Butler–Dumbo
2. Fort Greene Park
3. Tacombi – Nolita

If you could give a shout-out to an inspiring Aussie woman doing awesome things in NYC, who would it be?
My amazing friend Billie just launched her Fine Jewelry collection, Billie Wilde, and I could not be more inspired and proud of the work she does! She’s a true creative at heart and also one of my fave people in the city.

What inspires you about fellow Aussie women who have made the big move to NYC to live, work, and chase their dreams?
I love hearing about the incredible business ventures and creative projects other Aussie gals are executing in the city. As most of us work in industries where women are pushed to the margins, it is so important to me to celebrate the wins all around that our community makes!

For our AWNY members who might want to stay in touch, how can they find you?
I’d love to connect with you all! You can reach me on Instagram @iammikaisha.
I’m also releasing my single ‘Seen’ on Nov 18th, which you can pre-save HERE.

To read more features in our Faces of AWNY Series, click below.

Author: Sarah McLellan Mee

Sarah is originally from Bundaberg, Australia and moved to NYC at 17 (over 22 years ago). Initially she worked as a dancer and singer on Broadway (42nd Street, Queen's We Will Rock You) and then toured around the world in a critically-acclaimed rock band. Transitioning from performance, she moved into the digital media world—mainly focused on clients in the travel and food space. Sarah has worked as an editor, agency social media strategist, VP of Marketing for a major restaurant group, and as branded content editor for Bon Appétit magazine and other publications at Condé Nast. Sarah lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn with her husband Chaz and their one-year-old daughter, Alula.

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