Premiere: Mel 4Ever Goes Full Throttle Doll In “About Fashion” Video

The Brooklyn hyperpunk star gets live fillers in her new video.

By the time of Mel 4Ever’s November concert at Elsewhere, I had nearly embraced exile from queer nightlife. Nearly a year into my recovery program, I couldn’t imagine a scene that wasn’t constructed on dissociation, inebriation, and the hierarchies of gay male sexual terrorism. All that changed when Mel arrived onstage to her vengeance banger “Jennifer’s Bodice,” whipping her red hair and stomping like an earthbender. I headbanged like a straight guy at a Prodigy show in 1994, screaming the lyrics and getting my life. By the end of the show, Mel was spitting fake blood over her naked body, roaring in triumph to a crowd of devoted new fans. Both of us were dead sober, drenched in sweat, and cleansed by fire.

Though Mel situates her music in the hyperpunk-hyperpop arena, she’s an outlier from the broad genre of jacked-up disembodiment that forms the genre. Her sonic fury — and her performance — feels like a direct download back into the body, and her lyrics deal with the messy negotiations of the flesh. Her debut EP, Tranic Attack, is a collection of calls coming from inside the house: “Big Tits (Whoopsie)” confronts the horrors of dysphoria amid gender transition; “Jennifer’s Bodice” faces down a former perpetrator of sexual violence; and “About Fashion” consecrates her body as a new temple, a Versailles or Versace Mansion, ever in production.

Mel officially ignited her career in the summer of 2021, but it came after a long and hard pandemic, over which she got sober, started her transition, and changed her name. “Big Tits (Whoopsie)” dropped this summer and marked a formal debut, the emergence of a nascent star with a savage sense of humor. But “About Fashion,” directed by Mikey Harmon, represents her apotheosis, a perfected realization of the pop fantasy. As she sings her lyrics “my body is my fashion,” in a set constructed entirely for her, Mel is now the centerfold, the sex symbol, and the source.

For the exclusive premiere of the “About Fashion” music video, Mel spoke with NYLON about sobriety, transitioning, and taking back her body.

The live show at Elsewhere was a moment. How was it for you?

It was a bottom-line really cool achievement. The night before I was sobbing crying. I couldn’t get through the rehearsal. I was just like, “What’s going on here? How is this happening? I can’t believe this is me. This feels like it should be for someone else.” It was just wild. At the show, I realized once I got onstage that I was in 7-inch heels and couldn’t move. But halfway through, I just tapped into the flow. I got naked and poured blood on myself, which is where I feel most like I’m sending the message across of “What the f*ck is this b*tch doing?” Which is what I live for. It was very healing for me.

You were completely present onstage, even in the moments when you were forgetting what was next on the set list.

There’s something about being onstage, holding a mic and being projected, and knowing that I’m going to have all eyes on me, that just feels really comforting. I don’t know what kind of PTSD response that is, but it’s this thing I’ve longed for since I first heard Britney. When you’re like, “What is it like to be her?” And then all of a sudden you have 200 people staring at you, and it feels like the last puzzle piece sets in.

That total ease onstage feels connected to transitioning, to the idea of coming into full embodiment, shifting into being inside yourself.

I attribute a lot of what’s happening right now to sobriety, but I also know that at the end of the day, sobriety was contingent on gender. Since the first day that I transitioned, it was like I don’t need anything anymore. I don’t need alcohol. I don’t need drugs. I’m a whole thing now, a big round orb rather than jagged pieces of light. I feel now like I have a suit of armor on at all times, and when I get naked, that’s when it really shows. Watching other trans women be naked on stage, like Remy Black and Charlene [Incarnate, Mel’s older sister and the sine qua non of Brooklyn drag], those were really important moments for me because I was like, “How the f*ck does one person start out as a little weird teenager and end up a superhero in front of your eyes?” I found myself in the same position, and I was like, “I’m doing the scariest possible thing, and it isn’t scary to me anymore.” Transitioning mentally, and presenting the way that I am, and hormones — they’re keeping me alive in a way that feels stronger than anything physical or tangible. It feels stronger than alcohol.


Were there any fears you had to confront to claim that moment of total selfhood?

I’ve done a lot of work around eating disorders and dick dysphoria and generally despising my body. Being naked onstage is kind of like: “Here it is anyway, and do what you want with it.” The audience takes the thinking about it from me, so I don’t have to worry about it anymore. I used to be emaciated and addicted to cocaine and had a 12-pack, not because I was working out but because of the lack of fat on my body. I was so skinny, and I felt huge. Now, I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been in my entire life, and I love it. It feels very femme… It’s just solved all of these problems for me. Not that I don’t still have eating tea, but it just feels a lot softer now.

I understand that I’m in the same space as my sister [Charlene Incarnate], and she’s been a huge inspiration for me, and [she] is all about nudity and tits and dick out onstage. I understood that if I did something similar, there would be some kind of comparison, within me and her or among audience members. I didn’t want to take anything away from her, but at the end of the day, it’s beyond whether or not this will affect other people. It’s simply something I have to do right now. So I did it.

Your music feels really immediate, like I’m getting blasted back into myself when I listen to it.

It goes back to this idea of purging. It’s like you’re getting something out of your body. All of the music I’ve created, when I was creating it, felt like throwing up, spiritually speaking. Whether it’s a specific gyration or a thousand hair flips, it feels like you’re in this peyote ritual. Get it the f*ck out. Go crazy. That’s what makes me feel like I fit into my skin like a glove. I never imagined any of these to be headphone songs. This is supposed to be live so I can show you what this means to me.

A lot of the album is horrorcore. But “About Fashion” is a pop anthem. What went into the creation of this song?

We were doing a photoshoot for something, and the photographer was like, “Who are you wearing for the shoot?” I got so angry. What do you mean who am I wearing? I’m paying you $500 that I don’t have for photos. I don’t have any clothes. I just got a bunch of fillers, so that’s who I’m wearing: I just got my cheeks, a lip lift, my smile lines, I just got fully plumped. I’m wearing that. Then I wrote down, “My filler is my fashion,” and I went home and started a list of things that made me feel personally fashionable, and got into this idea of “What makes me feel fashionable when I don’t have clothes on? What is my fashion when I’m not wearing anything?”

The way that I look, the way that I am perceived is because of things you can’t buy at f*cking Zara: trauma with family. Is that the reason my hair is bright red? Things that have made me feel shame in the past are now things that I wear permanently. I got drunk and I have a giant scar on my ass; I filleted my asscheek by falling down a flight of stairs [laughs] and I was blackout and don’t remember it. Every time I get f*cked in the butt, someone is like, “What’s this giant piece of ‘bacon’? What’s that giant scar on your ass?” I have scars all over me — from being drunk or falling down the Williamsburg Bridge on a bike — literal scars and mental scars. What are things that I wear either by choice or not by choice permanently? Those are what make me fashionable because I have no choice other than to embrace them.

That coincides really well with the video; the last one was you embodying different horror movie characters. This one is you embodying yourself as a pop star. How is it feeling to put yourself and your body in the spotlight on camera?

With this video, I was in a state of mind of “I don’t want anyone to see my face or body until I’m surged, until I have all my surgeries, because I’m self-conscious and dysphoric and embarrassed by my current bone structure, body hair, and lack of giant tits.” So I was like, “I’m going to do music videos and have it only be the back of my head,” which I still think is a really good idea. But something that was missing for me in the last video was me as me. That’s what I wanted for this. I was not concerned with narrative or anything. I was like I want to pick a couple of different scenarios and perform the song straight through 1,000 times and cut that up. Every take you see was the song start to finish. I was performing, and the director, Mikey Harmon, would come in and shoot.

“Since the first day that I transitioned, it was like I don’t need anything anymore. I don’t need alcohol. I don’t need drugs. I’m a whole thing now, a big round orb rather than jagged pieces of light.”

You shot it all in Mikey Harmon’s apartment, right?

Mikey has a relatively small apartment. He essentially moves out, puts everything in his apartment into one room, and builds from the ground up. He did that five different times, with five different sets, going around New York getting scraps and sh*t, and building it from the ground up. It was one of the most amazing things that I’ve ever seen. The resourcefulness was unprecedented. This person just f*cked me up, really, with his dedication, the timeliness, the passion, and the geyser of yes-ness. He built these sets and I was like, “Who the f*ck are you? What is happening?” I learned a really valuable lesson. I guess this is getting into Barney & Friends [laughs], but people can f*cking surprise you and really deliver in ways you weren’t expecting.

What experience have you gained in making your dreams come true on a budget?

My budgets are notoriously small. Everyone’s like, “Oh, f*ck. This b*tch.” I think what it comes down to is trusting somebody, which I have had a history of never doing. Now I’m like, “This person is a barista but says he wants to get into horror and bloody pictures. Let’s gas that person up so that they can understand that it’s actually something they can do, and then literally stay on top of them.” I hound people. I’m irritating as f*ck. I try not to be annoying about it, but I basically am finding people off the streets and being like, “You’re going to do this, K?”

What is your relationship to ambition right now, as you come into this new stage of embodiment?

I think that is one of the greatest stresses or sources of anxiety for me. I’m 10 years ahead in my mind, and I’m like, “How the f*ck am I going to get there?” I know from experience that you get there one day after the other. But it’s not necessarily about notoriety or validation as much as is about proving this narrative that you can turn your life around. I’m really curious to see how far that can go. A year ago today, if you had told me that I’d have an interview with NYLON and just recently finished a show at Elsewhere, I would have freaked out so bad that I would have f*cked it all up.

My first goal for 2021 was one song and one music video, and I had no plans of performing live. And now I have an EP and a bunch of shows under my belt and two music videos. So something is happening here. As an addict and an artist, I want more, more, more, more. I want to see how much more I can do, validate the inner child and empower other people, and f*ck the patriarchy, whatever. I’m afraid of running so fast that I trip.

A big fear with recovery is “What if this gets out of control again? What if I can’t have a foot on the ground?”

A lot of times when things happen that I’m grateful for in hindsight, my hands have been tied and my feet are in the air. I have had no control of it. It goes back to trusting your sense of self and being like, “Keep doing what makes you physically, emotionally, and spiritually happy.” I don’t know if I believe in “if it’s meant to be it will be,” but it will lead to something, whether that’s a realization that I don’t want to do it anymore, or that I’m willing to do whatever it takes in a healthy way to make sure I do get to do this again.


This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.