C'est moi, Zemmoa

Joy Yoon

Before I can even press record on my tape recorder, gender-bending Mexican singer/artist/showgirl Zemmoa's already begun. "I performed for Mario Testino, and I opened for Peaches, Technotronic, and Erasure in Mexico City.  I had my first tour two years ago, my first single is on the Asi del Precipicio soundtrack, and I'm a muse to designers like, Marvin Quetzal, TeAmo, ManCandy, Carlo Temores and Denis Marcheboud. Jeremy Scott even gave me a dress before we knew each other. He's so nice."

It sounds like a lot for someone only 23-years-old to have on their plate, but sitting across from me swathed in mounds of peach chiffon, Zemmoa seems ready for more. Gorgeous, tall and quickly becoming a darling of Mexico City's music and club scene, she asks, "What else do you want to know?"

Zemmoa was born Jose Maria to a politician father and an architect mother in Mexico City. She knew early on, however, that she was fated for a life much different than what her parents had in mind. "It was preordained when I was born that I was going to be this way," she explains. "Look at my name, it's both sexes: Jose, male, and Maria, female. It was a sign." She soon adopted a female persona and the moniker Zemmoa, a variation on Chema, the common nickname given to those named Jose in Mexico. "The Z was stronger, and it sounded more like 'C'est moi' so I opted for that," she explains. "It's perfect because in French it means, 'It's me' and it is. It's all about me."

Zemmoa's teenage years were spent partying in the Mexico City nightlife scene, but at age 16 she realized she didn't want to just be a party guest anymore. "I decided to become a singer so I could become the center of attention," recalls Zemmoa. "There's no party without music, and I wanted to be the music." So she took a break from her active social life and started started making music, citing Madonna as her biggest inspiration.

She also took a page from Madge's book when it comes to the art of self-promotion. Instead of waiting for people to discover her, she decided to give everyone a little push. "I am impatient," she says. "I make things so the people I want to work with can see it too." She just released the video for her newest single, is working on a series of paintings she hopes to exhibit, and recently wrote and directed a short film in homage to her favorite director, Pedro Almodovar, called Hablen Con Ellas (Talk to Them).  In the film, five girls compete to become Almodovar's newest muse, one of them being Zemmoa, naturally. "Obviously I win because I wrote it," she says through laughter. "Its my film -- I can do whatever I want!"

Creative freedom, however, hasn't always come easily. "Mexico is a third world country, it's too conservative, too religious so it's very difficult to gain acceptance here," Zemmoa says. "Even my parents don't understand me, they don't accept Zemmoa and the artistic stuff, but they love me, and it keeps us together." So why does she stay? " It'd be better for me in the U.S. or Europe, but there I face more competition. In Mexico, I'm unique."

And, for now, that's enough. "I'm depressed sometimes because I don't have what I want, but I'm happy because I have what I have," Zemmoa says at the end of our interview. As she leaves, I can see a crowd of admirers and photographers waiting for her in the distance, all of them clamoring for more Zemmoa.


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