Popularity is relative, and especially in the digital age. You could have hundreds of thousands of followers online, but be completely unknown in the streets — massively famous on Instagram, YouTube or Twitter, but lack any kind of real, authentic cool in person. For our new series, Coolest Person in the Room, New York-based photographer Megan Walschlager pinpoints all the people whose energy is contagious regardless of their following count or celebrity. Meet Kyra Cherie (@tacobell_dsl), the Californian queer model, dancer, singer, artist creating and living in NYC.

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Tell me about your day jobs.

I do some modeling and I'm a 305 instructor.

How did you get into dancing?

I've been dancing my entire life. I took tap, jazz, ballet, hip-hop, contemporary — I literally did it all. Then I went to school for Musical Theater at the Boston Conservatory; there I was singing, dancing and acting, but there the dance was more theater-based. I was taking ballet and jazz and teaching hip-hop on the side, which is actually how I heard about 305. My friend in college, Zach, started teaching at 305 in Boston and I would take his class all the time. And I was like, "Oh my god, what is this?! This is fun, I would teach this!" It wasn't something that was going to be my end all goal, but it was like, "This is fun and I would love to teach and make some money."

I auditioned to be an instructor in Boston, but I knew I wanted to be in New York, so then I auditioned again in New York and got picked and I've been teaching it ever since. It's probably my most fun steady job, which I love. And I've met so many great people through it.

Photo by Megan Walschlager

Do you still do any musical theater?

I feel like I don't have a place in musical theater as of now. With the musical theater world, it's hard to not be pinpointed as a certain type, whereas I just feel like I am multifaceted and talented in so many things. And I love to be eccentric in the way I present myself and the way I express myself. And I don't feel like that's truly welcomed in the musical theater world, so I have kind of strayed away from the commercial theater world. I still love acting so much, but I hope to incorporate it into my own music and incorporating it into my own performance art. It's going to be a big mash up of acting, theater, singing, lights, fashion — everything!

Amazing! Do you have any performances coming up?

I'm working on an EP right now with a producer named Neve. They're really, really great. They're a queer, genderfluid nightlife person who DJs and produces. We're doing a four-song EP. I'm really excited about it and that's basically what I'm putting all my work into right now.

Other than that, I recently signed with a modeling agency — Revolt Agency — which is an international, online modeling agency. It's a little bit less commercial which I really like. It focuses more on the individual and the uniqueness of our personalities and everything we are. It's not just, like, a face and a body, which I find really awesome.

"I really feel like my body is my canvas and I just like to paint that shit."

Totally. I really admire that you're always serving a full look. Everything is always so thought out from your accessories to your nails. Where do you get your inspiration? Have you always been into fashion?

I literally have always been into makeup and fashion. I've always thought about it. Even when I was younger, I just was always into makeup and dressing up and singing to Mariah Carey and channeling all the amazing '90s pop stars. That was just a big part of my life. I think growing up, I just always wanted to be extra. Like just very extroverted and eccentric and out of the box. I guess I've just always wanted to be the coolest person in the room. Like, literally! I wanted to be the coolest person and have the best hair, the best nails, the best outfits.

I'm a really visual personal so every detail is important, I think, and it can help shape your look when you focus on the specifics. I think it's just me being a freakin' Leo. I swear we're just super extra and trendsetters. I feel more comfortable when I express myself artistically through what I put on my body. I really feel like my body is my canvas and I just like to paint that shit.

Photo by Megan Walschlager

You're also super involved in New York nightlife — how did that come about?

It's interesting; I've done the partying thing and that's fun because I love to go out and dance, and put on a look and feel fabulous and see my friends and dance and party — all that good shit. I swear, I feel like out of nowhere I moved to New York and started networking and meeting people — people starting noticing who I was and wanted me to start hosting parties. Recently I've gotten a lot of go-go dancing gigs at parties in queer nightlife. It's been a good way for me to get myself out there and meet people and just have a good time.

I think it's mostly stemmed from my Instagram and my platform on the internet, which is crazy how that is working these days. It's helped people reach out to me and allowed me to be a face and be a promoter.

I also strip at this place called Pumps in Brooklyn, which is nightlife technically. But it's my other job. With that, it was like, "How can I make money in New York and do something that is somewhat in the realm I do?" I feel like stripping is funny in the way that — well I connect to it in a way that there's acting involved, there's dancing involved, there's doing your makeup, there's feeling sexy and empowered, there's stealing niggas money, you know? There's all the great things that come into it, but it's a lot of work. It's a lot of emotional labor. You have to really work yourself up and get yourself going to make money, which is difficult. It's not something that I want to do my entire life, it's just kind of something that I happened to do and just continue to do because it's my job right now. Once you're in a job it's hard to figure out what you want to do next. I'm just trying to make money until I can make money off my music.

"I am forever manifesting the fact that I am a fucking star and that I will be a fucking star and once I put my music out there's no stopping me, bitch!"

Do you have any getting ready routines?

When I teach 305 during the day, I'm pretty much the biggest slob ever and no one would ever really know that because I pull up for a photo, right? We all do. But I roll out of bed, put on the baggiest jeans, the biggest tee — and I still look fab — but I don't do my makeup at all, I don't even try with a look. I'm just lazy, '90s slouchy. I still look like me but more of like a trash bag. It could technically be a trash bag that I'm rolling out of bed into, coming into the city to teach a fitness class in.

That's day life. I don't try too hard, but still want to look good and feel good about myself, so I'll have style. But when it comes to going out and whatnot, I like to get a bunch of unconventional materials that I can use for looks. Or I like to go to the beauty supply near my house and get a bunch of hoops, jewelry, makeup, new lashes. But, yeah - I just put music on and sit in my room in front of my full body mirror and paint my face. I find it really therapeutic — just doing makeup in general. It just helps me relax and be creative. When I do my makeup sometimes I have a plan, but I feel like a lot of times I don't have a plan and I just see what will happen. That's really exciting, but sometimes it can be a shit show. You just go with the flow and hope for the best. Usually it turns out pretty good, which you know, pat on the back!

So I put on music and try to think of a look in my head, sometimes it changes or stays the same and I nail it. You just do a little here and do a little there, nip tuck, nip tuck, until it comes out and you're like, "Damn, I look good!"

Photo by Megan Walschlager

What is your current favorite music?

I'm obsessed with Big Klit; she's this underground rapper and she just released a new album. It's so raunchy and so relatable and so fucking badass. Right now that's all I've been listening to on loop, because that's what I need right now in my life. Stuff that I don't have to think too much about, but has deep meaning.

What's your go-to drink when you're out?

Uh, tequila soda always bitch!

Photo by Megan Walschlager

Gorgeous. Same.

Always. With lime. Tequila only diet, honey! Clear only. Skinty McGinty! We gotta have fun, you know but watch the figure a little bit. We can do both!

What do you think are some of the coolest places in New York?

I feel like I'm not a pro at this. I don't think I've lived in New York long enough to know what's good. I think anywhere in New York can be cool, but it's about the people that are there and the people that surround you. And if it's like a comfortable, inviting, queer — because I'm not really here for the heterosexual, like — can I say this — white crowd. It's just not where I feel comfortable. So as long as I'm with good company and rad people who are just comfortable with being themselves — that's the most important thing to creating a cool space.

Other than that, Bushwick has good parties. My favorite parties are like DisCakes parties which are put on by like Marley and Pauli — and they're these amazing dope, queer, DJ artist models — like everything. They put on amazing parties that are just really inclusive for queer, trans, people of color. For me, that's the dopest thing I've ever been to. And it changes locations, so that's just like a party I'm always down to go to. And I've danced there a lot, they've asked me to host there a lot. That's my favorite kiki moment right now.

Love! Anything else you want to put out into the world?

I am forever manifesting the fact that I am a fucking star and that I will be a fucking star and once I put my music out there's no stopping me, bitch!

Do we have a release date?

I don't have a set date because I feel like the process is really different in the way that you don't really know what's going to happen or what can happen and sometimes you work so hard on something and realize it doesn't really click with you so you scrap it. So it's been a long process, but I'm ok with that because I know the end result for me will be more important and it will be what I want to put out. I don't want to just put out something rushed and fast and not be thoroughly happy with it — even though it stresses me out sometimes and I get anxious about time. I mean, we all do, we're humans — we want what we want and we want it NOW! But I think I'm not setting a time right now to let it flow and hoping that it becomes everything I want it to be and that people will receive it well. But also I don't care if they don't — that's not my only goal. It has to be a part of me, it has to be my art, it has to be something I want to say, it has to feel good and natural.

Follow Kyra Cherie on Instagram (@tacobell_dsl).

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