Lifted from their debut album in 2021, Shapeshyfter, Myst Milano's single, "No Shade," is like "an energy you have to embody," according to the nonbinary Toronto-based artist. "Baby, it's no shade, but when you're top grade, sometimes you can't stay for dessert," Milano brags on the '90s house-influenced cut, which they wrote, produced and performed themselves. Taking cues from "rivalries in the ballroom scene," it's ultimately about "knowing you are more fab than the girl that's trying to shade you."
Milano was inspired by vocalists like Moi Renee and Rageous, who pioneered a subgenre of house, called "bitch." Much like the energy on "No Shade," these songs are "fun, powerful, strong-willed, sexual and witty," the artist says. "The voices of Black women like Crystal Waters, CeCe Penniston and Dajae have driven house since its birth, but we have Black queer people from the ballroom scene to thank for bitch tracks like 'No Shade.'"
Because the song itself is an homage to Milano's experience in the ballroom community, it was important that the video showcase everything they have to offer, "which is a lot." So Milano collaborated with members of Toronto's local ballroom scene to bring the attitude of "No Shade" to life, leaning further into visual references from '90s music videos they grew up watching. "I tried to use a lot of silhouettes and solos, and an all-black wardrobe," they say, reflecting on that era.
The "No Shade" video, premiering today on PAPER, was directed by Milano, featuring cinematography from Ayo Tsalithaba, Danny Lastres and Joshua Rille. Milano says they got to work with "some of the best creators Toronto's ballroom scene has to offer:" Father Twysted Miyake-Mugler, N9ne Margiela, Dynasty 007, James Baley, Amiyah West, Aura West, Ponytail Patricia 007, Diseiye Balenciaga, Mystique 007, Antonio 00, Tamar and Jazmine Miyake-Mugler, Jocelyne Cardenas.
"Everyone added their own flair and style to their sections, and did a great job expressing the essence of their categories," Milano says of the dynamic crew. "I also gave the cast a moodboard and everyone styled themselves based on the directive. I'm very honored to be part of a scene so full of talented and capable people."
Known throughout Toronto as a respected DJ, musician and community advocate, Milano has become a vital voice among their peers. "I'm a commentator," they say. "It's my job to speak on things in a real way." Beyond releasing Shapeshyfter, which confidently tackles a range of topics, from sex to police brutality, Milano spent the pandemic bringing attention to the Black Lives Matter movement, especially on Club Quarantine.
Watch the "No Shade" music video, above, and stream Myst Milano's Shapeshyfter, below. "All that attitude you hear on the track is 100% me," they say. "I couldn't have put out something more Myst Milano."
Photography: Jorian Charlton
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