Everyone close to me knows that my favorite recording group of all time is the jazz/soul group, “Incognito”. I became a fanboy of the group back in 1993 when I first heard the song “Deep Waters” over the radio. The song was led by Incoginto’s front woman, Maysa Leak. Her voice reinforced the fact that she was not a just some “studio” vocalist. She was a “REAL” vocalist. What you hear on the albums is what you get in person. Sometime in the mid-90’s, I was supposed to go see Maysa perform at Blues Alley in Georgetown with friends. I was not able to make the show that night but being the good friend that I am, I bore the responsibility of getting the tickets for everyone else since they were at work. I’m walking up M Street towards Blues Alley and Maysa is walking down M Street. Here’s a fun fact…A friend of mine named Tonya Blount played in the Whoopi Goldberg movie “Sister Act 2” and was back in town from filming. She called me early one morning to go hang out before she had to leave again. She was starting a Music Production company at the time and wanted me onboard as a Producer. We were in her car having a discussion about the best female vocalists out at that time. I told her that I thought Maysa from Incognito was one of the dopest females out. Tonya turns to me and says, “Maysa? From Incognito? I know her. She’s my label-mate. That’s my girl!”. Fast forward back to M Street…I mentioned Tonya Blount to Maysa and she says, “Tonya? I know Tonya. That’s my girl!” As luck would have it, I spent a few hours with Maysa that day walking around Georgetown. She is a sweetheart of a woman, nay, I dare say, a DIVA! A few years and a Grammy Nomination later, it’s good to know that some people NEVER change. On behalf of Apparl, I’d like to thank Maysa for sharing the sense of humor and realness that still makes her one of my all-time favs. *chants DMV DMV DMV…*
Panama: I already know where you are from (The DMV), but tell everyone else where you are from and how that influenced your culture.
Maysa: Well, I’m from Baltimore and I think it influences my style because Baltimore is a place where people are very free to be who they are. In the part of Baltimore where I grew up, there’s not a lot of cliques. When I was a kid the big thing was Jordache Jeans and that kind of stuff. I mean, we had that kind of thing that was in style, but it was also an artsy community so people feel free to be themselves, so to speak. So that’s kind of where I am with it. That’s where I kind of feel comfortable with just being myself and not having to worry about being in some type of class or some kind of set style, you know?
Panama: Absolutely. You know what though? Here’s the thing…The freedom and comfort level you have really shows and is projected when you are on the stage. I remember when you were performing at “The Birchmere” and you were VERY comfortable on stage. Like that was your home.
Maysa: (laughs) Oh yea!
Panama: You were wearing a pair of high-heeled shoes and you had mentioned to the audience that you were going to get comfortable. So you kicked your heels off. You know what I mean?
Maysa: Mmm hmm
Panama: So that confidence in what you are wearing really does give you a comfort level which is reflected in your performances. Whose style stood out to you while you were growing up? Who inspired you?
Maysa: My mother. Her style really stood out to me. She had a love for designer things but it wasn’t like she had to have that kind of stuff. She would treat herself once in a while or my dad would treat her to stuff like that. Once in a while she would go out and buy something designer. The big thing was to go to White Marsh Mall. To what’s the name of that store? Bamberger’s? I think that’s the name of it. Some kind of store. It was like a Macy’s. Every once in a while we would go there and she would buy something out of what we would call, “The Rich People’s Section” lol.
Panama: Right! (laughs)
Maysa: Other than that, I would say that my mother had a really nice, age appropriate, everyday casual kind of vibe. She’s a housewife so she didn’t have to dress up a lot. She wore business suits and skirts and all that kind of stuff when she went to volunteer a lot. I’ve learned to be a very casual person with anything, like my household. I make it look nice but it’s very casual. It’s very livable. That’s because of the space where I am right now. When I lived at my mother’s house we had rooms where nobody should go in and that kind of thing. Living room, dining room, all that stuff was off limits unless it was a special occasion. Now I come to the point were I could live more casual. I do have to dress up a little bit more for my job. I wear all black all the time. That’s probably one of the things I need to say. I love wearing all black. Even when I dress up or when I dress down. That’s my “go-to”.
Panama: When was the first time that you could remember really feeling great about something you were wearing?
Maysa: Uh, the first time I really felt good was when I got to college age. I mean, when I look back on it now it was. Call me real corny (laughs), but back then I was at a really good size and weight and I felt really good about my body. I was a young college girl so everything I put on fit really nice and that was when I was real happy about myself.
Panama: Now, has that changed since you’ve gotten older?
Maysa: Yes, I dress more in layers. Like, I wear layers of black clothing to camouflage my weight gain and all of that kind of stuff.
Panama: So I’m guessing that you would consider yourself to be in the “Full-Figured” category, right?
Maysa: Right. Absolutely.
Panama: If you are in the “Full-Figured” category, you do know that there’s starting to be a lot of really hot designers tackling that category.
Panama: I think that it’s a category that’s been widely overlooked for a long time but they’re starting to put a spotlight on it now. We’re seeing full-figured women as prominent models. As a matter of fact, you’ve heard about how they are changing the Barbie Dolls right?
Maysa: Mmm hmm, yea. It’s fantastic!
Panama: Well, the skinny white blonde, blue-eyed Barbie has been out of style for decades.
Maysa: (laughs) Right!
Panama: And now they are finally realizing that women come in a lot of different shades, heights, and body types. I have a full-figured cousin by the name of Brandy Baker. She is dope. She opened my eyes to a lot of the problems and situations that full-figured women are having as far as fashion and designs are concerned. She rocks what she wears. That’s why I wanted to put you in “The Showroom”. It’s because you rock what wear. Personal styles are different across the board and it’s objective. It’s all a matter of perspective. It doesn’t matter what shape, height, or color you are. As long as you rock it, that’s what makes you a person of interest.
Panama: Are there any trends that you would consider timeless or classic?
Maysa: Hmm, timeless trends (thinks)…Well, I don’t really know. I don’t know of anything that has really carried on like that. I mean, everyone pretty much just does his or her own thing. There was a time when people would dress up to get on an airplane to travel. It was a big deal to go travel. You know what I mean? And now I see people with freaking pajamas on there.
Maysa: I literally see people with pajamas and their pillow on the airplane. I cannot believe it! I can see if you dressed casual but damn, your pajamas AND your pillow??? I mean, you can take a pillow but it was like some dirty old ratty looking pillow with not even a new cover on it.
Panama: …still LMAO
Maysa: I was trippin’ (laughs). I was like, “Ok, I’ve seen EV-ERY-THING” lol.
Panama: Ok, since you’ve mentioned that, what trend(s) would you like to see go?
Maysa: Oh, let’s get our brothers to stop wearing these dag’on pants off their asses.
PANAMA: Yes, I’d have to agree.
Maysa: Why can’t they stop that?
Panama: I have a theory on that. I believe that deep down inside, the guys do it because certain chicks like it.
Maysa: They like it?
Panama: I’m inclined to believe so. That, or not enough of them are complaining about it. If more young chicks in the lower, middle, and upper class echelons would, as a whole, tell these young dudes that they don’t like it or they don’t chill with dudes that show their ass and underwear above their jeans, the dudes would stop. At the end of they day, they wear what they wear because a lot of chicks are attracted to that quote/unquote “thug style”. If you get the women to care, the men would care. The men that don’t care are just followers. And the thing is, not only are these pants hanging below your ass, these cats would also have a belt on. I don’t get that logic. Your pants are hanging below your ass and you still have on a belt. What the hell for? To hold your legs together?
Maysa: This is the thing. We have to start from the girls. These children out there need some self-esteem. They have none. They think they do by being braggadocios and being arrogant but it’s not. These young girls out here need to learn how to take care of themselves. One thing we have to stop is these babies having babies or we will never get out of the cycle. We have to get everybody to be mature. I bang this idea into my nieces’ heads over and over until they are sick of me. I was a woman who saw the world. I traveled around the world three or four times before I even thought of having a baby. Get out here and see the world. Get out and enjoy your life, THEN do that. We need to get more kids to understand that you don’t have to stay in your hood. You can get out of your hood and go see everything. My niece is almost 23 years old and she was on the phone with one of her friends talking about having some kind of French “something”. I don’t know. Some stuff they were talking about. I told her, “Why don’t you go see the real thing in France?” Go to France and get some French food. Go somewhere are experience where the stuff came from. All of you are talking about getting it from around the corner. Go away from there. I said all of that to say, if these young guys know or if they are told over and over on social media where that “sagging” idea came from with the jail thing and still wear it? To me they are trying to rebel against it or I really don’t know what that is. I’m so afraid that I’m going to see someone’s doo-doo stain or something one day. I cannot stand that.
Maysa: (laughs) Excuse me, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be so crass but…
Panama: C’mon man. Speak! That’s totally fine, lol.
Maysa: I’m afraid to see that, because if I see that I’m gonna scream at the top of my lungs. I can’t stand that. I’m so afraid that I’m going to see that one day. It looks horrible.
Panama: It does look bad.
Maysa: And its not just these guys with the big boxer shorts on with the herringbone pattern. It’s the guys with the boxer briefs, OMG.
Panama: I’ve seen dudes with 34 length jeans wearing them so low that they look like 30 length off the ass, with most of the denim material bunched up at the bottom of the pants around the ankles, AND they still have a belt on.
Maysa: lol, Where are our leaders? Everybody is looking to Martin Luther King and all. Where are our leaders now? Anyone can be a leader, smh.
Panama: Where do you draw your style inspirations?
Maysa: Mostly the magazines I look at. There’s really nobody on TV or no other artist that I draw from. It’s really what I like to wear and what I feel comfortable in. I look through magazines to get ideas or I buy stuff from magazines I like.
Panama: Where do you find yourself doing most of your shopping? Online? Department Stores…
Maysa: Oh yea! I’m an online crazy nut.
Maysa: Me and the UPS! Man, I know them by name. I know their kids, you know? That’s my thing, UPS. (laughs)
Panama: For any full-figured fan of yours who feels like they have not found their own style, what advice or secrets would you give them?
Maysa: The first thing I would say for big busted women is to wear two bras at the same time and wear something like a one-piece to smooth you up. My advice is for women to wear things that’s not too tight and won’t let you see every lump and bump in your body. I don’t like that. My thing would be to smooth yourself out. I mean, it doesn’t have to be a big loose sack or anything like that but there are still ways that you could dress yourself so you still see curves but you don’t see everything.
Panama: I’ve seen women, full-figured and not, really put great outfits together. Sometimes you will see something that makes you say, “Wow, where’d she get that piece from?”
Maysa: Mmm hmm
Panama: And then you have some of the younger chicks in their late teens to early twenties and it’s like, “Who let you out the house like that?”
Maysa: LMAO, Right!
Panama: “Whose telling you this is cool?”
Maysa: That’s what I’m saying. It goes back to self-esteem. And see, if people think that it’s, “Oh no, I’m free with my body. I can wear what I want.” No! They showed something on Facebook that made me sick…
Maysa: They showed this big gigantic woman with these teeny tiny booty shorts on. That’s not confidence. That’s low self-esteem. You know, I’ve always thought this was growing up. Being raised by a lady, I’ve always wanted to look like a lady. Even when I was young and I would wear mini-skirts I knew what to wear with it to make it look presentable at all times. I mean, they were on Susan Sarandon’s tail because she wore something low-cut and she’s almost seventy years old. She wore this low-cut thing and her boobs were good. I mean, I could see if they were raggedy and hanging down like pancakes, lol.
Maysa: But she put a little suit on and it was kind of low but it’s okay. I will give her a pass for that one. But like I said, her boobs were like, presentable, but I see young girls out here with the pancake boobies and they look insane. I’m like, “Honey, put ten bras on and try again.”
Panama: Oh, hold on. You just gave me a new term that I’m going to start using…”Pancake Boobies”
Panama: That’s going to be a new term that you coined. When people ask me where did I get that from, I’m going to say, “Maysa said that” lol.
Maysa: …Still laughing
PANAMA: “Pan-Cake-Boobies”…smh, you are so crazy!
Alpatrick “Panama” Golphin ~ Founder/CEO of Apparl, LLC.
Here’s an added bonus for you guys…Enjoy!
Maysa Leak with Incognito 30 Year Anniversary