“You aren’t a real resident of New Orleans until you stay the summer. I felt like I paid my dues after I spent my first summer,” notes Meschiya Lake, curled into a velvet armchair in artist Peter Yokum’s sunlit parlor room. We chat over a Stella Artois as she cools down from shooting for KREWE du Optic’s first look book. She’s been posing perched in a window sill, her ruffled apricot dress glowing against the green of the courtyard below. At first glance, with her intricate tattoos and commanding nature, one might find Meschiya intimidating. In fact, she is incredibly easy to talk to. There’s a casual conviction to her words, and yet an undeniable friendliness. We’ve been bantering about shopping, specifically about where we’ve found our favorite dresses and how difficult it can be to turn down a good sale.
Lake began her career in music at nine years old, singing country music professionally in South Dakota, her home state. At seventeen, she moved to Chicago with her “first fiancé”. Then it was the circus, with which she traveled for years. Eventually she found herself in New Orleans, where she’s been living off and on for nearly thirteen years. Using the dated and yet endearing concept of “wintering” versus “summering” in one place or another, Lake explains that her first few years in the city were spent only in the fall and winter months. Once she spent her first summer here, the year after Hurricane Katrina, she says, she finally felt like a New Orleanian. We both agree that summer is our favorite time of year, despite the sweat rolling down our backs and the oppressive heat that permeates parts of Yokum’s house; “the population gets a little smaller but your activity doesn’t necessarily slow down. You stay inside during the day and at night time you go out. Night times are beautiful and magical, man. Summertime’s when the weird shit goes down.”
Like anyone in the arts community, Lake is motivated by her peers. She hopes one day to collaborate with Irma Thomas, one of her heroes, or an up-and-coming act like Alexis & The Samurai. The beauty of a city so rich with talent and art is that the people you spend your time with become the people who inspire you, your Krewe. When I ask her who her Krewe is, Lake tells me that she finds “different parts of different Krewes for different parts of me. I run in different circles. I like it that way. There’s the tall bike club circle, the poets circle, painter’s circle, the musician’s circle, the jazz circle, there’s an international circle. There are many different Krewes and I appreciate them for different reasons.” She smiles and looks at me: “I feel just as at home in all of them. It’s the spice of life.”