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The Melody and Mimi show
Melody Damayo, a/k/a: Mimi Miyagi
Melody Damayo is a forceful, well- spoken Filipino-American, a Republican and candidate for state governor, who favors getting tough on crime, upgrading schools and improving the state's infrastructure to battle terrorism.
Mimi Miyagi is a dolled up anime creature whose fire red lips, Jessica Rabbit body, long black hair and willingness to strip naked and let men (and women) have their way with her in any combination imaginable turned her into a bankable porn star and a male-fantasy vision of Asian womanhood - desirable, insatiable and eager to please.
Improbably, they are the same person.
In a string of movies with names like Seoul Train, Fantasian and Beverly Hills Geisha, Mimi Miyagi became a staple of the pliable Asian sex goddess genre. But then she quit the adult film business, became a Web site entrepreneur and started selling her sexed-up image directly to fans. She ran a magazine called Oriental Dolls devoted to Asian porn, and promoted herself by dancing and being outrageous in strip clubs. The profits, she says, went to her instead of porn movie producers and fueled her entrepreneurial dreams.
So now she has found a new way to sell herself - by running for governor of the state of Nevada in the United States - and she insists that she is taking it seriously. "As a single mother, I am really concerned abo ut the state of Nevada," she says in an interview with the Weekend Standard. "The state is growing really fast and law enforcement and the school system are not keeping up with the needs of the people."
On her site, Mimi4Governor.com, she hints that there may be a touch of the dominatrix to her political views when she says of American schools: "There's no order, little security and little discipline." She is a member of the National Rifle Association and has been active in local Republican politics for several years, she says.
She is no slouch at politics and Damayo can wax as eloquently as many other American politicians on a range of topics. An early supporter of the war in Iraq, she thinks President George W Bush has fallen down on the job. "The coalition that was formed appears superficial," she says on her Web site. On economic issues, she holds a mixed bag of positions. Like a good libertarian she wants to see tax rates slashed, but she also wants a substantial increase in the minimum wage. And despite her Asian heritage, Miyagi may be a protectionist at heart: "We have to find a way to manufacture products here with our own American workforce," she says.
She is worried that Nevada is vulnerable to a terrorist attack and says security must be improved. She wants safer streets and describes herself as a "Lincoln Republican" who wants the party to return to its roots as a champion of freedom. She is dismissive of born- again Christian zealots who divide the world into black and white. "They are separating the party from the rest of the country with their right wing views," she says. "We should be uniting the country." People should be more accepting of her background in pornography, for example, and she says she is qualified to be governor because of her experience running several companies and for launching one of the first Web sites devoted to a porn star, which she did more than 10 years ago.
When the primary vote is held on August 15 to narrow the field from the current five candidates to one for the November general election, it is not likely that Damayo will outpace conservative Congressman Jim Gibbons, the current front runner, or any of the other politicians on the ballot. "This is fun," she says of her political adventure. "What's the point of doing anything if you don't have fun with it?"
She is certainly way more than the usual grim American Republican. She turned out to file her candidacy papers last month in hot pink stiletto heels and a low cut pink suit, accompanied by an entourage of "campaign cuties" and two bodyguards. Wearing a matching pillbox hat that had a certain Jackie Kennedy feel to it, she did something decidedly un-Jackie when she opened her suit coat to reveal a pink bra overflowing with breasts.
"Well," she says, "I have nothing to hide. Everybody has seen all of me already. But I actually give a hooter about the state of Nevada."
The silly puns and costumes aside, Damayo is a woman who seems to have taken control of her own image.
"It's all just glamour makeup and costumes," she says of Mimi Miyagi. "I just go really over the top for public appearances."
Tired of being ripped off by the porn business, she took her camped up image as an Asian stereotype and exploited it to the hilt. Governor Mimi is just a logical extension of a character Damayo, 32, invented as a teenager. Besides, except for having sex with multiple partners on camera, Mimi Miyagi is really no more outlandish than the cartoonish super heroes portrayed by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, another immigrant-turned-actor-turned- politician. In the great stew of American self-promotion, Melody Damayo is using what she has to get what she can.
"A girl only has three or four years of being really hot in the porn business," she says. "I am one of the lucky ones who can continue to live off of it." She models herself after Bettie Page, the outrageous pin-up and soft-porn queen of the 1950s who became a cult figure and was the subject of the 2005 movie The Notorious Bettie Page, starring Gretchen Mol. "Bettie is an idol of mine," Damayo says.
Certainly the odyssey that transformed Melody Damayo into Mimi Miyagi has a certain cinematic arc to it. She was born in Davao City on the island of Mindanao in 1973 and came to the US with her conservative Christian parents at the age of six, growing up in California. She claims to have been a child prodigy and classical pianist, but somewhere along the way she got a little wild and her parents sent her back to Mindanao for high school, enrolling her in a conservative Seventh Day Adventist academy in remote rural Bukidnon province. "They wanted me to have Filipino values," she said.
It didn't work out that way. Damayo made it through high school and enrolled in an Adventist college in the same area, but dropped out after two years, bitten by the show business bug after being a disc jockey on the college radio station. She returned to Los Angeles with dreams of becoming a Hollywood star. She soon ran out of money and answered an ad looking for adult actresses. She was 18.
She kept her childhood nickname, Mimi, which her grandmother gave to her, and appropriated Miyagi from Mr Miyagi, the martial arts tutor from the Karate Kid movies. "I am a total action movie junkie," she says. Then she had her breasts "done" and took on the look of a wild girl, up for anything, anywhere as she entered the grind-and-moan video factories that dot the valleys east of Hollywood.
"As a teenager, nothing is really a shock," she says of her initiation into the porn business. "I was so young. Eighteen is really too young to go into porn and at that age you are not thinking about what lies ahead."
She starred in dozens of movies and was soon one of the best-known porn actresses in the US. She buried her Filipino identity behind the fabricated pan-Asian synthesis of sex and sizzle, leaving fans to wonder if she was Japanese, Chinese, Korean or what-have- you. Until now, Web site chat rooms devoted to such nonsense bristle with chatter about Mimi with fans musing about her "real" nationality and some even doubting her claim to be Filipino.
Then she quit. She got married, had a child, started publishing magazines and running Web sites - all sex oriented. But a nasty divorce and a year long custody battle for her seven-year- old daughter politicized her. In court documents, she publicly revealed for the first time that she was Filipino and wrote about her experiences on her blog. Claiming to have been bankrupted by the ordeal, she also came out of retirement to appear before the cameras for one last do-everything role in the film 2003 film Happy Endings. "I don't know," she said of her last porn romp, "it's kind of like a football star. I wanted to see if I could still do it."
Having had her last hurrah, she quit for good, she says, and stepped up the sale of Mimiabilia of various kinds on her Web site, while also starting to land a few roles in low budget movies in which she keeps her clothes on. In the context of Web commerce, the run for governor is a good business move. Indeed, she says that after an appearance on an MSNBC talk show in the US to discuss her candidacy with conservative host Tucker Carlson, the response was so overwhelming that her Web server crashed for several hours.
With service restored, there are plenty of Mimi mementoes on offer - from campaign tee shirts on the fairly tame governor Web site to a host of products on the "official" site dedicated to her adult endeavors. Life size plaster casts of the "famous and well known butt that all her fans came to love and want," are available for a mere US$400 (HK$3,120). They come in a choice of four colors and for another US$75 you can have it delivered in an air-brushed flesh hue that "makes Mimi's skin tone come to life." Also on her site are links to a porn-star auction that offers various bits of lace she has worn in her movies.
"There really are some guys out there who are obsessed with everything Mimi," is how she explains the interest in replicas of her body and other items. "And God bless them for it."
She is also running a promotion on Mimi4governor in which supporters can apply to become "first man" and go on a date with Mimi in advance of the August 15 primary contest. Applicants are requested to let her know how they would spend a date and fill in a form stating how many times they have been married, their educational background and felony arrest record. She has been so busy, she says, that she has remained single and has no love interest in her life. She hopes that a "first man" will prove attractive to her.
Maybe it is time to settle down. Damayo knows that the clock is running and that soon the Mimi Miyagi show will shut down for good. No matter how hard you work at it, nude modeling and stripping only last so long. She is taking method acting classes to fine tune her skills as an actress and hopes that more serious parts in bigger budget films come her way soon. If not, she says, she has her skills in glamour makeup and the Internet business. "I will always have something to fall back on."
And what else is she looking forward to, assuming she is not going to be the next governor of Nevada? When she quits adult entertainment for good, she plans to lose the 36DD breast implants. "I will be excited when I can leave this kind of entertainment business behind for good," she says. "I get really awful backaches."