Miranda Rae Mayo has been a cast member on NBC’s hit show Chicago Fire since 2016, but there is more to the California native than playing the role of Stella Kidd. The multifaceted actress started her career in 2006 and has played a range of parts, including Reece Shebani on The Game, Zoe Browning on Days of Our Lives, Talia Sandoval on Pretty Little Liars, Vera Machiado on True Detective and Lacey Briggs on Blood & Oil.
For those who don’t know, Mayo has talents beyond acting, such as singing and songwriting. During her free time, the actress supports women empowerment initiatives, improving her relationship with sex and nurturing her mental health.
The 32-year-old is currently collaborating with The Somatica® Method, a training institute that helps people experience transformation through pleasure. Likewise, she sits on the board of The Holistic Life Foundation, which provides yoga and mindfulness meditation to underserved communities.
These activities aren’t random or coincidental. They align with Mayo’s passions—supporting organizations that center around empowering young women and mindfulness education.
Finding a way to marry your career and interests isn’t something everyone can do, but Mayo has. She is currently producing a project called ‘Here She Comes,’ based on a true story. The main characters are Emma and Rene, two experiential sex coaches who lead America into the next sexual revolution.
ESSENCE caught up with Mayo to hear more about these passion projects she’s delving into and how she’s been maintaining her mental health the past year.
ESSENCE: How has playing Stella Kidd positively and negatively affected your mental health over the past six years?
Miranda Mayo: One of the things that I love about Stella is she is courageous, not only in her profession but in her relationships. Stella has been an incredible vehicle for me to explore many different sides of myself. And being able to do that in a community with the cast I work with has affected my mental health tremendously. It has also been challenging to go through that kind of shadow work in public. I mean, there’s a lot of pressure that I have put on myself to be quote-unquote perfect.
ESSENCE: How has your sexual exploration journey impacted your relationship with yourself and others?
Mayo: The more I get to know myself and what I want, and what feels good, the more I can communicate that to people around me. It’s about wholeness and integration and stepping into fully embodied spaces where all the energy flows. And it’s something that I’ve yet to perfect. It’s one of the biggest challenges in my life so far. I’m getting over the shame as a woman. That’s a big part of my shadow work, but the more I express it, the more unapologetic I become.
When I’m in that space, I have more access to creativity and I have more access to presence. And that’s where the fun is, no matter what we’re doing. If I’m hanging out with friends, if we’re doing a scene, if I’m having sex with somebody, to be present and access creativity and freedom–that’s where the fun is.
ESSENCE: How are you unlearning sexual shame and feeling more confident exploring your kinks?
Mayo: Coaching these women at Somatica has been an amazing and just community. Any time I’m feeling ashamed or isolated, finding community and being able to express myself is the number one most important thing. The most significant gift of Somatica and the institute that is so healing for me is to be unapologetic and bold in stating what I want.
Just being able to have a space for you, [to] express what it is that you want, and being seen and heard and held was powerful for me that I don’t think exists in most therapeutic settings. Trauma is stored in the body, and the only way to get it out is to be in the body.
So to have practitioners who are there to help facilitate and hold and touch–I just thought it was amazing. I’m a very affectionate person. I like connection, and touch is so healing to me.
ESSENCE: What has been the most helpful practice for cultivating healthy mental health for you in 2022?
Mayo: This year has been the most challenging year for me mentally. There was a point when I took a break from working, and NBC and the show were so loving and generous. But it’s been the most challenging year for mental health for me–it hasn’t been perfect. But things that have helped have been moving my body, Somatica practices like touching my body while breathing, exercising, [and] singing.
There’s this book called The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership. There’s this practice in the book of noticing if I’m feeling overwhelmed, anxious, my mind’s racing, [or] there are so many thoughts, taking a breath in and seeing the sensations in my body and imagining if my body were made up of a bunch of little bits–which it is–I mean, cells, atoms–but imagining what they’re doing and where they’re doing it.
For the past few days, I’ve been going to my piano room and singing and playing. And that’s helped a lot.
ESSENCE: What are some women empowerment and mindful education initiatives you support?
Mayo: The organization that I support is called the Holistic Life Foundation. They went to an elementary school in their neighborhood, which was right at the center of the Freddie Gray protests after he was shot and killed by the police, and asked how they could be of service. The principal gave them their ten most disruptive kids and said, ‘do something.’
So they created this program. They replaced the elementary school detention with a mindfulness room. When they started the program, they were down to zero suspensions. After the program, they were down to zero suspensions.
So, that’s what they do. They teach mindfulness to black and brown kids, especially in underserved communities.
ESSENCE: What does a sexually liberated world look like from your standpoint?
Mayo: It looks like people moving in a more relaxed, empathetic state. The point and the purpose are connected so that we can all be of greater service to one another and the planet and experience joy while we’re all together.