Phylicia Mason (center) in Desert Rose Playhouse's recent production of The Miss Firecracker Contest.

The product of a fling between her mother and a man her mom met in a biker bar, Phylicia Mason never knew her birth father until she turned 18. She had an older half-brother, but his dad was a particularly bad egg their mom had managed to escape before Mason was born. Alas, Mom continued to make bad choices—mostly involving the men in her life, but with them came booze, drugs and temptation.

One of those poor choices led the family to Arizona, and another to New Mexico, and back to Arizona. Sadly, her mother married the one she’d left in New Mexico; that union produced Mason’s half-sister. Things descended deeper into hell when drugs became a predominant factor for both parents—meth, to be specific. There was some jail time for stepdad, a time Mason recounts as being happier than when he was there.

Despite the distortion around her, Mason refused to let her mother’s poor choices influence her path. She knew she was smart, and she inherently knew she was destined for so much more than circumstances afforded her. So she did the only thing she knew she could do: Excel.

Always at the head of her class, Mason was constantly trying all sorts of things: writing, acting, student government, science fairs, art fairs and web-building contests. She tutored middle school students, and she volunteered at women’s shelters and nursing homes—even though her family was homeless. She couch-surfed at friends’ homes at night, and spent non-school days in her family’s only significant possession, a truck. When they weren’t homeless, they were moving, sometimes two or three times a year, which put Mason in a new school every time she blinked.

Valedictorian of her senior class, Mason received a full ride to Central Arizona College. Before earning her associate’s degree in liberal arts and communications, she created a 63-page report called “Disney’s Recipe,” a paper on Disney’s transformations of fairy tales into movies. She was sent all over the country to speak about the paper—and developed a love for traveling.

Mason did a nine-month internship at Disney World, had several doomed romances, met and sang with singer Jewel, and enrolled in the Florida Institute of Hypnotherapy.

“I started reading hypnosis books when I was 9, and my mom was in jail,” Mason says.

After graduating, she eventually opened FreeSpirit Hypnosis, where she helped people overcome addictions and bad habits—but that would happen after she had a vivid dream that sent her to Alaska. There, she made her living gutting fish alongside the man who would become her partner, Miguel Arballo; they’ve now been together for nine years. The two traveled all over the country and down into Mexico and Central America before they ended up in Palm Springs, where she has made a name for herself as a local actress and reopened her hypnosis practice.

Phylicia Mason with Jewel.

When the pandemic hit, Mason used the time to do a little soul-searching. Acting was a moot endeavor, and in her business life, things changed too.

“I was working at a school. I’d been there for 4 1/2 years,” Mason says. “I was a resource center associate, like a teacher’s aide, and we did administration work, and we also worked with the kids and tutored them. It was a secondary school for at-risk students who needed alternative schooling, for whatever reason. We worked with them to help them graduate. It was very fulfilling, and I loved my job. But when the pandemic happened, they closed my position. It doesn’t exist anymore.”

Mason says that turned out to be a good thing: “I had this feeling that there’s something bigger out there for me and that staying in that safety zone was not good for me.”

She started doing past-life sessions online. “I ended up getting in with this community of people online who were all really woo-woo,” Mason says. “They do lots of body work and reiki and healing and astrology and all this stuff, and they were all like, ‘You do past-life regressions? We want to do it.’ I did sessions with all of them. That was life-changing for me, because they were telling me how amazing I was, and I needed to share this with the world. It was some sort of confirmation—people saying, ‘You need to do this,’ and I really enjoy it. I thought I could really make a career out of it, and now that’s my thing. I’m fully embracing the woo.”

Mason dives deeper into what this all means for her: “I feel like part of my purpose is trying to give people hope that things do get better, and that they can be forgiven. Forgiveness is huge for me. I think that’s the cornerstone of what I’ve learned, and what I’ve learned how to do, and what I can help other people do too. That’s my work for the world.”

In the vein of forgiveness: Mason’s mother is clean and sober now, and is soon getting married to a man Mason approves of. In fact, she counts her mother, as well as her two siblings, among her best friends.

Now that local theaters are beginning to open, Mason is acting again. Her most recent performance was in Desert Rose Playhouse’s production of The Miss Firecracker Contest, and her next role is playing Janet in The Rocky Horror Show, also at Desert Rose.

“Performing,” she says, “is being able to take human experiences and act them out, because that’s like therapy. Performing is for me.”

The 34-year old continues her practice online, and she and Arballo recently bought a home in Indio.

“It’s a total fixer-upper,” she says with a laugh. “There’s a lot of work ahead of us.”

Mason has never been allergic to hard work; something tells me she’s going to nail this, too.

For more information, visit www.phyliciamason.com. Have an idea for a bad-ass woman to be profiled? Email kayku1956@gmail.com.

Kay Kudukis

Kay Kudukis is a former lead singer in a disco cover band who then became a Gaslight girl, then an actress, and then the author of two produced and wildly unacclaimed plays—as well as one likely unseen...