TGI Flashback Fridays! We're connecting with different BISHes we have interviewed in the past; catching up with them on what they've been up to since the last time we chatted. This Friday, we're catching up with professional dancer and yogi, Mel Mah. Mel has danced with Janet Jackson and competed on So You Think You Can Dance Canada. Here's what she's been up to since.
How has your work/professional life changed since we last spoke to you?
My gosh, what HASN’T changed since we last spoke?! Let’s see… I transitioned out of the dance industry to pursue a career directing film, I just wrapped a year of assisting director George Tillman Jr. on a 20th Century Fox film called THE HATE U GIVE (in theaters NOW), and I am now the sole owner and director of my company YOU GOT THIS, GIRL! as my co-founder decided to part ways with the company last year. A lot has changed since I toured for Janet Jackson in 2015 and I seriously wouldn’t have it any other way. The growing pains have been real and it’s been an intense process of shedding and discovering, but I have zero doubt that it’s all part of my path. I’m grateful every day to be doing exactly what I want to be doing. What hasn’t changed is that I’m still pursuing everything that sets my soul on fire and I’m striving to make a positive difference through my work as a director, business owner, and yoga instructor.
What's the biggest difference you've seen in your industry?
In the film industry, there have been HUGE changes since I entered it in 2016. The fact that I can walk into an office and openly talk about feminism and women’s rights is something that was much less welcomed even just a couple years ago. Thanks to the #METOO and #TimesUp movements, there’s an undeniable shift occurring in the way we perceive working women, especially in film. Female-driven projects are getting put to the top of the pile, studios are realizing they need to showcase more female voices, and the men in the industry are being more delicate and careful about how they work with their female co-workers. I had numerous conversations with my male co-workers while working on THE HATE U GIVE, and it was wonderful to engage in evolved and compassionate discussions. I’ve realized that the change we wish to see begins with empowered conversations and the will to nurture these feminist viewpoints that are finally being heard. How exciting is it to live in a time where women being encouraged to speak up and where we actually CAN use our female voices? I think that’s pretty damn rad.
Those same movements have influenced my work with YOU GOT THIS, GIRL!, too. There’s currently a different consciousness around female divinity on our planet, and I’ve felt and seen that energetic shift in my workshops. Women are walking into the room with more pride, more confidence, and more badassery (not a word, but should be), and I’m HERE FOR IT. This is the seismic shift we’ve been fighting for ladies, so let’s keep supporting each other through these times so we can really make lasting changes in our communities.
How has getting yourself or your work seen changed? Any changes in how you market yourself or your brand?
It’s incredibly different marketing myself in film versus dance because I don’t feel the need to plaster everything on social media. Filmmaking in Hollywood has its own set system that doesn’t necessarily require social media to get your work made as a director. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s just not an imperative part of the industry unlike being a professional dancer. As a dancer, your Instagram is basically your resume and with the explosion of dance video popularity in the past few years, it really is a must to participate in the social media game. I love social media because it connects me with so many wonderful people and organizations, but I also love that as I pursue a career in directing, my creative work can stay hidden from the world until the final product is ready to be released. It allows me to access my creativity and my intuition in more solitude instead of needing to show it to the world right away.
The branding of YGTG has also shifted because it’s not marketed with me and my co-founder Kim as the faces of the company anymore. It’s now a team of ladies who work for the company. It’s me and an ARMY of women who believe in other women, and I love that. It brings in an even larger sense of community to the company and to our following, and I’m so excited to see YGTG expand with a more community-centered focus around its teachings and branding. We’re doing a whole rebranding of the Instagram, website, and we just launched the YGTG app for the company’s 2-year anniversary this past September! Check it out and download here.
Anything that you know now that you wish you had known then? What's the biggest lesson you've learned?
1) Make space for the things you love. In 2017, all the Janet Jackson dancers got asked back after she had to cancel the rest of the Unbreakable tour in 2015 to have her beautiful baby. It was tough because I love Janet and the whole team is like family to me, but I knew I had to keep pushing the boundaries in my film career. My intuition was telling me that I had to make leaps and risky choices if I really wanted to direct movies and if I really wanted other people to view me as a director. So, I turned it down. I turned down a world tour with Janet Jackson. Sounds pretty crazy, but 6 months later, I got the job working on THE HATE U GIVE and I would not have been open to receive that incredible opportunity if I had said yes to Janet. As much as dancing for Janet was my dream since I was a tiny teenager, I already did that. And it was an incredible manifestation of a childhood goal. But, now I have new dreams. I had to be honest with myself and ask what I truly want NOW. Not as a teenager, but in the present moment. And I want to make movies. So, make space for the things you love in THIS moment, not in the past.
2) Surrender to your path. Know that everything you want may not come exactly the way you pictured it, but you are always taken care of. It was extremely challenging when I had to take on YGTG by myself. I never intended to own a company by myself. I was hurt, shocked, confused, and I felt abandoned when it all happened. I didn’t even know if I wanted to keep going with YGTG because I was so used to it functioning as a partnership that owning it alone seemed daunting. And I thought, “Can I really pursue a career as a director AND own this company alone?” But, after 6 months of doing YGTG solo, I see how much this is exactly what I’ve been asking for and I’m seeing the company grow in new ways that excite me. I had to hire more women to come onboard the YGTG team this past year, and that alone is the best thing that happened as a result of the split. The women on my team are incredible humans who inspire me to keep doing what I love and to keep this YGTG baby growing. On top of that, I see now that owning this company alone is greatly serving my skill sets as a film director. I’m realizing how much running this company on my own is pushing me to understand how to manage a team and be a better leader, boss, director, and woman. Surrender, surrender, surrender, and believe the Universe always has your back. Especially when you feel hurt and shake your fist at the sky and overdramatically yell WHYYYY. That’s usually when the Universe is giving you the exact thing you need to grow into your highest self.
Where do you see your future going?
I see a family. I see myself directing films that inspire people all over the world. I see myself winning an Oscar for directing. I see myself continuing YGTG and giving our teachings to women everywhere. I see YGTG expanding and having YGTG instructors who can facilitate our teachings all around the world. I see myself opening up a yoga studio, one in LA and one in Toronto (my hometown). I see myself living in Venice. I see myself happy, healthy, fulfilled, inspired, whole, abundant, at peace, and overflowing with gratitude that I’ve accomplished my wildest dreams.
What advice do you have for others when handling things not going as planned or adapting to changes?
TRUST AND LET GO. In order for things to manifest, you must you must you MUST... Trust. I think it’s really the final step to achieving the things you want. And often you’re tested to trust by being handed the very things that are unexpected, unplanned, and difficult. When you push through THAT… that’s when the Universe says, “Oh this bitch is READY.” And bam, there’s your dream.
I also speak from experience because I am pro at having a Kung Fu grip on my goals and wanting to hyper-control everything in my life. But it is my biggest life practice to trust and let go and to pass that teaching onto others because I have seen in my own life how surrendering is the final ingredient you need to make something happen. When you trust and let go, you affirm to the Universe that you wholeheartedly KNOW and believe your dreams are reality.
So, your car gets totaled? Great. You get fired from your job? Even better. Your business partner leaves your company? Hell yes. The more you can cheer yourself on through the challenging times, the more you’re saying that you can handle anything and that absolutely NOTHING’s going to stop you. Because nothing will. You got this.