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Life & Work with Melina Smart

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melina Smart.

Hi Melina, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I’m originally from a small country town called Friendsville in PA. I’ve been singing since I could talk, so my parents put me in voice and piano lessons early. The theater bug didn’t bite me until I was entering high school. I noticed some of my voice teacher’s other students were doing theater at their schools and around town. So I thought I’d give it a try. I auditioned for a local community theater’s production of Cinderella, and I got the title role on the first go. I was hooked ever since. I got my BA in Theater at SUNY Binghamton in New York state. In high school, Broadway was the goal. But after college, I realized that the NYC lifestyle was not for me and that I didn’t necessarily have to make it THERE to be successful.

So I moved to Orlando since the theme parks were here, not to mention some amazing regional theater companies around the state. I think that was the best thing I could have done because I never had to work a “survival job” while waiting for the next performing gig. In all my jobs out of college, I either had me performing or working in the costuming department. My costuming experience would often lead to performing opportunities and vice versa. I’ve been very blessed to have worked for many Orlando such as the Nickelodeon Suites Resort, Legoland, Orlando Fringe, and Universal Studios both Florida and Singapore Parks. These days, I’ve decided to hang up performing at the theme parks full time to pursue other opportunities both in theater and in marketing. A few years ago, I started doing brand ambassador work at trade shows and events.

I found I loved it just as much as performing in live theater. In many ways, the skills transfer over. Instead of the script to learn, I have to improve lines about a product or brand. I’m currently working as an automotive product specialist for Chevrolet and performing select nights a week at Capone’s Dinner & Show in Kissimmee as either Miss Jewel or Bunny June. This summer, I played Meg March in “Little Women: The Broadway Musical” at Myers Dinner Theatre in Hillsboro, Indiana. I love being able to wear many hats and do different things. It keeps my mind active and stimulated. I’ve never been the kind of person to sit at a desk from 9-5. I always have to be on the go. And having another job outside of the entertainment industry is also great because it gives me other things to focus on when work in the arts is slow. I also get to meet all kinds of wonderful people, hear their stories, and gain more life experience, then carrying back over to the theater jobs. It’s pretty cool how that works!

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back, would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It’s never a smooth road for a performing artist. If you ask anyone who is trying to make it as an actor, the biggest struggle we all face is rejection. We may go to 50 auditions. Out of those 50, we MIGHT get five callbacks. Out of those 5, we MIGHT book that ONE job. After a while, the no’s do start to get to you. They sure did get to me.

On top of that, a few years ago, I was diagnosed with depression. So I think those no’s hit me harder than, say, someone who doesn’t have clinical depression. I’ve almost quit performing dozens of times because the constant rejection was getting to be a bit too much to handle. But life is fun and I think God knows when I’m actually serious about quitting. That’s when a job opportunity will come my way, I feel rejuvenated, and I just can’t say no to it. So I take that as a sign that He wants me to keep going. Between medication and changing some of my thought processes, I’ve been working on managing both the effects of depression and rejection better. It’s a bit ironic, but I have found that the auditions/jobs I want, I don’t get. But if I go into the audition, not caring too much if I book the job, that’s when I’ll book it! So I almost have to trick myself into not caring about the jobs I really actually DO care about, but also caring enough to do my absolute best. It is a difficult concept to grasp and put into practice. It’s also important to have a life outside of the performing arts for balance. It gives you more life experience to draw on as an actor and gives you something to focus on to get burnt out. While I am so thankful, I never needed to wait tables and all my jobs up until recently have been performing related, after a few years, it burnt me out pretty bad. So once my contract in Singapore was done, I decided to go into taking a break from performing and the opportunity to work as an automotive product specialist came my way. When I felt ready to audition again, I found that I was less nervous in the room because that whole “care but don’t care” philosophy kicked in. I performed better than I ever had before and got callbacks for jobs I didn’t think I’d ever be considered for. It just helped to know that even if I didn’t book that one job, I still had another one to go to the next day that makes me just as happy as performing does.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I like to think of myself as a Jane of all trades. As an artist, I am primarily a musical theater performer. I sing, I act, and I dance. If I am given the option, I will always choose to sing something that shows my operatic soprano voice off. I love period pieces. So shows by Rogers’ & Hammerstein, Jerry Bock, Cole Porter, and the like will always be the best fit for me and where my heart is. But that doesn’t mean I can’t rock out either! I can sing pop, rock, country, and of course, contemporary musical theater. Versatility is key for success as a performer. I have done some film/tv/television work in the past as well and I do have representation for it. As a businesswoman, my specialty is in experiential marketing. I love making connections with both consumers and other businesses to help create a positive product/brand/business awareness. I’m especially strong in lead generation and helping businesses grow their contacts and connections. I’m used to doing this type of work in a trade show or event setting, but I can really do it for businesses and people in any setting, including digital marketing strategies. One skill I briefly touched on in my bio was my costuming skills. Up until recently, it’s been a hobby, an EXPENSIVE hobby as I love making retro fashion. I’ve always wanted to design and sell my own retro styles on a platform like Etsy, but I’ve always been “too busy” or get that one theater contract that pulls me away from buckling down and doing it. So since I’ve got the time now, I’m putting a plan into acting. Be on the Look Out for MinaChelle Designs! I’m working on creating content right now for a launch early next year. I’ve had a few friends thus far purchase my 50’s style wrap shirts and they love them! I’m excited to finally get MinaChelle Designs going as it will not only give me a creative outlet but also let me hone in on my business skill all at once.

We’re always looking for the lessons that can be learned in any situation, including tragic ones like the Covid-19 crisis. Are there any lessons you’ve learned that you can share?
Quarantine was a bit of a blessing in disguise for me. There have been a lot of projects both around my home and in my professional career that needed to get done. But I never really had the time or energy until quarantine happened and I was stuck at home for months. The biggest thing I had been wanting to accomplish was to get all my songs and monologues on tape. I’ve done, and I am continuing to do just that. The entertainment and events industry WILL bounce back, and I having a feeling it will be even more competitive than ever. The resumes need to be polished. The songs need to be taped, the photos need to be updated. I even took an audition for a film/TV class over zoom to keep my skills up. Auditions are starting to pop up again, and it’s so nice to have all my materials and links ready to be sent off without having to stress about what and when to tape something. I also had to start thinking ahead in terms of my career in marketing. As an experiential marketing professional, our marketing tactics are done face to face in hopes to leave a positive image of a brand on the consumer. With trade shows and events gone for the time being, it made me think about how else can I work in the field not just during times of crisis but ahead to the future. It would be nice to have another source of income while I’m on performing contracts. There may even come a day when I don’t want to be a performer anymore, or there simply aren’t enough acting jobs for my type and age group. So all that being said, I decided that I will go back to school to get my MBA. It’s not an if. It’s a when. I’m just looking for the right program at this point as I want my emphasis to be more on digital marketing. Digital Marketing can be done from anywhere. And I can still help businesses grow and connect with people. Making connections face to face, in my opinion, is always going to be the best way, but it doesn’t always have to be done like that, nor can it be that way all the time. With social media being so prominent in our lives, I don’t think digital marketing is going to disappear anytime soon. It’s also good to have other skills and be as versatile as you can be no matter what field you are working in.

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Headshot PC: Headshots by Scott Dentinger

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