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Meet Melissa Westlake

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melissa Westlake.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Melissa. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I have always grown up wanting to be a dancer. Starting with my grandmother, she was actually a Roxyette at the Roxy Theatre in Manhattan in the 1940s and then one of my aunts, who is also my godmother, was a dancer and a Rockette in NYC. From the moment I stepped into a dance class, I knew that that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and I worked hard to accomplish that. I went to countless summer dance intensive auditions and learned very early on that if this is something that I wanted to do, I would have to be ready to face rejection. I would have to get used to being told that I am not good enough, that I do not have enough of this or of that or that I may not even look like what a ballerina is supposed to look like. I battled my own demons of wanting to look like perfection in conjunction with what the industry wanted me to look like and every day was a different mental battle.. Until I was accepted into a full-time year round training program with the Joffrey Ballet School in NYC. I had finally felt like I was where I was supposed to be, where I was to grow and become the ballerina that I have always wanted to be. I did not have the natural turn out, I did not have the flexibility, I didn’t even have the ideal body type because of all of the rice and beans I ate (so I was told countless times as my belly was pinched over and over)….but I had heart, I had passion, and I had a desire to want to do and be better every single day, no matter the odds that were against me.

After a few years training with the school, I auditioned to be a part of the studio company and when I was accepted, that was when the challenge to keep up became even more difficult. I was surrounded by beautiful talent that inspired me but that also defeated me because I knew in my mind that I would never look like them…but I tried. And in 4 years of being with the company, I learned that my being a part of a company had to do with something greater than me. I felt something bigger within me ignite and I felt it was time to move on to something new while holding onto every beautiful aspect that Joffrey had taught me. I auditioned to be a part of Ballet Hispanico DOS in NYC because of the connection I really felt with my heritage and the beauty that the company evokes and when I was accepted, I did not know that this would be where it would all change. A few months into working with the company I was severely injured, I tore ligaments and tendons in my ankle and was out for the rest of the seasonal contract. My whole world came crashing down in a second when the doctor was speaking to me, and I was out of dance for a year and a half before I could even think about stepping into a studio. I was depressed and had no idea what to do. One night I went out with some friends and it was to a party called Toca Tuesday and I saw people dancing in a way that I had never before. They were all in a circle dancing (later in which I would learn that it is called a cypher) and I was in awe of everyone. My one friend I was with pushed me into the circle and I was so intimated and so scared because I didn’t know what the heck to do. Next thing I know I am dancing a full on ballet combination and I felt so free and happy. From there, I went to train at studios such as EXPG, BDC, and Peridance in NYC and learned the foundations of my hiphop future.

I went from being in a leotard, pointe shoes, and high buns to sweatpants, sneakers, heels, and learning to love my full authentic self. From trying to conform to what didn’t feel natural in my body but had a passion for, to feeling accepted, and wanting to learn and understand a culture that I felt close to. After achieving most of my dance goals in NYC I made the move to LA to really be in the hub for commercial work and little did I know that I would fall in love with being in front of the camera in a whole different way. Now a commercial actress, professional dancer, and aspiring host, I can say now more than ever my dreams are bigger than I ever thought possible and they grow larger every single day no matter the challenges that come with it.

Has it been a smooth road?
It has not been a smooth road at all. I have dealt with depression a lot of the way and even at one point in time, I have dealt with eating disorders. I have dealt with rejection because of my body and mostly I have dealt with having to learn to not conform to what is a “perfection” norm but what I deem to be an asset in the world in which I choose to be a part of, the adversity is a driving force to want to push through anything coming my way.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I am best known for my abilities to dance. I am a professional dancer who is well versed in ballet, contemporary, hiphop (styles include commercial dance, heels, and novice walking-a skill I am still learning), salsa, bachata, and merengue. I am also a commercial actress in which I play different various roles and am able to play roles in both English and Spanish.

I am most proud of my company that it does not stop, I do not stop. I am constantly learning a new skill, wanting to be better and better and that I have chosen a field in which the learning never stops, there is no ultimate endpoint. I have always led with love and understanding in my heart and I am most proud that I have never once lost that along the way.

What sets me apart from others is my confidence. I know that I may be tiny, but that does not mean that my spirit, passion, and drive is. I know that what I have to offer is unique because I have searched and developed every single aspect of myself to be filled with love and to exude that positivity, that challenge, and that drive to be nothing less than what the job demands. Some may say I am too much, but I rather be too much and reel it in, than NEVER be enough.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I love the fact that LA is an outdoor playground for so many different avenues. You can literally come to LA and make yourself into whatever it is that you feel like it. I like to think of LA as the city of invention because people come here to make themselves, make companies make basically whatever you want. It is a city filled with a fresh start.

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Image Credit:

Kelsey Lyna Photography, Alex Navac Photography

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