SELF EMPOWERMENT via SELF DEVELOPMENT
Build your Confidence, build your Brand, build your Lifestyle
"The Art of You!"
Melinda Leanna Shankar
Most people know me as a fictional character vs me as a human. To sum myself up- I'm a 5'ft Canadian-Guyanese actress, obsessed with performing, psychology, spirituality, martial arts, ballet and the correlation between image and self confidence.
Acting is my passion. Since my early teen years, I've been a globe trotting actress. I went wherever my career took me, even if that meant moving out of my family home mid teenage years living an independent life, in a big city hours away. My life changed overnight when I went from being a grade 10 high school student with a curfew, to travelling all over the world, alone or with strangers. Performing is my addiction and i'm always searching for my next fix, giving my energy to interesting characters and plots. After being in "showbiz" for more than a decade, it's no surprise that my life revolves around my career. I started modelling in LA at 14 then booked Degrassi when I was 16 years old, followed by How to be Indie months after. During my filming hiatus from those two shows I split my time between shooting The Festival of Lights on location in New York and Guyana as well as Disney's Harriet the Spy 2. I completed 213 episodes of Degrassi and 52 episodes of my sitcom all while filming Trigger, Alive, Bookaboo and other projects in between. I have two new films and a series releasing this year and will forever continue acting until i'm done with this lifetime and ready to head back to the stars!
Actors spend their days saying words that aren't their own and creating dilemmas that don't actually exist. Why? The answer varies depending on the artist, but for me- it's my chance to put myself in someone else's shoes. Literally. From my unique upbringing, I've learnt so much about humans and humanity, my love for the craft goes beyond the search for fame and acknowledgement and right into better connecting with society. My experiences have helped me connect and relate to citizens from all around our planet and communicate through similarities, through differences, through entertainment and art.
Growing up on camera was like attending a University of Show Business, soaking up everything from behind the scenes operations, post production, publicity, image, casting and being very involved in all aspects of what it takes to create and develop a project into fruition- successfully.
On a personal note- I was granted freedom, a heavy resume, awards and accolades, yet I couldn't help but feel that my life wasn't well rounded. I wasn't even a legal adult yet I was managing a full time career while trying to catch up on "How to be a Teenager". I went from practicing and teaching martial arts for hours each night to pausing cold turkey while my new life began, letting my dance troops down having to ditch my routines right before competition season, tried to keep up with tutoring on set while memorizing 13-20 pages of dialogue each night, and attempted to maintain long distance friendships while I moved to a new city, where I had no roots nor social life aside from red carpets, set or industry events.
It was a long journey of self growth, but I knew it would be easy to become a child star statistic if I allowed myself to be sky high in overindulgence of any sort. I recognized the importance of keeping myself and reputation in check for myself, by myself. Why? Because I didn't want to let myself down. I didn't want to take an opportunity of a lifetime for granted.
Don't get me wrong- I definitely made mistakes along the way, my life consisted of trial and error with little guidance and no one to prepare me for my journey of the unknown. How could they? It was a first for everyone around me; my parents had never experienced a child go to Hollywood at 14, there were no leading Canadian talent of Indian decent to look up to and my first agents hadn't a clue of what was to come for me as the only thing consistent about my life was the fact that it was constantly changing and evolving. I was going with the flow; making up my own rules as opportunities came to me. My career was accelerating at a rapid incline and I was not going to let anything deter me from my goals.
The first time I received a two month hiatus after years of non stop filming, I didn't know what to do with myself. I was 17, bought an apple head chihuahua after 30 minutes of drumming up my genius idea (with no prior puppy experience), ate at restaurants every day after almost burning my condo to a crisp attempting to cook, I took cabs everywhere and had no idea how to operate a vehicle because I was given a personal driver as per my contract, I lost my desire to exercise as both my karate and ballet schools were back in my home town and joining a new facility was nerve wrecking once the "she's on TV" cat was let out of the bag- I lost my independence. I lost ME.
My career was everything I wanted it to be but I hated depending on people to manage my life; I craved to use my own brain and make my own decisions. Is this why actors/actresses have a Miss Conception for being air headed? Because we're not given the opportunity to rule our own lives? Because our publicists are the third party barrier mediating introductions for us? Because directors tell us what to say, how to say it and what pitch of voice to use??
I refused to allow my ideas, destiny and vision for my life to be in the hands of "others". Even if they meant well, I quickly learnt that no one will care as much about your life or your well being than you will. There is a SUPER POWER that takes over your mind, body and soul once you feel the leadership you create for yourself. "Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice" became my new motto.
I wasn't going to let one more minute go by where I didn't feel in control; where I felt directionless unless guided by show business. It was up to ME to sit down, quiet my mind and seek INWARD to reflect on what components are necessary for my life to feel grounded, wholesome and secure.
I created THE ART OF YOU! as a self development program for myself, to consciously map out a structured lifestyle guide since my situation was so unique and since there was no one in my shoes to give me pointers on how to manage REAL LIFE while growing up in the PUBLIC EYE.
It consists of:
1- The Girly Ninja: From three years old, my life surrounded competitive ballet & hiphop and karate. I alternated and sometimes split my after school evenings between my dance school and my karate dojo. The two activities sound like polar opposites but I credit the combination for my grace in the ring and my strength in pointe shoes. The common denominator between the duality are discipline, respect and determination; qualities that served me well while transitioning into full time filming and even now as an adult.
2- Makeover Magic: I was born with a passion for all things beautiful. I'd go to kindergarten wearing red lipstick and loved wearing a full face of stage makeup for dance competitions. Traveling to perform, I didn't always have someone to create my performance looks, so I learnt to be my own visual director when I was really young and my obsession grew full force when I entered the TV/FILM world, where I started my work day with hours of processing into the character. I observed how different makeup looks and wardrobe choices were selected to create the tone for a character and I could feel how it altered my personal self esteem depending on how I looked. It was then that I decided to study and observe the correlation between image and confidence via a combination of inner and outer beauty.
3- Spiritual Styling: There was a point where i'd faint on set from exhaustion, travelling solo world wide with just my P&P (purse and passport- I didn't need any of my personal items), my mind would be focused solely in the frame of a character and not that of my own, i'd have to be "ON" for hours at a time with little down time to recuperate, drinking so much caffeine (I was 16 starting my day with coffee plus tea bags in it) I had high levels of anxiety that I had no choice but to channel into up beat TV energy, I was dealing with all production departments at once (director, cast, camera operators, background, wardrobe, hair/makeup, producers, coaches etc), staring into bright artificial light for hours at a time (A whole Winter season once passed with out me seeing daylight as i'd get picked up before run rise and dropped off after sun set) etc I was run down and felt like a zombie puppet. After I wrapped filming and had some time to rediscover myself, I realized that my soul and it's purpose was lost in LaLaLand and that I needed to get back onto my path. But what was it? As the Universe would have it, I was blessed with meeting all the right people at the right time, to remind me of what it was I came to this planet to do; and how to do it. I now meditate, budget my energy and use my intense life lessons to guide other souls back into creating their own unique path. To use my platform to highlight the importance of steering your own wheel in life. (Turns out I was my first experiment!)
Acting is my heart's true desire and my soul craves sharing and guiding others into becoming the strongest, best version of themselves. When I realized that it is a combination of The Girly Ninja, Makeover Magic, BYOB (Build your own brand) and Spiritual Styling that it takes to keep my mind, body and soul at it's prime- it felt like I had finally clued in to why it is what i've acquired such a loving, loyal, supportive fan base; to share it all with. The Miss Conception Society was created to inspire "The Art of You!" The very formula that brought me back down to Earth while continuing to give me the option of setting set sky high goals in whichever endless direction I desire.
Consider this my truest inner dialogue. I have an open mind, a semi open heart (kidding) and a lot of energy that I channel into my message via the Miss Conception Society. This is my journey, but it could easily be yours. The Miss C Lifestyle can be applied to all career choices, not just the TV/FILM world. The recipe for success is perseverance, passion and a plan.
LIFE IS LIKE A MOVIE- YOU ARE YOUR STAR, CHOOSE YOUR CHARACTERS WISELY, MAKE YOUR PLOT WORTH WATCHING AND NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS, DO NOT LET IT BE BORING.
Photographer: Kareen Mallon / Fajo Magazine Cover shoot