Inspiring Artists Stories
Today we'd like to introduce you to Malia Merrill
Current Location: Long Beach, CA
Malia, thank you for taking the time to share your story. Can you start by telling us a little about yourself?
I found my love for performing at age 12, when I started doing musicals. However it was when I joined the Academy of the Performing Arts (APA) in high school that my devotion to performing truly developed. It was then that I began to focus on the arts, and, with the help of my wonderful and supportive parents, I was able to invest in vocal lessons and develop my skills. I have had the honor of performing in countless shows with APA, the Rose Center Theater, and even had the wonderful opportunity to portray my dream role, Sally Bowls, in the musical Cabaret at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Theatre has literally taken me all over the world, and given me opportunities I never imagined I would have. With my developed love for performing, I aspire to one day work in the professional field of acting and strive to continue performing my entire life.
Can you tell us about what you've been working on recently?
While the theatre world is on pause, I have been focusing my time on both my education and my job. I recently started my Junior year as a transfer student at CSULB, majoring in Psychology, which I thoroughly enjoy. Luckily, my job is my creative outlet, as it involves performing! I work as a party entertainer at Once Upon An Island, portraying a wide variety of characters, from a bubbly mermaid, to a classic fairy tale princess. It is a goal of mine to continue performing throughout my life, and having the opportunity to do what I love as a job has been a dream come true.
What are some struggles you've faced along the way, and how have you overcome them?
Sometimes, it felt like the whole world was against me quite honestly. Finding my voice, strength, and passion was not an easy task for the very timid wallflower I was as a child. The ability to handle pressure, rejection, criticism, and new environments is a challenge I am still working on today. Don't get me wrong, I have come a long way. But in a world as competitive and demanding as theatre, you never really stop growing and facing new obstacles. Not only that, but balancing school, work, and many times, multiple shows at once, led to some of my lowest points in life. Despite those hard times, I was able to pick myself up by reminding myself why I was putting myself through it all in the first place. My love for performing and my personal educational goals were what drove me to continue, even in the murkiest of times.
Are there any lessons that you've learned along your journey so far? Something that you'd want to tell your younger self?
The biggest lesson I have learned throughout all of this has definitely been to remember what your true motivations are. Personal goals, happiness, and overall satisfaction with myself are what make performing worth it for me. If you aren't happy with what you're doing, then what is the point of continuing? Reminding myself of why I love performing and what I hope to gain from it has been a life changer and continues to push me towards my goals.
As for my younger self, I would tell her to stop being so dramatic, and thinking everything was life or death. People make mistakes, and it's an important part of growing. The pressure to be perfect, and the disappointments of not getting everything you work for instantly, can be a lot for a kid. If you just keep going with a positive outlook instead of giving up, eventually you will see your hard work pay off.
What's the best piece of advice you've received?
I was told once that, "When auditioning, the directors are on your side. They want you to succeed as much as you want to." I think it's crucial to remember that when going into auditions. In such a competitive and selective environment, it's helpful to remember that the casting team is not hoping for your failure, but for your success.
Can you tell us about an inspiring life event?
The most inspiring moment for me so far would have to be when I won the Miss Westminster competition in 2019. I have never found beauty pageants appealing, and I was very skeptical to partake in the competition to begin with, but once I realized it was more a show of skill, than looks, I found it a very rewarding experience. Not only was I able to show my skill as a performer when singing for the talent portion, but I was also able to express my intelligence and personal motivations during the final round with the surprise question. Seeing how the qualities that I value most of myself- performance skill and intellect- could set me apart from a crowd of other young women was a huge success for me. It gave me the confirmation that I was on the right track to attaining my goals.
What do you consider your proudest moment?
As small as it seems, the proudest moment in my career so far was when I was able to share the stage with my brother in both APA's The Little Mermaid as Flotsam and Jetsam, and the Rose Center Theater's Li'l Abner as Available Jones and Stupifyin' Jones. My brother has been with me through most of my theatre career and having the opportunity to work with him as counterparts is something I will cherish forever. It was also knowing how proud my parents were watching us on stage after all the time, energy, and money they devoted towards our journey that continues to fill me with pride to this day. Not many people can say they have experienced what we have together and it makes it all the more sweet!
What are your hopes for the future of the arts?
My hope for the future of the arts is that it becomes more accessible and acceptable in society. Diminishing the stigma that pursuing the arts is a "dream job" and not a realistic and professional career is a necessary step in making the arts universally valued. Once the arts can be appreciated as it should, it will open up the demand for public arts funding and lead to more successful members of society whose potentials can be fulfilled.
The mission of The Rose is to make the arts accessible in the community. What purpose do you think the arts play in today's society?
Artists are the backbone of society. The world is full of so many forms of art; from music, to acting, to graphic design. It's disheartening that the arts are highly under appreciated and seen as an "unprofessional" career path. Especially during COVID, the arts are seen as nonessential and the arts community is now hurting the most. In reality, there isn't a corner you can turn to where art isn't there. We consume it daily as entertainment, sometimes without even recognizing that it's there. Without art, there would be no color in the world. Recognizing the vast and varying role the arts play in modern society is the first step in truly appreciating it's value.
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