When it comes to writable Charleston women, actress, Michelle Mills, tops the list. There’s something naturally drawing about the rising entertainer , which is probably the reason the silver screen pulls her towards it like a magnet. Michelle has an “x” factor, which I think largely rests in her duality. Michelle is one part stoic strength, and one part dreamy artist. The two don’t often exist in one body, but made an exception in her case.
A natural athlete, Michelle grew up playing sports and practicing martial arts. She was shy by nature, and didn’t know how to scratch that itch she’d always had, her fondness for film. She tells me, “I was amazed by movies, but I had severe stage fright. [Also], my family wasn’t very artistic.”
So instead she buried her dream, and developed her athleticism. A natural at karate, touting gifts of discipline, mental strength, and agility, Michelle earned her black belt. She was teaching at 15 years old, and was unknowingly nurturing a skill that would become her biggest weapon in the acting world…a trade that would prepare her physical and mental fortitude.
It took fate about 35 years to finally get Michelle in checkmate. She found herself suddenly surrounded by photographers, actors, writers, and like-minded creatives. That thing that lived in the dark corners of her instinct for a score and three quarters of another, stretched its fingers out, tickling at her once again. She saw her dare-to-be-great moment and decided to put fear on the shelf she’d been keeping her courage on. She was giving it a real go.
Michelle began networking like a mad woman, beating down doors, pushing scripts, and going on auditions. 8 years later, she’s now starred in several short films, as well as a host of commercials, and has earned her SAG card. At 43 she’s still waiting for the big break, but is full of optimism. She’s battled the uphill portion of the journey and knows her moment is near.
When I asked her how she stays positive, especially later in life than most actors begin, she just gives me a look. The look tells me she has no choice. It’s an innate belief at this point. Then she offers, casually, “the worst thing you can do is quit.”
I stand with Michelle, that her version of Kathy Bates’, Misery, or Morgan Freeman’s, Stand By Me, is just around the corner. A person can’t hide that level of hunger, and I’m a believer that perseverance has deep pockets. It’s going to pay off.
Five years from now Michelle sees herself acting and using her platform to help animals. She wants to balance her time between being on set and volunteering in her own animal sanctuary. She strives be like her much-admired, Leonardo DiCaprio, whom she respects because “he’s so evolved, and uses fame for a cause.”
Let us, the women of Charleston, be inspired today by someone else’s commitment to her dream. It’s rare to walk the walk you talk. So many people have such large ambitions, but simply don’t have the belief to make them reachable goals, and then realities. Let’s all harness that energy Michelle spills everywhere she goes. No matter your age; if you’re 16, 28, 40, or 83….let’s challenge our most secret dreams together….the big scary ones. Then let’s collectively, women supporting women, wrestle that beast to the ground and have it.
Thanks, Michelle. Your drive came out of my fingers today and spilled on this page. Never quit.
by Lorna Hollifield
Learn more about Michelle:
Michelle Mills in Crossing the River