Pay attention to what your body is telling you. Our health is especially important to continue working and doing the tasks that we do daily. I have friends who pushed themselves too much and ignored the body’s signs that something was wrong. This ended up getting them in a car crash, developing an autoimmune disease, and in the end put a dent into their daily lives. At the end of the day your life is not worth the cost of your career and in the end, you will wind up losing both.
As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Natalya Michelle.
Natalya is a full-time actress, influencer, entrepreneur, and filmmaker at just 18 years old. Natalya creates content on her TikTok page, which is sitting at 72k followers at the time of this interview and growing daily. She has worked on some major shows such as, “TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress America” and HBO’s Reality TV show, “We’re Here”, and known for her appearance in Jubilee’s Ask Me Anything series.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Honestly, growing up I remember my mom showing me new movies, singers, runway shows, and so many other things revolving around the entertainment industry. We would always bond over these moments and she told me that I would do “that” when I grew up. Over time through the ups and downs I had with my rough childhood; entertainment would be the thing I relied on to help me through the bad times. Naturally, storytelling and the arts impacted me, so I wanted to ensure I could do the same for others by inspiring hope through my performance and actions. So, at 8 years old I started taking classes and before the years’ end, I was working professionally. Throughout the years of working professionally, I noticed that many in the arts were not receiving the exposure they deserved for the films and content they created. Seeing this, I switched my focus to learning more about social media marketing, and specifically why certain influencers and content creators are successful, while others are not. I learned that there is so much more that goes into making a piece of content go viral. These are things such as engagement ratios, the structure of the video, video quality, the location of the video, trending topics and much more. After two years of studying and doing research, I came across a video from Gary Vee explaining how the social media app TikTok, was a gold mine to someone who wants to get exposure for the videos they create. So, I jumped on the app in October of 2019 and within three weeks I got my first viral video hitting over 180k views, then a week later a video hitting over a million views, and I kept making content. This naturally opened so many new opportunities for me that I will forever be grateful for.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
So many people I come across would always think I was older than my actual age, which helped me get hired for many of the bigger projects. As soon as people started figuring out my age, some people would love me even more, while others would be disrespectful and cast me to the side. To give an example, I was working as a PA for a major television company when I had just turned 18. It was a two-week production and as soon as people started to hear about my age, this one guy on the set would completely ignore me. Not only that, but he would clearly belittle me, and separate me from the group to do other tasks. As soon as crew members saw this, they took more focus into making sure that I was treated just as equally as everyone else. This stereotype alone has helped me get to where I am today, and also showed some people’s true personality.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
Honestly, it was thinking that everyone would treat me like an adult because I was an emancipated minor. I would try to hang out with people 20 to 40 years older than me thinking we could go out for a drink. The sad truth is that it is extremely difficult for people to respect others, and age plays a huge role in this. So many people are quick to judge someone who is younger, because they assume the person is naive, inexperienced, and the list goes on. Knowing this now, I have so much more respect for myself and I will not give my everything, trying to prove someone wrong when they never respected me, or had the intention to do so in the first place.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Hands down my good friend and personal manager Amy Nguyen has helped me so much the last year. About a year ago I was getting overwhelmed by the amount of red carpets I had to attend, interviews to be done, audition tapes to be sent, film sets I needed to work on and it was getting a bit too much for me. I realized that I needed someone to work with me hands-on and help me with my career so I would have more time to do more. I knew Amy since High School and remembered that she always wanted to work in Public Relations or as a manager in entertainment. A few weeks later I hired her and never looked back. Now I have the time to jump from one place to another, and to get more done thanks to her.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
I would suggest people in my industry to hire a team once they feel like they need and can afford it. A team is essential and every single person and business that is successful has a team. Not one person can do everything on their own, and if they think they can that is when the burnout is about to happen. If it were not for Amy, I would not have gotten this far in my career, and I would also be suffering with the workload. Now I have time for myself and my family which is extremely important for anyone’s mental health.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
I would advise other leaders to be open and honest with whoever they hire; treat them like family and establish trust with one another. The people that work in your business are not objects and have their own emotions and life struggles, so if not treated right they can easily compromise your business and your reputation. Making sure you hire the right people is key, but the most important aspect in a team is to treat them right while having a strong bond with them. A positive relationship with your team-members is essential to being happy and thriving in your career.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each?
The five steps that I am about to list are steps that I wish I would have taken when I was at my lowest.
1. Make sure you are surrounded with people who have your best interest in mind.
When being an influencer, you really must second guess everyone that you hang out with and that you meet. I have had so many scenarios of friends, and even employers that I thought genuinely cared about me and had good intentions of working together, turning out to have hidden motives. Your time and energy are so valuable and making sure you do not give it to someone who is going to use it to bring you down is crucial to success.
2. Have self-respect for yourself, and make sure people respect you.
Your time and energy are both so valuable! Do not undercut your value just because you want to please someone. In every industry there will be haters and people that will never be satisfied with the work you provide. As cliché as it sounds, keep your head high and move on. Before I took this advice, I was taking on every project no matter how big or small, doing unpaid work, and trying to please EVERYONE. I felt used and drained of energy every time when I would do what I loved, and soon I started to hate it. I also was barely making enough money to hold myself together, and not advancing in life. As soon as I changed my mindset, a year later I started to land bigger and better projects, started making a 6-figure income, and was so much happier with the people I was working with.
3. Put yourself first, and if you need a break, find a way to take one
If you keep pushing yourself too hard, not only will you stop enjoying what you love to do, but you will start to burn out. Spending time with family, friends, and loved ones is super important, and many become depressed because they are unable to have this bonding time. A perfect example of this is having a father who is traveling due to working a corporate job, and who is unable to see his kids grow up. We are human, money comes and goes, but loved ones do not.
4. Pay attention to what your body is telling you
Our health is especially important to continue working and doing the tasks that we do daily. I have friends who pushed themselves too much and ignored the body’s signs that something was wrong. This ended up getting them in a car crash, developing an autoimmune disease, and in the end put a dent into their daily lives. At the end of the day your life is not worth the cost of your career and in the end, you will wind up losing both.
5. Do things that make you happy because happiness is priceless.
For me personally, if I am not happy, then life is not worth living. Some people live life for a purpose like serving a religious figure, helping others, but at the end of the day that is what makes them happy. So, do what makes you happy and live life by taking risks, just so long they are not detrimental to your health.
Much of my expertise focuses on helping people to plan for after retirement. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In addition to the ideas you mentioned earlier, are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.
In all honesty it is to keep on doing what makes you happy, and experiment with something new. Many that go into retirement feel like they lost their sense of “purpose” since that is what they did for a living. Continuing to find happiness in other activities and having something to look forward to is what help many stay out of depression. During old age retirement, many of their family members and friends will start dying. If one does not have something to hold onto when life gets tough, it is quite easy to lose yourself in a state of depression. So, stay happy, and keep on living life as if it were your last day on earth.
How about teens and pre-teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre-teens to optimize their mental wellness?
The key suggestion is to stop trying to please others and trying to fit in and like what is “trendy”. While growing up, I saw many of my friends wanting to pursue career options or hobbies that would make them happy, but their parents or friends did not approve. This made them fall into bad habits such as drugs to get the only high they could because they were not doing things they enjoyed.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
I wouldn’t specifically say a book, but more-so the influencer Gary Vee, who has multiple videos and podcasts that I listen to often. He has not only taught me so many different concepts when it comes to self-love and hustle, but also motivated me to work hard, which leads up to the life I am currently living.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
With the current climate we all are living in with the riots, quarantine, and all that jazz, we need to love. So many people, especially now, are so quick to judge others and spread hate on the internet. Now more than ever our world needs to question everything from what we put in our bodies, to what we see on T.V, on social media, and so much more. Being quick to judge is a form of hate and to fix the world that we lie in and to make it a better place, we must stop judging and start loving. The hate that people put out there, especially on social media can hurt someone more than we know until it is too late.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“When you want to SUCCEED as bad as you want to BREATHE then you will be successful” — Erik Thomas
Every single day this quote sets the expectation that I want to live by and has helped motivate me to get to where I am today. I heard this quote from a motivational speaker and it just hits home every time.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
The best way is on my Instagram and TikTok! I post a lot of job opportunities, advice, behind the scenes of my life, skits, and some funny relatable content.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!