Be honest with yourself. If you truly don’t have talent, move on, but if you know you have what it takes and have had positive reviews, from numerous sources, then never, ever give up. I have been working in the industry for a few decades now. I have still not reached my full potential. I know there is far more to come. You can follow your dream at any age.
As a part of my interview series with the rising stars in pop culture, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michelene-Philippe Heine.
Michelene P Heine is a trained and experienced actor, originally hailing from South Africa, but settled in the United Kingdom, in 2002.
She has performed on stage, in musicals and pantomimes and Michelene is also no stranger to radio and television, having appeared in TV soaps, international advertisements along with experience in presenting on international shopping channels and directing and producing her own local projects.
She is a highly motivated and disciplined actress and a dedicated and creative performer and enjoys working with likeminded individuals.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Itruly had no choice. I was born into it. It’s in my blood. Both my parents are creatives. My late father, Mike Heine, was a well known South African Director, Actor, Author and Radio Personality and my Mother, Schalkie van Wyk, has published over 300 books and still writes her romantic love stories. I started acting professionally, at the age of six, when my Godfather offered me a small dubbing job in an episode for a children’s TV series called: “The Wonderful Adventures of Nils” (“Nils Holgerson”, in Afrikaans). I believe I voiced a squirrel. And I caught the bug. I loved every second.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
When I was 24 years old, I co-presented a home shopping info-mercial, with the very talented, and now renowned, Hakeem Kai-Kazim. You might recognize him from ‘Black Sails’ or ‘Dynasty’. I am genuinely pleased for Hakeem, as he is a hard working actor and was most helpful and professional during filming and I wish him continued success.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was part of a touring Theatre Company, called On Cue Theatre, based in Johannesburg and owned by Litzy Katz. We always performed a number of plays at a time and there was a lot to remember. We were known for quick changes and playing multiple characters, as there were only 4 of us, we were often doubling or tripling up. We were performing an adaptation of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and I was playing both Helena and Titania. It’s vital during these performances to always remember one’s cues, and what scene follows which and when to change into what.
But in this instance, and I assure you I never made the mistake again, I forgot, that after ‘Helena’ leaves the stage after a heated argument with ‘Demetrius’, she returns to give him her last words. Unfortunately I had already pulled off ‘Helena’s’ wig and started unzipping my dress, when I heard my poor fellow actor, repeating his lines and it dawned on me that I had missed my cue. I was mortified, and without another thought, dashed back on stage, not realizing that I had forgotten the wig and that the audience was now exposed to a rather dismal looking brief section of an old pair of tights, (keeping my hair in place when donning different wigs), and me clutching the front of my dress, to prevent any further embarrassment.
Luckily for me, as it is a comedy, I got some roaring laughter from the audience and the show went on!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am currently working on my own project. I have adapted and translated one of my mother’s unpublished books into a radio play and we are hoping to start recording it very soon. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I think her books speak to a large audience, and originally I thought of recording an audio book, but it’s much more fun working with a team of professionals.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
In South Africa, I had the great privilege of working with some of the biggest names, including Ryno Hattingh, Jana Cilliers and Bill Flynn. These are probably unfamiliar names to you and to a lot of people reading this article, but to me it was as good as acting with Brad Pitt and Al Pacino. I got the chance to meet my idols, people I watched on TV growing up, and who I admired. Not many people can say that.
I do have a funny story about Patrick Stewart though. I was attending a workshop at the Arts Theatre in London. Patrick Stewart was giving a talk on his career and taking questions. As I left the foyer, making my way to my seat, Patrick Stewart walked in. I have admired this man, since I was about 9 and was an avid Star Trek fan, but when I was faced with him, I mean, he was about four feet away from me, I froze. I couldn’t say a word. Not a hello, or oh my god, or anything. He smiled…I tried not to have a panic attack, he smiled some more and I just couldn’t move, which, if you ask anyone who knows me, is unheard of.
I also briefly worked with Vicky Michelle, (from ‘Allo ‘Allo fame), on a short film. She was so warm and down to earth. I think that’s the one thing I’ve learned from both my father and the professionals I’ve worked with. It’s just a job. Be yourself.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Don’t listen to everyone else. Follow your heart. Not being an ‘A-lister’, does not make you any less of an actor than someone who’s famous. Your work, you talent, matters.
Take a break if you need to. You can act at any age.
Have different interests. New skills will only enhance your career, not distract you.
Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.
I qualified as a fitness instructor and PT a few years ago, because I wanted to keep in shape and share the benefits of staying fit and healthy and just over a year ago, I qualified as a Pilates instructor.
I’ve always enjoyed practicing Pilates, and the reason for it is that there is such a close connection between the body and mind. You have to focus so much on your breathing, your alignment, your posture, that all other things get put to the back of your mind.
Pilates makes me feel strong in mind and body and has alleviated my back pain to a great extent. That’s one of the reasons I decided to qualify; to help others and to be safe and effective when teaching and taking part in classes. I’ve never really been great at meditating. I always get distracted. But Pilates seems to ground me. It’s also a great way to earn extra pocket money and the breathing method helps relax before an audition or performance.
I also go for regular facials. I think it’s important for ‘feel good’ time. My beautician is excellent at what she does and acts somewhat as my therapist. If I have an issue, I’ll mull it over with her, and she’s always very honest. It helps me get perspective, relax and look and feel good afterwards.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
I cannot say I wasn’t told not to choose a career in the industry, because both my parents advised me to become a teacher or a lawyer, but when you’re young, you know best, obviously. I’d never tell someone not to follow their dream, but I would be honest, and tell them that only a small percentage of actors ever make it to that big A-list. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
People also told me to get a secondary career. Study something else first or get a trade alongside your passion. It took me a long time to follow this advice. I highly recommend it. It’s not to stop the dream, but to fund it. Not everyone has the luxury of staying with parents or friends until they’re 40. I’ve had a variety of temp jobs and absolutely hated it. Only once I started teaching exercise classes and personal training, did I find something else, other than performing, that made me happy. It’s not my passion, or my ideal job, but it takes that anxiety and stress away from going to auditions, knowing I am not desperate for the job. I can just enjoy it, because it is what I love doing.
Don’t listen to everyone’s advice. Find things out for yourself. I was told I didn’t have the right papers to perform in the UK. But I persevered. Went a very long way around doing things, but I got there in the end. In hindsight, had I investigated things further myself, I’d have learnt there were other avenues to follow.
Be honest with yourself. If you truly don’t have talent, move on, but if you know you have what it takes and have had positive reviews, from numerous sources, then never, ever give up. I have been working in the industry for a few decades now. I have still not reached my full potential. I know there is far more to come.
You can follow your dream at any age.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My mother always quoted to me: “What you think upon grows.”
And I believe those words to be very true. If one focuses on the negative, or lack or wrong doing in one’s life, one draws more of the same to oneself. I believe it’s important for anyone, at any stage of their life, to try and focus on the positive, on their success, on their health. There are countless stories, published and on line of people who live by this way of thinking and who have accomplished enormous success.
The quote has been around for decades. It’s an old Eastern truism, and yet, the ideal is used today in Yoga, in books like The Secret and by many inspirational speakers.
I have seen it manifest in my life, when I truly put my mind to it.
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?
There are many people I am grateful towards. First and foremost, my Father. He was such a talented and creative actor and director and he gave me loads of advice, growing up. We occasionally performed together and it was such a privilege to see him take on a new character. My father was dedicated, worked incredibly long hours, prepared, was punctual, and always looked and behaved professionally. I could not have asked for a better role model.
Secondly, my Mother, who is just as talented in her own profession. She religiously took me to my dance, drama and singing lessons and waited patiently outside the classrooms and dance halls.
Both my parents advised me against following a career in the Arts. But when it’s in your blood, it’s really hard not to follow one’s heart.
I will also always be grateful to Litzy Katz, from On Cue Theatre, for taking a chance on me.
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. 🙂
Unfortunately my idea is not original, and already exists, but I think it’s such an important ideology, especially in this day and age, when life seems to revolve around image and materialistic goods.
I would continue with the message of kindness to oneself and others. I feel we, as humans, still struggle to truly live by these words. I think the closest anyone came to it in my lifetime, was Mother Theresa.
There is still so much abuse in the world, whether physical, mental or verbal abuse. Fat shaming ourselves or others, rudeness, selfishness, hatred, racism, jealousy, persecution, the list goes on. #bekindalways
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
I would have loved to have met Clarissa Dickson Wright, (English celebrity cook, television personality, writer and former barrister), but she sadly passed away in 2014. She always spoke her mind and seemed fearless.
That is an incredibly hard question to answer, as every person has something different to offer and there are so many people I would like to meet.
I would probably have to say, Keanu Reeves. I am impressed by his philanthropy and all he does for children and young people. He has quietly helped so many, and stands for what I believe in, and beyond #bekindalways.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Twitter: PT Miche P
LinkedIn: Michelene-Philippe Heine
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!