THE multi-talented Michelle West took time out of her packed schedule to stop by and chat with James Prestridge of Close-Up Culture.
Q: Let us start at the beginning. What inspired you to get into acting? Was there anyone in the early stages of your life who helped coach you?
A: Ultimately, I dove into acting because I wanted to experience life through all of these amazing characters that I get to embody. I wanted to tell stories through their eyes and bring them to life.
But to backtrack where it began, growing up, my mom was actually an agent in the New Orleans area so I was always at the office helping her and got to see it from an agent’s point of view, which was a learning experience in itself and would later help me more than I realized.
Believe it or not, I was shy as a kid, unless I was on a stage dancing, and I was pretty much my mom’s shadow. She let me audition for things I wanted to and would encourage me but never forced me into the industry. I just wasn’t super into it yet; but, honestly, I think I didn’t have the confidence more than anything.
On the other hand, my Dad was a Sports Reporter on Channel 8 News then became the radio voice of Tulane Green Wave for the next 20ish years; so, between the two of my parents, I was bound to end up in the industry. I got a little more of an itch when I started traveling to model; so, upon graduation from Southeastern Louisiana University, I decided to move to Los Angeles and give it everything making it my career choice.
Q: You were crowned Miss Louisiana in 2008. Can you talk about this experience and the grounding it gave you as a public figure and performer?
A: Being crowned Miss Louisiana USA 2008 was a very surreal experience! It was a lot of hard work and preparation; but, ultimately, it was a lifetime investment.
I learned so much not only throughout that weekend but also throughout that year of my life and those skills will continue to help me advance in any profession. Furthermore, it was such a humbling experience and you don’t realize the difference you can make until you’re in those shoes.
You envision it beforehand; but, when it unfolds even larger than you can imagine, it holds a special place in your heart. I was fortunate enough to work with many organizations across Louisiana but, most importantly, with St. Jude donating over $12K in my late best friend’s name to cancer research.
Additionally, I was able to bring awareness to my own program, Healthy Choices = Healthy Lifestyle. The philanthropic work and appearances prepared me for what I can do on a larger scale as an actor and blogger. We can use our voice for so many things and I cannot wait to inspire many more on an even larger scale.
Q: Actor Dean West is your husband. How important has your relationship been in your development as an actress? Do you both motivate each other to keep improving?
A: This is a very common question for us and it’s funny because, before meeting each other, we both swore that we would never date an actor; and, alas, we both married one!
But, honestly, I think we have both been the best blessing for each other not only in terms of career, but also in terms of life. We are so much alike but still so different. We are alike in our beliefs, drive, goals, etc., which is fantastic for our journey in this industry; but, we are completely different at tasks so we balance each other out (laughs).
For instance, he has creativity like I have never seen but I’m a planner who likes Math and English; so, our balance is why we work together so well. It may not work for everyone; but for us, our work ethic, and our careers, I couldn’t imagine it any other way. We are constantly pushing each other to be better and rooting for #TeamWest.
Furthermore, many people know that Dean is also my acting coach. For the longest, I wouldn’t take his class because I wanted to keep everything separate; but, when I finally caved, I was so mad at myself for not taking it earlier. He pushed me harder than I could ever push myself, in a good way, and has helped me grow exponentially.
I, honestly, would never have accomplished what I did so far if I didn’t have him as a coach, best friend, and husband; and I know I will succeed so much further in life with his support!
Q: You’ve worked behind the camera as a writer and producer. Did you enjoy these experiences and are you interested in doing more work like this?
A: Starting in this business, I never thought I would end up producing; but here I am, a producer (laughs). These were some interesting experiences because it’s one of those that I kind of learned as it happened. It’s a love/hate relationship with these positions because they can be super stressful while in production but they are very rewarding later down the line, and it’s super rewarding to see the hard work pay off.
I will admit that my favourite position is still the actor because of the story telling, experience, growth, and learning!
Q: You were recently part of a TV series titled Cypress Bayou. Can you tell us about the project and the character you play?
A: This is one of the projects that I am most excited about for the future. Our cast has literally become a family very quickly so I am so excited to be surrounded by these amazing souls daily and see how all of our chemistry pans out on the screen. I can’t say much but, for now, I can say that we are in negotiations with some networks so fingers crossed. I am playing Gypsy Lasalle, a city girl that gets called back to a small bayou town and awakens some sinister dark magic.
Q: Away from film and television, you have a fantastic website (themichellewest.com) which features lifestyle, fitness and fashion advice. Firstly, where do you get all of your energy from? And secondly, what motivates you to help others?
A: To be honest, I have no idea where the energy comes from (laughs). Dean tells me I have more drive than anyone he knows!
Honestly, my favourite quality about myself is my discipline to get things done. I’m not the best morning person; but, once I’m up and going, there’s no stopping me! Knowing my mini goals and the main goal they lead up to just doesn’t give me another choice.
However, I am a fan of working smarter, not harder, which was a huge reason that I started the website. It will be one of those stepping stones to helping people on a larger scale that I was chatting about earlier! Oh, and I LOVE to read motivational books!
Q: Leading off that, can you give us any quick pointers or words of wisdom?
A: Well, being that I am a motivational coach, I have LOTS of words of wisdom; but to keep it as short as possible, my life motto is and has always been – BElieve in YOUrself and know your “why”!
You were given your features, characteristics, and talents for a reason, which is because no one else has them to the extent that you do. Sure, other people can dance or sing; but no one else can do it like YOU with the passion that you have being it! You are unique, there is only one you; so be you, everyone else is taken. When you own you, you are confident, and confidence is beautiful!
Surround yourself with positive uplifting people who remind you of this; and, if they don’t, fire them from your life if need be. I also stay positive by always reminding myself what I’m blessed with. If someone is reading this on a computer or a phone, right now, they have many blessings to count.
Q: Is there anyone – whether it be in acting, fashion or elsewhere – that you look up to and aspire to?
A: Celebs: I look up to so many admirable humans so I’m going to give my current top three.
First and foremost, I’m probably Garth Brooks biggest fan! Not only is he super talented, but he is also just an awesome human being; and I admire his love and respect for his wife, Trisha Yearwood. They remind me a lot of Dean and I.
Secondly, Jennifer Aniston, is one of my favourite actresses. It’s tough to cross over on both comedy and drama and she rocks it. She’s funny, unpredictable, and an amazing actress!
And, lastly, Emmy Rossum! She is so strong in all that she stands for and I have mad respect for that. She is such a naturally talented actress and always show appreciation to her fans for where she is today.
Oh, and bonus one, Robin Williams. Taken from us entirely too soon, an amazing human, and one of the funniest people to ever live. If you can’t tell, my trend is “amazing humans”. I don’t care what walk of life someone is from, as long as they treat others as equals and don’t be an asshole – pretty much my philosophy on life.
Fashion – Wowza, too many to count again! Of course, Coco Chanel, as she is so inspiring to have the success that she did with obstacles of her childhood. Guillana Rancic – she is always dressed to perfection from head to toe. I hope to one day work with either her and/or her stylist as I grow in the industry. And last but not least, Emmy Rossum, she is goals as an actor and a fashionista!
Parents – I already chatted about this a little in the first question; but my parents are huge influences in my life. They have been so supportive and have always been there if we needed them. If my dad didn’t have his job that he loves, he would probably be Dean and I’s publicist because he will find connections and sell us better than we sell ourselves lol! It’s not easy to let your only daughter move across the country to work for her goals; and, although there were lots of tears, they supported me every step of the way. I honestly could never repay them for all that they do and have done!
Husband – As an actor and wife, I definitely look up to my better half. I legit hope to be half the actor that Dean is. He is so natural on the screen and he makes it look so easy. I admire his drive and determination and appreciate all that he does to push me and help me grow. Again, I would not be where I am today without him on my team.
Q:What are your ambitions for the future? Is there anyone you’d love to work in the future or any dream projects you’d love to be a part of?
A: For the future, my biggest excitement in the near future is Cypress Bayou because it will be a television series. I LOVE films but, honestly, I hate becoming a family then you have to say bye a few weeks later. I am super excited for our Cypress Bayou family to stay connected and grow together!
For films, I always want to keep growing so I just want to take on challenges. I also love films that are based on true stories, where you get to embody an actual person, especially if that person is still alive and you get to meet them. Wowza, that’s an honour to represent another human!
As far as stuff that is already in production, my two favourite television shows that I would love to be a part of are Shameless and Nashville. I know that they’re on two opposite ends of the spectrum, but that’s me (laughs). Oh, and I have to do a Christmas movie eventually. I know that sounds cheesy but that’s my favourite time of the year and I just have to be in one!
As far as people I would love to work with, man, that’s another loaded question. Definitely Jennifer Aniston and Emma Rose Kenney for reasons from the previous question. Also, Emmy Rossum, Sandra Bullock, or Natalie Portman. And I have to put it out there… but duh, Meryl Streep!
I came very close to working with Morgan Freeman, as the role came down to me and another girl and she got cast; so, I definitely would love for that opportunity to come back around to work with him.
Q: Lastly, do you have any upcoming project you can tell us about?
A: It’s Time is one that I completed last year; but, hopefully it should be coming out this year! It is based on the true story of Chucky Mullins; and, all I can say is get the tissues ready because it is a tear jerker!
Just before the new year, I wrapped on a film called, Gothic Harvest, which was a really fun thriller. I don’t have much info on release; but, you can stay tuned to my Instagram (@themichellewest) for updates!
WINO (Wet In New Orleans) – WINO was a 22 minute comedy that Dean and I did with two of our friends, Aaron Jay Rome and Isaiah Laborde, who we consider brothers. Honestly, we were not happy with the results; but, now that we are all in a different place in our careers, we recently decided it was time to reproach the concept. So, you can follow @wetinneworleans on Instagram for updates. I play the role of Mindy and she is such a hoot. I can’t wait for you guys to meet her!
End Trip (formerly known as Uryde) – End Trip is currently in distribution and you can follow @endtripmovie on Instagram for updates. I play the role of Megan; and, I was also producer and assistant director on this film. Definitely a fun learning experience!
Here is the synopsis: On a calm night in an average city a hardworking URYDE driver, Brandon, picks up just another fare, Judd. Using interactions that blur the lines between the technological world and the physical one, Judd explains a messy breakup. Brandon offers an empathetic ear and a sympathetic heart to his new friend to help him pick up the pieces. Aggregated profiles, algorithms, links, likes and comments bring people closer. But how close is too close?