Dreaming of warmer days, Swift Ones looks back on when we caught up with Degrassi alum, Melinda Shankar this past summer.
What inspired you to become an actor?
My grandmother was one of the first theatre actress’ in Guyana, my great grandfather founded the production company. My mother would tell me stories about them travelling throughout South America performing and it sounded like my ideal lifestyle. I wanted to carry on the tradition.
What projects are you currently working on?
After completing a six year stint working full time, I took a little break to travel and to regroup my energy. Most recently- a film called Filth City, premiering in the Spring. It was my first dark comedy, about the Rob Ford crack scandal. The character (Monica) was tough, caught up in gangs, had a gun.. she was definitely fun to play.
You are the founder of Miss Conception Society. What is Miss Conception Society and why is it important to you?
Miss Conception Society is a lifestyle program. The focus is to empower our generation into understanding the importance of self development as they transition into young adults. From Ottawa Film Festival workshops to coaching delegates of Miss Teen Canada and Miss Universe Canada pageants, the Miss Conception Society’s objective is to help distinguish your personal brand and to guide you through building confidence while defying your misconceptions.
Miss Conception is important to me because as an actress, I’ve had to think of myself as brand before ever getting to discover myself as a person. I grew up in the public eye, and for me the key to staying sane was setting my own standards and creating my own goals. There is something really powerful about knowing every part of yourself, and trusting your own judgement. Show business makes you grow up at a fast rate, I created Miss Conception to contribute my insight and hopefully inspire my audience to focus inward and to create their own destiny!
What song best describes you?
Money Power Glory by Lana Del Rey.
What inspires you?
I grew up obsessing over every and anything Sophia Lauren. I rewatch old classic Hollywood films starring her or Marilyn Monroe before my auditions. Their elegance and charm embodies a tone in career that I admire.
What would be your dream role?
A badass action role! I’ve been a martial artist since I was three, I come from a family of blackbelts. My older sisters and father are third degree blackbelts and were training before I was born. After my brother and I got involved in the family craft, we opened a karate school in Ottawa before my acting career started. Having grown up in a dojo, I feel like I was bread to play a role similar to Angelina in Salt, or Scar Jo in Lucy. (Action roles all over my vision board)
What have been some of your biggest achievements in your career thus far?
My first job ever was in LA, I was 14 and had always pictured a life as an actress in California. It was very surreal and inspirational. My Canadian Screen Award win for How to be Indie, was definitely a highlight in my professional life. I was nominated for a Gemini award the year prior for the same role. It’s the first show ever created with a South Asian lead, so I was honoured to pave the way. I won Best Actress award at the Spain international Film Fest for “Festival of lights”, a film I shot in New York and in Guyana. Getting to travel back to the country my parents grew up in for work, was definitely an unforgettable and humbling experience. Finishing my last press tour for Degrassi in Paris was a dream come true. After eight incredible seasons and a finale storyline taking place in Paris, it was the perfect closure to end that chapter of my life.
What have you learned in your career thus far?
To follow your intuition, and to never stop learning. The entertainment industry doesn’t have one set path to success, or even any logic to how you get there. It’s a very competitive and unpredictable environment. You need very tough skin to handle this business. It’s most important to understand that everyone is on their own journey. Jealousy gets you no where, working hard and listening to your gut instinct worked for me. I still take private acting coaching twice a week and for each audition I get. I’ve worked full time for as long as I can remember, and I can honestly say that i’m always learning who I am through the craft. How did it all happen? I have no idea, it all just sort of fell into place.
What parts of pop culture fascinate you?
The complexity and importance of Pop culture is what intrigues me. It can have a misconception of being easy and sterotypically main stream, but what fascinates me is the influence it can have on a generation. Positive or negative, pop culture grooms their following in whichever way they choose to express themselves. Whether that be generic, or niche, there is always something for everyone. It’s up to the artist to share their values through their work. It’s interesting to see which route pop stars take.
Do you have any TV shows that you are currently binge watching?
I just spent a while in London, and i’ve grown to obsess over British series like Downtown Abbey and Mr. Selfridges. I also just finished Jessica Jones, Billions, and i’m currently on Homeland.
What item can you not live without?
I cannot live without my journal. I have a love/hate relationship with technology and I’m old school/biased when it comes to writing on paper. I have about six journals on the go, each for a different purpose. Writing is therapeutic for me. I’ve been journalling since I could write.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
My guilty pleasure is anything dill pickle related. I had a pickle themed bday party in gr 4, I renamed my bedroom Pickleslovakia in sixth grade (I was president!). My best snack invention is vanilla ice cream with dill pickles pickles. Pickle back shots are my American obsession. I keep trying to make it a “thing” in Canada, it was my official bday drink last week!
Who is your favourite Spice Girl?
Posh Spice. Albeit being in a girl group, her attitude energy always stood out to me.
What is the most valuable advice your family has taught you?
That happiness equals success. To do whatever your heart and soul desires. I have an incredibly connected family of six. They keep me grounded, real, and focused. Our strict martial arts upbringing instilled us with some core values, which I love and can now appreciate. My Shankars show me unconditional love and support no matter what life throws my way. At the end of the day, what’s the point of success if you don’t have anyone to share it with?
Check out Mindy’s work out playlist on our Spotify!
Photos: Katie Sadie
Creative Director: Trishelle Esposito
Photo Assistant: Kimberley Harkness
Make-Up Artist: Amy Harper
Stylist: Chantalle Lovery
Location: Toronto,The Bluffs