Melissa Akiko Slaughter is a Blogger, YouTube Correspondent and Podcast Host/Producer, based in Brooklyn, NY. She has a theatre degree from the former Santa Fe University of Art and Design in New Mexico, working with Tony-award winning director Jon Jory, but has since transitioned her career to focus on the digital arts. Melissa is passionate about Asian American representation in TV and film and, as a result, provides regular commentary and insights on the topic for her movie review podcast, We’re Not All Ninjas. The popular online show was a Top 5 Finalist at the 2018 WNYC Werk It! Festival, an event focused on empowering women and others in the digital media landscape. Along with hosting, Melissa loves to blog for Nerdophiles, The Nerds of Colorand Hapa Magin addition to working as a producer for Pineapple Street Studios, a podcast studio who’s work includes multi-episode narratives, branded podcasts, talk shows, investigative journalism and more. Read on to learn more about Melissa and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Name: Melissa Akiko Slaughter
Heritage: Japanese and White
Hometown: Ponca City, OK
Current City: Brooklyn, NY
The next season of Netflix’s Behind the Scenes podcast.
What are some of your favorite credits/projects:
HBO’s I’ll Be Gone In the Dark, Behind the Scenes: The Umbrella Academy
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
Try everything! Write, do comedy, do drama, try it all!
How did you get your start?
I started as an actor, got a degree in musical theatre, and pursued theatre for almost 10 years. I quit acting (it was no longer making me happy), so I suddenly had a bunch of time on my hands. I decided to start a podcast to fill that time, and focused it on TV and film from an Asian American perspective, a topic I'm passionate about.
Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you'd like to share?
Getting my job at Pineapple Street Studios, and flying to London to do interviews for the Behind The Scenes: The Witcher podcast.
What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?
Actually believing I was good at my job! I started as a 30-year old intern, and every day I came home saying “I think I’m actually good at this.” It took almost a year for my imposter syndrome to go away and to realize that not only was I good at my job, I also had unique perspectives to offer thanks to my background in theatre. Gaining that confidence made a huge difference and allowed me to make bolder choices in my work and to take on more responsibility.
What are some interesting facts about yourself?
I’ve lived in every time zone in the Continental US. (Seattle, Santa Fe, Oklahoma, New York = Pacific, Mountain, Central, and Eastern Time)
Do you have any organizations or non-profits you work with you’d like to highlight?
Living in NYC, Chinatown has been a meeting place for me and my friends. We go to eat, to have parties, to see film festivals and support community nonprofits and organizations. But with the pandemic, a lot of Chinatown is hurting, so I’ve been actively supporting Welcome to Chinatown and their Longevity Fund to keep doors in Chinatown open.
Do you have any mentors?
Yes! I was very lucky to fall in with the Asian American performing arts community in Seattle, WA. I have a few mentors from that group who I still reach out to when I need guidance. All of them have day jobs and still make time to write and perform, as well as use their skills and their time to work towards social justice issues. Seeing them put their activism into their art and still be able to make a living has been a guiding light for me. And I hope to pass it forward by mentoring young people coming up.
If you’ve crossed the table from performing to being on a creative team, what made you take the leap from performing to writing or directing/music directing, and how did it change your way of thinking?
When I moved to NY, I did a year of auditioning. And I hated the desperation that came with it. I’d sit in rooms with people who were just like me, and you could feel their desperation coming out of their pores. I realized that I didn’t want that to be my life. I wanted more agency, more stability, and I wanted to make sure I did work I was proud of. I experimented with a lot of different mediums for a while, but when I landed on podcasts, what I loved most was that I could use both sides of my brain. I could be both organized and administrative, while being extremely creative. And all the experiences and knowledge I gained while acting was still useful in terms of how I pursued stories.
If you could name one point in time when everything changed for you, what was it?
Getting fired. After I quit acting, I worked in HR for a FinTech company for over a year and when they “decided not to renew my contract” they said, “it feels like you’d be happier doing something else.” And they were completely right. I spent most of my time there listening to podcasts, and working on my journalistic side hustles, including Hapa Mag and my own podcast (both with fellow Amazing Asian Alex Chester). So once I got fired, I decided to hire a career counselor, who helped me figure out the best way to pursue journalism, which landed me at my internship, which is now my job!
To find out more about Melissa’s work, please visit her at:
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