Michaela Ternasky-Holland is a compassionate storyteller, creative strategist, collaborative consultant and engaging public speaker based in New York City. After graduating from UC Irvine, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the film and journalism industry. It was here she realized a more immersive and interactive journalism career is what she desired, and her true exploration of virtual reality began. She was hired by TIME as a LIFE VR intern, which moved her to New York, and ever since she has been pursuing a dance/performance career and working as a creator and producer in emerging technology. One of her favorite works, FACE TO FACE, tells a riveting story through set design, 360° video technology, 3D printing, and escape room methodology during an hour long, three act experience. The project was funded by the Arts Council of England to premiere at Sheffield International Documentary Festival in 2018. Read on to learn more about Michaela and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Heritage: Filipinx American, Portugese, Indigenous, French Canadian
Hometown: Central Coast, California
Current City: New York City
Current project: Mixed Asian Media Festival
What are some of your favorite credits/projects?
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
Explore everything and anything, even if you have your one or two passionate mediums. Always be open to new experiences and opportunities to learn something unfamiliar to you.
How did you get your start?
I started to dance after gymnastics when I was in junior high. My parents would not let me pursue dance, so I applied to colleges for Business and Journalism degrees. I decided upon UC Irvine, which was still close to Los Angeles. I took college courses while auditioning and performing.
Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you'd like to share?
I booked a Disney Cruise Line contract at the beginning of my second year. I left UC Irvine for nine months and returned to complete my degree. While I continued my studies, I also auditioned and booked theme parks in Southern California--Disneyland, Legoland, and SeaWorld as a dancer/performer.
What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?
I think people have a hard time understanding me. They often can’t hold my dance/performance career alongside my producer, director, and consultant career. People often underestimate the lot of rooms I find myself in. They assume I am young and inexperienced, when in actuality, I am highly accomplished and experienced in my fields. Once I owned this fact, it became a lot harder for people to gaslight me, devalue me, and exploit me and my work.
What are some interesting facts about yourself?
I won an Emmy before I was 25 years old. I am the oldest of six kids. I coach running for Equinox and ran the Boston Marathon. I was the first female breakdancer hired by NYC’s The Ride.
Do you have any organizations or non-profits you work with you’d like to highlight?
Who do you admire?
In dance, Karla Garcia. In XR, Randall Okita.
Do you have any mentors?
Not sure if they are “mentors” but they are people that have given me such incredible opportunities and believed in me. In dance, I am so grateful for Marc Nuñez. In XR, I am grateful for Mia Tramz and Lauren Ruffin. In running, Arthur Tang.
Did you always want to be in the arts or did you have another path before you got here?
I realized in high school that I wanted to be a part of storytelling, no matter how that manifested, whether in dance, business, journalism, or some other form.
When did you know you wanted to have a career in the arts?
I just decided to pursue my dance career in tandem with my college degree. Dance and performance blends in and out of my life in different ways and seasons. In many ways my work in XR and immersive/interactive mediums is its own career in art as well.
Did you have any interesting “odd jobs” you worked at between gigs to pay the bills?
Is it funny that dance was the “odd job” that I worked between big immersive/interactive projects to pay the bills? I coached running for Equinox in a format known as Precision Run, while also performing as the first female breakdancer for NYC’S The Ride. I also worked in video editing and graphic design as well.
Do you have any other “special skills?”
Outside of dance, I also have trained in aerial arts. I can direct and produce large scale projects.
Do you have any side projects you’d like to highlight?
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?
You are not valued because of what you do or how you perform. You are awesome, valued, and loved because you exist. There is no need to be so competitive and sharp. What is meant for you is already yours.
What skills did you find to be the most helpful in your career?
Follow through, truthfulness, and speaking up when you are not comfortable.
What are some goals you hope to achieve?
I want to travel and immerse myself in other cultures while still being able to work on impactful projects for the BIPOC communities with emerging technology.
What do you love most about what you do?
In XR, I love being able to help people, communities, and understand emerging technologies that can seem intimidating and difficult to approach. In dance, I love the deepening connection between my soul, body, and sensuality.
What helped you most to rebound from what you considered your biggest failure or mistake in your career?
I had to stop running from the pain and the hurt through making myself ridiculously busy and distracted. I had to sit in the disappointment and frustration. I had to recognize that there is no such thing as lost time, only lessons to learn and lessons learned.
Do you have any self-care practices you do to stay focused and sane?
Yes! I keep my apartment clean. I take baths. I do breathwork. I journal every morning and evening. I try to change up the space I am working in as much as possible.
How do you prepare for a role you consider difficult personally, whether it hits too close to home or goes greatly against your personal beliefs?
I don’t. I don’t take the role or join the project if it does not align with my value system.
What inspires you?
Real people, real life, real stories, real experiences, museums, other people’s work.
If you could name one point in time when everything changed for you, what was it?
When I graduated from UC Irvine. I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the film and journalism industry. It was from there, I realized I wanted to pursue journalism that was more immersive and interactive. That is when I started exploring virtual reality. Soon after, I was hired by TIME as a LIFE VR intern, which allowed me to move from Los Angeles to New York City. I have been in NYC since 2016 pursuing both my dance/performance career as well as my work as a creator and producer in emerging technology.
To find out more about Michaela, please visit her at:
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