On The Rise: Get To Know Actress Marina Mazepa
Society has a tendency of placing us into a specific box or making us think that we need to conform
Society has a tendency of placing us into a specific box or making us think that we need to conform to one. However, we aren’t always exactly what we’re labeled to be. Within the box we are placed in are intrinsic talents and acquired knowledge that make up who the world sees us as. And sometimes within those boxes are old boxes that we once lived through; old labels that have become the building blocks for new ones. Someone who comes with many talents, a wealth of knowledge and a multitude of career paths, which have led her to her dream, is the up-and-coming actress, Marina Mazepa.
Born in a small town in the Ukraine called Konotop, Mazepa explains the predisposition that, “if you have a girl, she has to dance, if you have a boy, soccer player.” She continues to share with CELEB “I was very sporty as a child, I was a tomboy. I would race with the boys and climb the trees when I was like, three years old. So then eventually my mom put me into dance. I actually took her and was like ‘mom I want to dance.’ … I was four years old and that’s how I started dancing. And I fell in love with dancing.” Dancing then became blended with contortion, which now blends into acting. The 24-year-old talent is motivated to use the skills she has acquired over her lifetime in order to live out the career of her dreams. Here she unravels the elements that make up who she is as a person and, as an actress in Los Angeles.
“Growing up, that was all I had. When I was dancing I felt on top of my game. I loved competition and I loved that it was my passion. That was something that distinguished me as a person,” Mazepa says. She shared that it was more than just the act of dancing that fulfilled her. It was everything that came with it—the feeling of success, being the best and being recognized as the best. It taught her discipline and shaped her attitude. And being able to indulge in traveling at such a young age out of a small town was a life high within itself that motivated her to keep working harder. However, at the age of 15 she was given the ultimatum to continue her career as a dancer or continue her education to later become a lawyer. And you can make a promising guess of how that story ended.
Although she was just as strong in academics as she was in dance, Mazepa followed her gut rather than folding to her family’s career expectations. She shares “My family is so academic and I think they have a very USSR mentality. They saw me only either as a lawyer, a doctor or a teacher. Those are professions, that’s the occupation. That will give me status.” And when she explained her desire to be a dancer to her family, she shares a funny story that their initial response was to think that she was going to become a stripper, because that was the only thing that they could relate the action of dancing to. “My family was against my career as a dancer.” Well, except for her mom.
Mazepa was raised by her mother alone and didn’t grow up with much money. And always wanting the best for her daughter, her mom supported her dreams amid their family’s opinions. At the age of 15 she left her small town and competed to enter The Circus Dance Academy. She says “My mom told me ‘Well, if you pass your exams and you get a scholarship, you can pursue a career as a dancer. If not, we don’t have money for you to pay, I don’t have money for you to pay for your education. You’ll be back to Konotop and continue your education as a lawyer.’” After passing her exams with the highest score and receiving a scholarship, Mazepa moved forward with attending the dance academy where she would face battles tougher than receiving affirmations from her family members.
“I thought it would be easy. And I thought dancing in the dance academy, I expected, I guess, the same feeling and the same thing that I had in my small town, right. But, I wasn’t the best.” Welcomed into the world of true competition, Marina experienced new challenges and harsh bullying but that only gave her more to work towards. “So, I had to go through that somehow,” she says. “I developed my own style. I started training my body and I met my first contortion teacher on the side of the dance academy. And, I started mixing styles and then I had to become, kind of like, get along with everyone. And I became best friends with that bully.” She reveals that going through those struggles made her who she is today—the struggles holding a deeper meaning to her career.
Taking The Competition To The Next Level
“During my education in the dance academy I started developing my own style which is a mix between contortion and dance and I guess, this ability of transforming into like, creatures. And I thought it was weird in the beginning, but then I kind of, I had to embrace it,” Mazepa elaborates. The next big step in her career was to go on a televised competitive show because that was the only way for dancers to gain popularity in the Ukraine and, if they wanted dance to be a way of income. She expresses, “What helped me, like the defining moment was, my teacher, my drama teacher. He’s my mentor, he’s still my mentor and my grandpa, my brother, my friend, everything in one. He encouraged me. He’s like ‘Mazepa you have to go and compete for So You Think You Can Dance.’”
Marina went on to compete on So You Think You Can Dance in Ukraine where she made it to the top 3. She also competed on France’s Got Talent, So You Think You Can Dance in the United States and most recently in 2019, America’s Got Talent where she made it to the semifinals. She was well known for her ability to constantly surprise the audience and judges with a new addition to her routine including dance, contortion, pole work and nunchucks. She proved that she was more than just one label and is capable of persistently developing new talents and knowledge.
“I’m An Actress Now”
Having grown up only learning a dialect of Russian and Ukrainian, Mazepa made a tremendous effort to learn both languages fluently. Along with that, she has been learning English during her time in Los Angeles over the last three years. She has an English tutor and an accent reduction coach to improve her speech as she continues to reside here.
“Dancing and the whole dance career, it was only like, a way into something bigger. I always knew that. That’s why I started doing contortion. Because I didn’t see myself dancing in a ballet troupe or traveling around the world, or dancing in a group.” She has showcased her talents in multiple solo acts around the world and she has also choreographed a number of acts for others such as Cirque du Soleil. And then the rest began.
“I’m an actress now and I utilize my skills in acting,” says Mazepa. The actress was discovered by James Wan for his 2021 film Malignant. “I guess I always wanted to kind of do something like this. It just wasn’t, it was impossible to become an actress in Ukraine.” She continues, “I always wanted to be in movies.” Mazepa gushed over the day that she received the call from her agency about Wan requesting a meeting with her about a role for one of his new movies. “I was so happy. And our first meeting, everything for me was so fascinating.” She describes her first day on set to CELEB saying, “I loved everything. I loved everyone, I was observing, watching, learning. Because, I knew that I wanted to become an actress.”
Mazepa explains, “In the beginning they hired me for maybe one or two scenes as a contortionist for this character. And along the process I became a character. I basically took over and they hired me more and more and then gave a contract for the whole movie.” She expresses her gratitude for the people who she got to work with and the education she was able to receive during the creation of the film. Quickly after filming Malignant she booked a role with the movie The Unholy, Resident Evil and has also landed a role in a TV mini-series.
“Acting is something I am focused on and it’s my primary focus. I want to pursue this as a career. I work a lot on my English, my accent and acting. And I booked a manager. It’s hard because it’s hard work. But I filmed already three movies and I have experience being on set and I love it and I feel like it’s what I really want to do,” she says.
Mazepa began her journey as a dancer and has shaken the world with her talents. She shatters stereotypes with her intense drive to always accomplish more, leading her to a career of being an actress. She is in tune with herself and transparent about knowing that her previous experiences and jobs are pieces of who she has become. And now she is ready to use all of those pieces that embody her, to tackle this next adventure in the industry.