Please introduce yourself. What do you do? Why? What do you want people to know about you?
My name is Maria Luisa Mejia (I go by Lu) and I am a Colombian, bilingual, professional dancer, journalist, writer, photographer and content creator based in NYC who recently graduated from The New School with a major in Culture and Media and a minor in Journalism.
I am in the process of getting my O1 artist visa, so I am looking to be featured in different media platforms and jump into the creative-world sphere, as well as find creatives with similar passions and mindsets as mine who I can connect with!
I am currently working part time in the non-profits sector as the Digital Communications and Events Assistant at Dancing Classrooms NYC, where I assist with content creation, social media management, engagement, editing and planning. I also do marketing coordination and management for two organizations you might know a thing or two about 😉 The New Opera Producer (in LA and NY) Beth Morrison Projects and the Youth Department of the world-known dance studio Broadway Dance Center.
What qualities make you different and unique from everyone else in the industry?
I’ve created meaningful connections with professional dancers, choreographers and NYC faculty such as Kenichi Kasamatsu, Neil Schwartz, Hayden J Frederick and Ashle Dawson, just to name a few. I am currently part of The Catastrophe!, the contemporary fusion dance company directed by Cat Cogliandro. Because of my experience as a professional dancer, as well as my field of study, I am capable of producing quality media work that not only centers the artists but preserves the essence of the art piece – which is veeery important to me!
It is very different for a non-dancer to capture dance visual content than for an experienced dancer, and I always aim to bring my physical training and experience into my creative work.
Describe THAT moment when you realized you’re doing what you were born to do.
When I moved to New York City from Colombia to complete the International Student Visa Program (now known as ITP) at Broadway Dance Center, I thought I would want to pursue dance as my professional degree, nonetheless, I got my first DSLR camera as a graduation gift from my mom and started doing free photoshoots of my international dance friends who couldn’t afford to pay a NY-based photographer. I loved doing these shots and editing quick dance videos for them, and I started noticing I had a talent for it.
Eventually I started charging $30, then $50, and not much later I decided to become a professional media and content creator that would focus on dancers and the performing arts. I applied for a Media Studies major at The New School and the rest is history:)
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to go through and how did you grow through it?
The biggest challenge has been living as an international artist in New York City, a city that even though feels like home, has many many closed doors for all of us who weren’t born here. There have been times in which no matter how hard I train or how talented and creative I am, I have not been able to work as much as I would’ve liked to, or be part of projects that would’ve been a great fit for me, just because of my immigration status.
On top of that, living in a country that doesn’t speak your mother tongue and having to perfect my fluency in english just to be taken seriously has always been a challenge. I am proud of myself for getting this far despite all the obstacles that have been laid in front of me, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t hope it was easier for me (and my fellow international creatives) to pursue our passions and feel welcomed in the art capitals of the world.
Who are the TOP 3 people you’d want to meet that could elevate your career or business? Why these specific individuals?
I would love to meet Evan Ranft, a photographer based in Atlanta. I learned so much from watching his content just when I was a first year student in school, and I still follow his work all these years later. His work is beautiful and work ethic and focus is inspiring.
Another goal of mine is to work with Andrew Winghart. He is not only an AMAZING choreographer and dancer, but the visual content he creates is out of this world. I admire his vision so much and creativity, and I believe that working in a project with him would elevate my artistry so much, just by witnessing his creative process come together.
Lastly, Daniel Duran, director at 2 Wolves films produces music videos for lots of Latin American artists. I am passionate about all types of arts-media content and the way they approach storytelling in their music videos amazes me. A goal in my career is to be part of the production of a music video, either in front or behind the camera;)