My name is Mellissa Miller, I’m 21. My birthplace was Brooklyn but now I live in Long Island. Five years ago I was in high school, doing nothing (laughs). I was a good student but I hated high school because no one got me. I wanted to do other things, people didn’t gravitate towards me and I just didn’t speak to people. I used to walk around with shades on, sit down in my locker, eat a bagel and not talk to anyone. I had a teacher once… I was talking to another teacher that I’m still close to, we were talking about me taking AP classes in 11th grade and she came up to me and said ‘I didn’t know you were smart’. But I loved dance school… it was my senior year in high school and I didn’t do anything but dance, I went to school and danced for like four hours. And learned stage lighting and stage management and how to record… we got to record our own music for our pieces. So I felt I knew all of it and didn’t want to go to school for four years for something I just learned so I convinced myself at some point in time that I didn’t need to go to college for dance.

Right now, I’m in school for professional communications so I’m trying to finish this degree! One more year left. I own a spa on Long Island and we’re opening one in the city. And I’m trying to model. I never wanted to model because I don’t like make up. I think that was a game changer for me (laughs). I know so many people who are in the modeling business and they tell them when to eat and when to cut their hair. I’ve been there with dance. With dance I had a teacher who owned the studio I used to go to, he had a special interest in me since I was seven. And he was just molding me into this perfect ballerina. I remember cutting my hair and it was blonde and I went to class and he wanted to kick me out,

so I know what it’s like from a really young age to just be molded by every body else but yourself. And I can’t do that anymore.

With modeling I just started working with my friends… just shoots at F.I.T. just something for his portfolio. And some people saw and wanted to work with me and then I just started working with other people. I’ve only been modeling for less than a year but I do see me taking it somewhere.

FF – How did the spa happen? What’s that about?

MM – OK so my girlfriend’s mom had a spa for years. It started out mobile so we hired people and went place to place doing bridal parties, facials and massages and all that stuff. They have two houses so one of the houses we rented out to get money to pay for the spa. And we found this amazing spa in Garden City, which in Long Island is a pretty good town. So we opened the spa six months ago! We’re booked every weekend until June. So we’re doing pretty good.

FF – Would you consider yourself a freshman, sophomore or senior in your fields?

MM – I am definitely a freshman to business, because I’m learning. I’m not learning how to work for a business.

I’m learning to be a boss.

I’m the one that gets the heat when shit goes down. I’ve had employees about to fight and sometimes you want to take sides but you can’t. I’m definitely learning a lot about being a boss and being a black woman as a boss. It’s not easy. I’ve had someone call the spa the other day and ask if I was black!!! I told her very nicely “you can return your Groupon whenever you’re ready”. Any body of any other race who owns a business doesn’t sit there and say ‘Asian Business Owners!’ We don’t want to be the company that’s like ‘Black People Own This!’ It’s not about that, though we do put business first and are proud to be black women. But just to have someone call and ask… for what? Why exactly do you need to know!?

I didn’t know the world was like this. I really didn’t know that I was black. I had teachers that had to tell me I had to be better and be better but you don’t know it until you actually really do have to be better.

It is definitely not fair but it is what it is, you take it and you move on and continue to live your life because at the end of the day I’m going to be black forever and I’m going to be a woman forever.

We dwell on our 40 acres and mule. it’s not coming… you have to get it.

Also our issue as black people is we aren’t trying to help each other. And that’s big in the black art world too, like No! I’m going to get to the top and I made it so you make it, I had to go through the struggle so you go through the struggle. Instead of saying I went through the struggle so you don’t have to go through the struggle, let me help you out. And there’s not enough hands out there that are trying to help people. And if their hands are out they’re expecting you to put something in it first.

I don’t want to hold on to anything here. When I do… because it’s promised… when I do leave here I want to leave it where it is.

you can follow Mellissa on her instagram.

as told to: Olivia Seally // video: Olivia Seally