HOTTIE HEELS – This New Jersey-born Dancer, Actress, Fitness Guru, and Entrepreneur Michelle Maniscalco has been trailblazing the screen, the lounges and the dance studios.
BY: CECILE ANTHONY-BRYAN
“I did not choose this path, it chose me.”
She’s so “Jersey” best describes Michelle “Jersey” Maniscalco. Michelle was born and raised in Runnemede, New Jersey and started her professional career as an NFL Cheerleader for the Philadelphia Eagles. In 2003, she landed a top spot on MTV’s first reality dance competition show “The Wade Robson Project”, as the only female left standing. When the show ended, she wasted no time packing her belongings from her NJ home and trailblazing her way to the West Coast.
Michelle was one of the first cast members to open the Las Vegas Pussycat Dolls Lounge in Caesar’s Palace at Pure Nightclub. Thereafter, she returned to the audition circuit and became one of the stars from MTV’s hit series “Dance Life”, produced by Jennifer Lopez. The show traced several months of her career when she performed alongside artists like Ashlee Simpson, danced in a Sketchers Industrial, and booked a national Nike commercial. When “Dance Life” ended, Michelle joined Rihanna on a world tour and danced with a plethora of huge artists such as Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, Shakira, and Pitbull. She also joined Robin Antin’s Pussycat Dolls Burlesque Revue, where she was a staple in the line-up for years.
In addition to dancing and touring, Michelle has been featured in Film/TV roles such as Hit The Floor on VH1, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Footloose, Honey 2, Burlesque, Alvin & The Chipmunks, Bring It On (All or Nothing), Glee, Melrose Place, Heroes & CSI Miami.
Another one of Michelle’s passions in life is fitness. She is honored to be a member of the UFC Fit Team. In connection with UFC Fit, she has also been featured in Glamour Magazine (“5 Hot Summer Body Moves From UFC Fit”). Michelle is also the creator of “Hottie Heels”, a high energy, action packed dance and fitness class in high heels.
Sure, Michelle’s love for dance and fitness is evident, but what most don’t see is her passion for her children. This single mother of two twin boys, Michelle is an energetic, loving mom. Although she works non-stop when it comes to business, she always makes time for her boys, her two princes.
I, myself, am a fan of dance and fitness and it is my honor to feature her in Hustle Mama Magazine, here amongst our other Hustle Mamas.
“Dancing with the feet is one thing, but dancing with the heart is another!”
HMM: What was life-like growing up for you? What kind of family did you grow up in?
MM: I grew up in a very close-knit Italian family in Runnemede, NJ. I shared many fun childhood memories with my twin brothers who are only a year older; we always used to have a blast while acting, singing, swimming, and even playing “church” and “school.” I even taught my brothers how to do back handsprings by laying all of our couch pillows on the floor and spotting them. Always around boys growing up, I followed my brothers into the field outback to play baseball and kickball in the afternoon and then jailbreak into the night hours. My mom, my best friend, instilled important values of integrity and perseverance in me and always made the holidays special. And of course, I looked up to my dad like he was a superhero, who worked around the clock to provide the best for our family and make sure we always had everything we needed.
HMM: Did you know this was going to be your calling and is it something you wanted to do for the rest of your life?
MM: Ever since I was little I knew that acting, dancing and performing were my callings in life. I would lay in bed at night and dream of being on TV and performing for huge crowds. I always knew in my heart that there was greatness inside of me and that God has called upon me to share my passions for dancing and entertaining with others. As a child, I would run into my mother’s room and ask her if she could send me away to the Olympics or to a school to become an ice skater. I would also tell her that I was destined to live in LA to carve out a career. As soon as I found the opportunity – an audition at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, CA – I took a leap of faith and flew to LA to ultimately join “The Wade Robson Project”, a reality dance competition. Entertainment is my life: I did not choose this path, it chose me.
“100% God. It is so important to stand strong in your values, faith and morals and to keep your integrity!”
HMM: What made you decide to be what you have chosen as a profession today? Who were some of your earliest influences?
MM: During the “Wade Robinson Project” finale, I had an epiphany as I watched JC Chasez and his professional dancers perform on the show. His backup girls were dancing in heels and that’s when I knew I wanted to pursue a career as a dancer. As soon as the “Wade Robinson Project” wrapped up, I knew I was meant to stay in LA, so I went home to NJ to pack, drove cross-country with all of my clothes and keepsakes, and found a place to live with two of the other girls from the show. Almost immediately, I was signed to one of the biggest dance agencies in LA. I got a job at Lucky Strike bowling alley and shortly booked my first major job, performing in “The Pussycat Dolls” lounge in Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas for the creator of The Pussycat Dolls, Robin Antin. Some of my earliest influencers in dance were Carol Ann Cammarata, my dance teacher growing up. She took me under her wing and she believed in me. She took me to my first convention and she opened up bigger doors for me and widened my horizons in the dance world. She would always make sure to let me know that I was special and to this day, she still supports me and I love her. She would always let my mother know that I had great potential.
My mother took me to Ballet South in Glassboro, NJ to audition for the Nutcracker. That’s where I met Tara Caponigro. She had a huge impact on me in my early childhood years. She was a gorgeous ballerina and she was also my ballet teacher. I always wanted to grow up and dance like her.
HMM: How do you maintain your integrity in an otherwise very competitive and scrupulous industry?
MM: 100% God. I would not have been able to sustain longevity and my integrity without my strong faith in the Lord. LA can be such a harsh place with all the competition and it is so important to stand strong to your values, faith and morals.
HMM: What advice would you offer others with a “DREAM”?
MM: It is never too late to do what you love! Stay focused, determined and committed and keep your eyes on the prize. Train hard and get a tough skin. Learn to let the No’s roll off and always keep your integrity. Treat people good and remember why you started.
“Let your FAITH be bigger than your FEAR!”
HMM: What makes you a POWERHOUSE? What is the source of your strength?
MM: My strength and will to become better every day makes me a Powerhouse. My main source of strength is being a single mother of twins and balancing my career at the same time.
HMM: What can we look for from you for 2017 and the near future?
MM: In the near future, I will be expanding my brand “Hottie Heels”, I will also be focusing more on my acting career.