We had the good fortune of connecting with Ayla Kell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ayla, other than deciding to work for yourself, what was the single most important decision you made that contributed to your success?
Walking away from a career. I danced professionally for years and was contemplating company contracts with a burdensome heart. I was 18 and already felt the pains of the stress on my body. The toll it took on my physically made me fall out of love with it mentally. I had worked my entire life for what I had in front of me… and I hated it. I had fought, bled, killed myself for ballet- all with a tiara and lipstick on. Dance was all I had ever known, it was the plan. I finally admitted to myself this wasn’t what I wanted my future to be. I walked away. I ran away. I would say I danced away, but that might be dramatizing. I for the first time in my entire life had no plan. Nowhere to be for the first day ever. I was able to sit and ponder for myself what was it that I did love about dance for so long. It was storytelling. I love telling stories and taking an audience with me. The rush of being on stage was never about the technicality of dance for me, it was about transporting an audience into emotions and through a fantasy. If I could tell stories through movement, imagine if I had words! I called my agent and told her I wanted to give acting my full attention. I booked a dream job so quickly, I couldn’t believe it. The universe confirmed my path choice in that moment. I had worked tirelessly for years and walking away from it gave me the space and freedom to actually create. Instead of going through the motions, I lived in the moment. I couldn’t hide any longer with a tiara and lipstick, I let ugly and real sides of myself show through. There was a different beauty in that. It was the single most important decision I ever made.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My favorite part of this question is “Was it easy?” No it wasn’t easy! What is easy is knowing I NEED to create. The actual doing part of it is hard, grueling, draining, full of stress and tears. The “easy” part is the compulsive obligation to dive into emotions and stories, to bring words to life and give the work the respect it deserves. I spend everyday looking at the wants and emotions that make acting feel authentic and relatable. I never focus on the tears or laughs, but they always come in the small moments. Just like in life! By all definitions, I am a storyteller. I am obsessed with making sure that the narratives I depict feel real, that my characters give impactful accounts, and that my anecdotes make an audience feel it themself. What sets me apart is my attention to detail. I am in a persistent quest to study life and bring specificity into each word of any of my characters. My observational attitude has given me a depth of archived emotions and moments. One of the greatest lessons I have ever learned is to live so fully in every moment. To store that emotion, good or bad, in my arsenal for later. I never know when I need to pull on the smallest feelings to make the big picture work. You can ask any of my coaching clients, I get really amped about this. Sharing my LOVE for the process behind acting is so exhilarating!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Los Angeles is a tough city to tour around, it’s super expansive. I love to be outside so I would start at Sturtevant Falls, awesome light hike with a waterfall & swimming hole or maybe the Leo Carillo Beach, at the staircase. One of the beaches you can take your dog to! If I’m over in Santa Monica, I always stop at FIG Restaurant for a whisky sour and a snack! The Last Bookstore is also a classic tourist day stop. Over on that side of the world, check out Saint Vincent Plaza, it feels like you are in old Europe in the middle of downtown LA. My Hollywood loop always has Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles (I always get the Carol C Special #13) on the way to visit the Hollywood Sign hike up Franklin, if you’re up for it go visit the Wisdom Tree up there too! For nightlife in Hollywood I usually do concerts at the Wiltern or No Vacancy, theres always good tickets available! Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
When I think about my path through life it is filled with so many people I would give extra recognition. As creators, it’s natural to feel alone at times but in reality there is a support team holding all the pieces together. The first people who deserves credit is my parents. I am adopted and I feel like their generosity has always been the driving fire behind my fierce work ethic. They took me in when they didn’t have to, went incredibly above and beyond to provide opportunity for me, and gave me space to try and fail…and eventually succeed. They never let me feel unloved, undeserving, or unwanted. It’s natural to have a lot of emotions around being adopted, but instead of shunning it they handed me a million different creative tools to let those feelings become art. I can never let myself give up, because they never gave up on me. They still are my biggest fans and cheerleaders. And as painful as this is to write, I want to thank my birth mother for knowing she wasn’t capable of giving me what I needed or deserved. Without that decision, my path in life could have been… very different. I am thankful for the pain she created, because my parents made it the most joy I could ever ask for. They made me the artist and person that I am today. Thank you Mamsh and Daddio.
Kenneth Dolin Photography, DP Corey C Waters