We had the good fortune of connecting with Monica Moskatow and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Monica, what’s your definition for success?
Success to me is being able to support myself in a career that I love and is my passion without sacrificing my morality along the way. It means holding onto relationships with people who support and love me not because of what I can do for them but because they genuinely have my best interests at heart. If material possessions and fame come out of it that’s great, but whats more important is that I love what I do and it makes me happy.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m Monica Moskatow and I am a working professional dancer and actress in Los Angeles. I am a graduate of The American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City. I specialize in the dance style of Bollywood and I am most known for my recent tribute videos to the late Amy Winehouse. Living in LA has brought some of the most rewarding moments of my life and also the most heartbreaking. To be in this business you have to be a bit of a masochist and be able to walk away from a lot of disappointments. Of course I didn’t know this during the cross country road trip I took with my Mom to help me move here from Detroit.
I had been living in a studio apartment by myself in Hollywood and working as a bartender and a server at restaurants in Beverly Hills for a year when my first big job happened. My boyfriend at the time had just broken up with me and one of his parting words to me were, “why haven’t you gotten a dance agent?” As naive as I was at the time I didn’t know there was such a thing. So I had looked up dance agencies on Google and found Bloc who coincidentally was having an open call audition the very next day. I didn’t feel ready but I went anyway. Turns out out of hundreds of dancers, I along with nine others got offered a contract to be represented by them. Two days later I go on my first audition they send me to. I book the job and have to pack up my life to move to Germany for a year to perform as a Bollywood dancer in a Cirque show called INDIA, created by Franco Dragone. All of it happened so fast! I was the only non south asian dancer from Los Angeles in a cast of 65 performers from India. I had to learn a dance style I had never done before in the midst of people who had been doing this their whole lives. Working on that show was such an incredible experience.
I moved back to LA with a new dance style in my pocket that would set me apart from other dancers in this industry. Knowing what your brand is and what makes you different from others is a big part of the business. When taking on a cultural dance such as Bollywood there are certain responsibilities that must be met. I took this to heart. I learned about the culture. I traveled to India. I made sure I understood the words that I was dancing to and the meaning behind the movement. A lot of dancers will take a class and then immediately proceed to put it on their resume as if they’re an expert in the style. I wanted what I did to mean something and to be authentic. I owe a great deal of my training and opportunities to Nakul Dev Mahajan of NDM Bollywood Dance. I worked alongside him as an assistant choreographer for years on So You Think You Can Dance and was showcased as the lead in many of his company performances. I became the Bollywood girl in Hollywood. I performed in videos from Pharrell to Capital Cities and Bebe Rexha. I was on the shows Jane The Virgin, Crazy Ex Girlfriend, Speechless, and performed in the major award shows alongside Pitbull, Neyo, and Train. I got to live a childhood dream and performed at Disneyland and Disney World. I have never been comfortable with being overtly sexy and I don’t find anything wrong with it but it’s not me. So all of the music videos you can find me in, you’ll notice the songs have a positive message and are up lifting. That was a choice not coincidence.
A few years ago a family friend of mine asked me ,”if you could play any role if given the chance, who would you play?” My answer immediately was Amy Winehouse. I’ve been a fan of hers ever since I first heard the song Back to Black in a taxi cab in NYC. This friend of mine then gave me the advice to start training as if I already had the role so if the opportunity to audition ever presented itself I’d be ready. He advised me to learn the accent, watch interviews and study her. So I did and with putting out that energy and creating videos for myself I developed quite the following online from Amy Winehouse fans all over the world. Like Bollywood, portraying another person takes responsibility. My tribute videos are done with respect to the artist and as authentically as I can. I wear a collection of dresses she also wore in her performances throughout her career. I have over fifty dresses within my collection and my tributes are recreations of various performances and interviews throughout her life. I’ve always felt connected to her in a way and her songs have held a lot of meaning for me.
Living and working in the industry is extremely rewarding but also extremely heartbreaking. I had to make a lot of sacrifices and often choose between a job or spending time with my family. I often missed important events and holidays because I was booked on a job. It wasn’t easy living so far away from my family and people in this business can be very cruel. A big thing I learned is that if something doesn’t feel right, it usually isn’t. Friends will betray you or backstab you to get a job over you. Getting the job is only the beginning because keeping it is harder. It is the constant feeling of having to prove that you belong and as I got older the more it felt that way with newer younger dancers coming onto the scene. So often clients will offer ridiculously low pay rates or no pay at all and I had to be comfortable with holding my ground and saying no. I learned that creating my own art, surrounding myself with good people and only accepting jobs that paid me my worth made the work I did accept more rewarding. Fame was never the goal for me. If it happened in response to my work then great but that is often the downfall of many artists who come here seeking only that. I never wanted to succeed in my career by trading in my ideals or morality. I lost many friendships to that very thing. My advice to anyone who comes here is to value the work more than the result. I continue to grow and learn with each year. I’ve met some truly talented and incredible people along my journey who have taught me a lot and that has been the biggest gift of it all.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
For me the best parts of LA are the scenic spots. If a friend was coming to visit I’d take them to Malibu beach by way of Las Virgenes and up the PCH. I’d drive them to the lookout points off Mulholland and on a hike to the Hollywood sign. I’m a huge fan of antique shops and flea markets so the shops on Magnolia in Burbank and the Melrose Trading Post on a Sunday would be a must. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day so I often go to Bea Bea’s in Burbank for an amazing breakfast. My favorite is the green tea monster pancakes with mascarpone. Growing up as a car girl in Detroit I love going to the car shows at Bob’s Big Boy in Studio City on a Friday night. I firmly believe I was born in the wrong era so I often frequent places with an old school vibe. Going to dance at The Echo during Funky Sole night is fun or having drinks inside a house set in the 70’s at Good Times at Davey Wayne’s in Hollywood. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I wouldn’t have been able to get to where I am if it weren’t for the love and support of my parents first and foremost. I owe a great deal of my training and experience to Nakul Dev Mahajan of NDM Bollywood Dance who saw something in me and allowed me to share in his opportunities and showcased me time and time again. Douglas Johnson from Eplus Productions who has offered me so many incredible opportunities and jobs that I ‘ll never forget. Achinta McDaniel of Blue13 Dance Company for making a childhood dream of mine come true to dance at Disneyland and Disney World. Aly WIlliams of Papa Teach Me on Youtube for teaching me how to sound like a true Londoner. Emilio Borelli my acting coach who opened a safe space for me and his students to explore deeper into our characters and to bring the attention off of ourselves to reach a true honest moment.
Ryan Kirkpatrick Lukas Katinas Sharayu Mahale Abraham Bermudez Nikki Dalonzo Albert & Viktoria