Name: Tiffany Mellard
Profession: Dancer/Singer/Actress/Dance Educator
What area of the BX are you from?:
Northeast Bronx- I've lived in Williamsbridge, Parkchester, Throggs Neck, but spent my formative years in Co-op City.
Current Location: I live in my suitcase (currently on tour).
Tell us about yourself:
I'm a professional dancer who has been dancing for 25 years! I'm a graduate of LaGuardia High School (a.k.a. The Fame School) and the Florida State University (GO NOLES!) and a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority, Inc. I'm currently on the national tour of Chicago the Musical where I play a convict who killed her lover with arsenic. (Yasss bad mon fi dead!) My favorite breakfast sandwich is a bacon, egg, and cheese on a roll with salt, pepper, and ketchup and I am a self proclaimed pizza, mac & cheese, and cheeseburger connoisseur. If I weren't a dancer, I'd probably be a traveling DJ or drummer in a jazz band. Music is life.
What are your fondest memories of growing up in the Bronx?
In middle school (I went to M.S.180 in Co-op), on the days I didn't have after-school dance lessons, my friends and I would either play double dutch in the yard, go to Fordham Road to get customized name belts (mine was in rhinestones lol) or hang out at the Bartow Mall Plaza. We'd chill there for hours- using our allowance to buy madd pairs of those tacky "Chinese slippers" and glitter butterfly clips, paying a ridiculous amount of money for North Face fanny packs and Pepe Jeans, and watching our homeboys play basketball until our parents called us home to do our homework. Life was lit then.
Do you feel as though being from the Bronx has heavily influenced who you are today?
Most definitely. I started dancing at the age of 4 at Mind Builders Creative Arts Center, located right off of Gun Hill and White Plains Road and simultaneously studied dance at my middle school. It was there where I developed the training, discipline, and passion to excel as an artist. That combined with the gritty nature of the Bronx taught me to be smart and resilient. Coming from a Caribbean (Jamaica & the British Virgin Islands) household and living amongst a large Caribbean population instilled a rich awareness of my culture. Walking down White Plains Road in the summertime while jerk chicken was being cooked on the steel drum with sounds of Beres Hammond and Elephant Man blasting through car speakers always felt like home to me. Hip-hop and dancehall (from the 2000s) are easily my favorite genres of music. I also had an early exposure to different ethnic communities because in the Bronx alone, you see neighborhoods with people of African, African-American, Caribbean-American, Irish, Italian, Latino, and Middle Eastern descent. And thanks to mis amigos working at the bodegas on every corner, I can speak a lil' Spanish.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
My mother, Veronica Jarrett, for her unwavering strength, selflessness, grace, and beauty, Issa Rae for being unapologetically Black and taking creative risks as a woman of color in television, Debbie Allen because I'd love to have a similar career path as her, and all of the Black female entertainers that have come before me and paved the way for me to do what I love for a living.
What has been your greatest accomplishment to date?
I would say that overcoming the physical, emotional, and financial obstacles that came along with my MCL injury in 2015 is my greatest accomplishment. It was easy for me to fall into a downward spiral because I didn't have dance as an escape for a while. Instead of staying in my depressive state, I used that time to heal and explore other interests, such as acting, and I fell in love with it! Now that I'm back to dancing full-time, I have a newfound appreciation for dance and a fresh perspective as an artist and overall person. It made me realize that I am a human first, dancer second. Self-care is so necessary.
If you could, in what ways would you give back to your community?
A long-term goal of mine is to start a non-profit arts-in-education and mentorship organization that targets low-income communities, like those in the Bronx, to provide free arts programs for children ages 5-18. One way that I have currently been giving back is through teaching: I was a teaching artist for 4 years at public schools in the South Bronx and Parkchester, and prior to joining the cast of Chicago last year, I taught modern and hip hop dance to ages 4-18 at Mind Builders Creative Arts Center. That was a beautiful full circle experience for me.
If someone were visiting the Bronx, where would you tell them to go?
NICK'S PIZZA off the Gun Hill Road (Seymour Ave.) stop on the 5 train, Tosca in Throggs Neck for their buffet style brunch and bottomless mimosas, and the Jamaican patty shop on 226th street at White Plains Road. They have the best coco bread. You're welcome.