Smokeshow Marina Mazepa
Written by Emily Cieslak
PHOTOGRAPHER: TRACY KAHN
TALENT: MARINA MAZEPA
WARDROBE STYLIST: ILARIA DE PLANO
WARDROBE ASSISTANT: CASEY PUHR
MAKE UP AND HAIR: GAYATRI
VIDEOGRAPHER: JASON EDWARD
ASSISTANT: BRIAN SHAPIRO
LOCATION: 1114 STUDIOS
Imagine all the villains in your favorite horror movies; creeping and crawling around with uncanny speed, lunging and leaping with supernatural agility. You probably think they are some sort of CGI avatars, created by world class animators. Think again. Actress Marina Mazepa does not need any special effects; she morphs into her own otherworldly creatures with every backbend and kick.
Since starring on Americas Got Talent in 2019, the 24-year-old dancer has been tantalizing audiences with her mesmerizing blend of ballet and contortion that is both gorgeous and grotesque. Though she did not win the TV competition, she has since gone on to act in a slew of hit movies and TV shows, including playing the villain in the latest horror flick Malignant. Pursuing an acting career and portraying evil creatures may not be the traditional path in Hollywood, but nothing about Mazepa is traditional. Growing up in Ukraine, she learned from a young age that her jarring dance style was what set her apart and would ultimately lead to her success. Yet perhaps what is most shocking is that in real life, Mazepa is a warm ball of energy, constantly laughing and radiating optimism. So where does that intimidating fierceness come from? She channels that young girl in Ukraine who overcame obstacles and self doubt to make a name for herself.
Mazepa is on fire, and when it rains, it pours. She was cast as the lead in a movie and also TV show that is filming in Budapest. Both were unfortunately filming at the same time, so she had to choose one and ultimately chose the TV show. Before she headed off to Budapest to start filming the show, we sat down with Mazepa in her Hollywood Hills home to learn more about how she got to where she is today and where she is going next.
EC: How has your life changed since starring on Americas Got Talent?
Marina Mazepa: My life has changed a lot since Americas Got Talent. Because of AGT, I was discovered by James Wan and he cast me into his movie Malignant. And I played the main villain, Gabriel. It was incredible, and after that I booked another movie which was The Unholy, then Resident Evil. And I was in the new, upcoming short TV show, The Girl in the Woods. And recently, I booked a new movie, which unfortunately I can not talk about right now, as a lead. So it is going to be my first huge project. And I also booked a spin off TV show from John Wick.
EC: Tell us about your first movie?
MM: I was like a sponge that was observing and learning. I loved everything about that movie, and I feel like that was a defining moment that gave me the feeling, Oh yes, this is what I want to do. I love it. I kept falling in love with every aspect of being on set. James Wan was just so incredible to me, and he believed in me so much. I thought, Wow, people really love what I do and how I do it and I really want to pursue this path.
EC: What do you think sets you apart as an actress?
MM: I think it is doing martial arts and my unique ability to transform into otherworldly creatures. And it is not only a physical thing. It is all about your inner world and how you infuse this character with different personalities. It is about acting. That is why I love acting and wearing different masks and utilizing my dance and martial arts skills.
EC: How did you learn your unique style of dancing?
MM: When I was studying at the Circus and Dance Academy in Kyiv, I was influenced by contortionists and by circus performers. And then I wanted to get more flexible and I started to take contortion classes on the side. And then I started mixing contortion with dance, and that is how I created my own style.
EC: Were you ever discouraged when people did not appreciate your unique dance style?
MM: Initially, I was really shy and embarrassed, and I did not know how people would react to my unique dance style.But the defining moment was when I performed on So You Think You Can Dance Ukraine for the first time. I performed with my unique, interesting, different style and that is when I got a standing ovation. I got incredible comments from the judges.
EC: Were you afraid or nervous to move to America without knowing how to speak English?
MM: During my first audition on AGT, I was more afraid of speaking to the judges than I was afraid of dancing and performing. I came onto th stage, and I was just shaking and holding this mic because I thought the audience would laugh at my English, and I would not understand the question or whatever they would tell me. And it actually happened. I could not understand what they were asking me. If you watch my first audition, you will see when Simon [Cowell] asked me, Did you understand what I just said? and I am like No.
Since then I have started working on my English a lot. I had an English coach. I went to an English Mentor Language Institute. I still work with my accent reduction coach and my grammar teacher. So it is a process. But also you have to read books, watch movies, and think constantly about it and listen to native speakers. I guess that having my boyfriend be a native speaker helps (laughs).
EC: You are very confident, which is so attractive. What is your advice to people who want to build confidence and self love?
MM: I would say what makes you confident is hard work. Overcoming struggles. And when you overcome struggles, the stronger you become. And it gives you confidence. Self assurance. Self love. And you respect yourself for what you have done and then you become stronger.
EC: Speaking of strength, you have such an amazing body! Can you share some of your diet and fitness secrets?
MM: My diet is simple. It is high protein intake and low carbs. And I eat small portions but very often throughout the day. I can have like five, six meals a day, but they are small. And I usually have a lot of vegetables and protein. I love cottage cheese. This is my favorite snack. And I love chocolate. Of course, it is dark chocolate. And I eat it in the morning because I feel that it is better to eat sweets in the morning than at night
EC: I have also seen on your Instagram that you regularly go to cryotherapy. What benefits have you seen from it?
MM: Cryotherapy is something that I’ve been doing for the last three years. It is incredible for your body, your mood. First of all, you lose 600 hundred calories. Second, it reduces inflammation in your body. For me as an athlete, I workout a lot. I do martial arts. I stretch. So I am constantly sore, and this helps me to reduce my soreness. It also releases endorphins in your brain and makes you happy and energetic, and that is why I love it. I go to Cryo HealthCare in Los Angeles.
EC: What about your beauty routine? How do you get those stunning eyebrows?
MM: I am really bad at makeup (laughs). To me as a dancer, model, actress, your skin has to look healthy and beautiful on camera and in real life. I love Lancer Skin Care. I exfoliate my skin every night and moisturize twice a day. In terms of makeup, I do not wear a ton of makeup. I put on foundation, and I do my eyebrows. I really love freeze gel by Anastasia in clear.
EC: How about fashion? What clothes speak to you?
MM: So the clothes I wear should fit my own personality. I really love Alice and Olivia. I think it is such a fun and classy chic brand. I also have a lot of workout clothes. I really like Avocado. I love different purses, and I am not really chasing expensive designers. Sometimes I just walk through the store and if something catches my eye, I just grab it and I do not care if it is Valentino or Chanel or just a regular brand. My clothes have to be comfortable first.
EC: What is next for you? Are you more interested in modeling, dance, acting or all three
MM: I love acting and this is what I do right now. I utilize all my skills in acting, contortion, dance, martial arts. And I love modeling. It makes me feel happy. My dream has always been to be in Marvel movies. It might sound funny, but I thought that when I was a small kid and now I am here, so it is possible.
EC: Was thereever a moment in your journey that you thought of giving up? What kept you going?
MM: I think I always had this burning desire inside of me. Growing up in a small town in Ukraine, I felt like I just needed to get out of this town because I want to become someone significant. And there were so many moments of discouragement and feeling like I am not going to make it. But it is about figuring things out and really struggling and overcoming the struggle and feeling good about that and becoming stronger. That moment when you overcome a struggle, you are like, Wow! Did I really do that? Was that me? It gives you so much respect for yourself and confidence and the next struggle that comes your way, and you are like, Ok, if I did that, then I can do this too.