How I'm Skirting the Rules

I Succeeded in Hosting My Own Travel Show Without Any TV Experience

Once told she couldn't be the host of her own series, award-winning blogger, dancer and now Emmy-winning travel show creator Mickela Mallozzi found a way to prove her critics wrong.

Of possible dream jobs, hosting your own travel show is pretty up there. Watch any episode of Parts Unknown and it’s hard not to fantasize about quitting your day job to make your way through you very own travel bucket list. But Mickela Mallozzi, didn’t just dream; she turned her fascination in folk dance cultures around the world and itchy feet into an actual show which she sold herself. After researching and shooting her own pilot episode featuring the dance in her family’s home village in rural Minturno, Italy, Mickela pitched her web series, Bare Feet with Mickela Mallozzi, to a few networks before PBS picked it up to air nationwide. While it may seem as though it was the stuff of luck and legend, it turns out, her process was no different than any successful entrepreneurial venture: She brainstormed, she planned, she took action, then crossed her fingers and hoped for the best. But that’s not to say it didn’t take some pretty fancy footwork along the way. Here, she explains the surprisingly practical steps it took to turn her passion into a dream profession.

I’m Skirting the Rules by creating a job I love, since I couldn’t find a job I liked. I’ve been able to combine my two passions in life, travel and dance, and then find a creative way to make a career from these passions by hosting and producing an Emmy Award-winning travel series that now airs nationally on PBS.

A time when I found the possible (a creative solution) within the impossible (against incredible odds) is everyday, no joke. From day one, I had no TV production background, no hosting background, nothing. This entire process from start until now has been through a series of finding creative solutions in what seem to be impossible circumstances. One main creative solution was to just start creating content and videos on my own when no one else was going to give me the chance. I was pitching myself as the host, and I was pitching a travel dance series to producers. They liked the idea, but over and over again they kept telling me that I wouldn’t fit the part of the host. Still, I wanted to tell this story and not hand it over to someone else. So I danced, I wrote about it, I traveled, I wrote about it, I started taking videos, I started talking into the camera, I started practicing what it meant to be able to speak to an audience that I couldn’t see. And I’m incredibly proud to say that not only is my show now airing in over 90 percent of the US market on public television, but I also won an Emmy Award for Best Host in 2015!

I believe my most powerful feminine strengths that helped me get ahead are my creativity, my ability to be welcoming. No one else in this realm is doing something like Bare Feet. It is completely unique. I think to have that creative insight is an extremely strong asset. I’ve also been told by both the people I dance with and also my viewers that they feel at ease with me, they recognize that my intentions are genuine, and that there is a welcoming feeling that I bring to the table. It’s absolutely amazing when complete strangers come up to me as if we’ve been friends for years. It’s because I’ve been in their homes on their TVs, and they trust me for that. It’s a strength that I have just discovered I have, but it is exactly who I am and how I represent myself to the world.

An example of how listening to my intuition has helped me is when I’m filming my series, my intuition tells me when a person I’m dancing with or approaching feels comfortable enough to open up to me. My intuition will tell me when I can dig a little deeper into their personal story or if I should respectfully not press on a sensitive subject. It also lets my body get completely in the moment to understand the culture in such a pure way. I know when I feel safe and at ease, but I also know when something magical is happening right before my eyes.  

My secret talent is playing the tambourine! My other dream has always been to join a rock band and play tambourine.

My biggest rebel move (or my biggest risk) was quitting my corporate job in the music industry to become a full-time dance teacher. That was the first of many steps leading me to where I am now.

A woman is most powerful when she has a voice. Just the ability to voice one’s opinion or idea is the first step to empowerment. I can’t even count how many times my idea was shot down by producers, potential sponsors, and possible outlets in the very beginning—and they were all men. But I surrounded myself with strong women in the industry (and men who respected women), and they listened to me, they let me share these crazy ideas, and after a while, those ideas didn’t sound so crazy anymore.

A time I wish I’d listened to my inner knowing more was when I had just finished filming the pilot episode and had spent every dime of my savings. I pitched the show to a third-party production company, who signed the show right away to pitch to networks on my behalf. I didn’t get the best feeling from them, but I was so blinded by the possibility of success right in front of me. The relationship imploded, and they held my footage hostage for a year. It was an incredible learning experience, and I will never make that mistake again. Luckily at that time, I didn’t have as much on the line as I do now, so it was the perfect time to fail horribly and pick myself up again.

The female disruptor who most inspires me and why is Amy Schumer. She couldn’t find a place in the Hollywood circle for herself, so she made her own space. And I feel that is how I have done my work too. I don’t have that proper background that a travel host should have, and I definitely didn’t fit that mold, but I made my own path and paved my own way, creating my own space in the TV world.

My advice to my younger self would be save a little more money—all that “therapy shopping” you did when you had a nice paycheck didn’t make you feel better in the end.

My favorite skirt (a.k.a life hack or life rule) is taking the time to acknowledge the small, daily obstacles I face and overcome. Instead of always thinking long-term and major goals, it’s also healthy to compartmentalize things into small, attainable daily goals, even hourly goals. I feel overwhelmed often, since I run my own business, but to be able to break down tasks and agendas into smaller pieces, it helps me process the information better, and then I’m more productive overall.