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Tall Girl Star, Ava Michelle On How She Turned Her Insecurities Into Strength

Ava Michelle will stand tall for a lifetime.

Who would have thought that being tall would get you kicked out of a team and be discriminated against?

They say that the grass looks greener on the other side, and that’s how most of us short people feel when seeing taller people. But taller people sometimes feel like the odd one out, too. It may seem far-fetched, but it does happen, you know?

Mock her all you want, but the 6’1″ dancer-turned-actress, Ava Michelle Cota, is determined to use it to her advantage. Known for her breakout role in Netflix’ Tall Girl, Ava Michelle catches up with NYLON Manila to talk dancing, career, and using her insecurities to push her out of her comfort zone.

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How did you get into dance?

My mom put me in dance at age two and then opened her own studio the next year. The studio soon became my second home, and I trained there until I was about 14.

When did you start noticing that your height is significantly taller amongst other girls your age? Did it affect the way you interacted with your peers or how they interacted with you?

I felt a bit awkward sometimes, being so tall and skinny, and always knew I was tall for my age but I don’t think I really realized it would affect what I wanted to do until I was kicked off a team for it. Because of my height was also always mistaken for being older and I think because of that there were higher expectations of my skill set or maturity. I am thankful for that though, because I do think It made me who I am. 

How did you go from dance to acting and singing?

I have always loved the arts and I think acting is a huge part of being a dancer and performer. So, the transition felt very natural. Moving to LA also opened my eyes to a lot and was a huge part of me wanting to pursue acting full force. 

Top by Express

It’s been nearly two years since your first Netflix movie. What was it like working with your co-stars?

Tall Girl was one of the best experiences of my life. My co-stars are not only incredibly talented but just really great people. We had so much fun filming together and have really made some lasting friendships. The day the movie came out was mind-blowing, I just really couldn’t believe it was happening. The whole thing felt super surreal. 

Do you feel emotionally connected to your role in tall girl?

I do, I love Jodi and I think we have so many similarities. The insecurity of our height being one of them, but I truly think she is a character that everyone can relate to and that is why the movie was received the way it was. I am so honored to be apart of a film with such a real and relevant message, and something that is also so personal to me.

Puff blazer by Weiling Chang

It must be hard being in a competitive industry, after all, you started in dance moms. You were so young back then, did it affect your mental health being recognized for that reality show?

Yes, very, very competitive! I really do believe I am as strong as I am because of that show. In a weird way, I am thankful that I was put through that early because I learned so many important lessons very young. I learned the importance of knowing who you are, believing in yourself, and standing up for what you believe no matter what. Knowing that if one door closes or you are told no, it just not meant to be and that is ok, you move on to the next. My mom was a huge support and still is in my life and I believe she is the reason I was able to turn something that could’ve been so negative into motivation. 

Top by Express Glove by SOS Showroom

What are you up to this year? Anything new you would like to try?

I am in LA so we are still locked down quite a bit. But I am trying to still stay creative and have taken up painting as a hobby! Which is random but fun lol.

Do you have upcoming projects we should watch out for?

I DO!! But sadly nothing I can speak of yet… hopefully very, very soon!

Look by Alice Olivia

What’s something you learned in 2020 that you would like to carry out this 2021? 

I think 2020 really taught us so many lessons, but I think something that I want to take into 2021 is to just enjoy the simple moments. Because those can bring so much joy. Surrounding yourself with those you love, and be grateful for the life we have been given because really nothing is guaranteed. 

Photography by DEVIN DYGERT