Memoirs with Melissa

Irmeli Saarsalu

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Name: Irmeli Saarsalu
Occupation: Actress

Irmeli was born and raised in Tallinn, Estonia. She has always had a curiosity for different cultures and the world. At the age of 16, she did a semester abroad in Germany. She moved to the U.S. to complete her BA in Foreign Languages at the University of Nevada- Las Vegas and also completed a semester abroad in Italy while in college. After that she moved to NYC to study acting. She is excited to be following her passion and looking forward to the great things yet to come!

I met Irmeli at a leadership training class for Nevada’s women leaders at the University of Nevada – Las Vegas in 2006. She and I clicked right away and, even though that leadership class was only a week long, we are still in touch four years later. Irmeli’s story is one of passion and seizing the moment.

What makes Irmeli tick? See below. ~Melissa

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What is your passion and how did you discover it? Acting- My main passion definitely is acting. I have always believed that we have all the answers and talents in us. When the time is right, you will meet the right people that help you bring that out in you. Acting came to me when I was around 13-14 years old. I just knew that’s what I wanted to do and I decided that I will go to NYC to study that. It sounded crazy – I was born and raised in typical Eastern European soviet era housing blocks in Tallinn, Estonia and was living my usual life there. Then couple years later my mom got a life-changing phone call from the U.S. and they offered her a job in Denver, CO. She had 24h to make a decision. She took the position. My stomach sank; I felt like nothing was ever going to be the same, but at the same time I was excited because I felt that I might actually end up in NYC after all. It has been more than 10 years and while I am writing this I have just completed my two years of study of acting in NYC with Anthony Abeson.

Music- Next to acting, this is definitely my second passion and hobby. It makes me calm and grounded. My father is a professional jazz saxophonist and that has definitely influenced me too. Music was just constantly there. I started going out a lot to nightclubs and parties in high school. But I would learn real fast that music made such a difference and when the music and the whole vibe were off, it was not fun. Next to acting, film and directing I would probably want to explore the music business and producing one day.

Dance- I started doing gymnastics when I was 5 and, due to back problems, went into dancing later on for fun. My mother is a former prima ballerina and seeing so closely that lifestyle, I have a lot of respect for dancers. They train like athletes but also have to deliver the art. Dancing has stayed with me throughout the years. It is a good exercise and balances out acting. It helps me get out of my head, because in acting we are so much in our heads all the time.

Inspiring and positive people- It always interests me what motivates people and what keeps them going or what makes them get out of bed in the morning when times are tough. And I absolutely love people who can laugh at themselves and are passionate about something.

Good food- I enjoy having people over and food always seems to bring people together. Once in a while, when I have time, I like to cook, but for other people. Cooking for myself doesn’t really motivate me.

What defines you? My upbringing, nationality, gender, friends, family, passions and talents.

What’s the greatest gift (material or otherwise) you’ve been given? My first blessings definitely are my friends. I meet a lot of new and exciting people, but I consider my friends few in number. With some of them we have been friends for over 19 years now. It’s nice to have people that will still be there even though you have showed them the ugly in you. It’s just a very comforting feeling because I will have these friends for a lifetime no matter what.

I have been very blessed also with great parents. My mom is very much tough love, but she also has very good humor and we always laugh about pretty much everything.

My father grew up in a very poor family, and I have learned from him to never let your circumstances hold you back from your passion. You just have to have much more patience since it might take you longer to achieve your goals.

Besides the great people in my life, I consider my talent my gift. I love comedy and if I can create something with my talent that makes people laugh and take their mind off from the negative things in their life even for that moment, I think I have done my job well. Also if I can create a character and give through that a voice to someone’s story that needs to be heard, my job has served its purpose.

But I think some of my greatest gifts have not arrived in my life yet as far as my future husband and kids go. I would hope to create a family where both of us don’t really have to give up much of who we are or what we do.

As Scott Ginsberg asks in “Get them to come to you” If everybody did exactly what you said, what would the world look like? I would want people to be more tolerant and respectful. I have learned that people have very different backgrounds, experiences and limits and some people can take more and do more than others and some can’t. So it is very individual how we want to live our lives or what is important for us. I understand it is not a perfect world, but I just wish people would find some joy in at least something they do every day. As far as respect goes, there are so many examples but just to name few, I never understood how having money or position gives some people more right to treat somebody bad. Or yelling or cursing someone out who is just doing their job is acceptable.

What’s your favorite thing about your community/country? My favorite thing about Estonia is the calming nature and the sea. As much as I enjoy the big metropolitan cities, I miss the sea and the forest once in a while. And Estonia has the best dairy products. You have to come and try!

How has your community/country influenced your life? Created opportunity or challenges for you? Being born and raised in Estonia has given me the ability to see things from a different angle in the U.S. Residing in two different countries has made me more tolerant over the years. I don’t expect people to react a certain way and I respect the different traditions and cultures. But at the same time it has been a challenge to get to this point where you are tolerant and open to all of these things.

What is the biggest challenge facing your community? Estonia is a very small country and has been occupied many times. There have been many economical and political changes in a very short period of time. During my lifetime, I have experienced the Russian Ruble, Estonian Kroon and now, starting January 2011, we welcome the European Euro. It is hard for certain groups of people in the nation to follow and adjust again.

What’s your favorite place in the world? Why? So far my favorite vacation spot has been the Italian Riviera. I have done some traveling in Europe and the U.S., so I would like to explore some of the Latin-American countries next.

What would you like your legacy to be? It is definitely too early for me to answer that question. I think I’m going to have to have the people around me and my work itself form that along the way. So stay tuned! =)

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Written by Melissa

December 22, 2010 at 6:56 am

Posted in Acting, Estonia, Passion

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