The official Festival One profile for Brylee Mills concludes with: “After many setbacks and bumps in the road, Brylee is determined to share how beautiful and adventurous life is.” That sums up her outlook pretty well, as we discovered when we had the pleasure of meeting her behind the scenes!


So you spoke this weekend, what did you speak about?

I kind of talk about my life and what I’ve learnt from the things I’ve been through. Overcoming obstacles is the main topic. “Limiting your limitations” is what it’s called. And just what I’ve learnt from what I’ve done so far.


What are you doing at the moment?

I’m currently doing a few things. I teach dance. I’m a professional dancer, so I teach in Auckland and Whangarei. Working with kids doing competition work and things like that.

And then I work at a gym, at Les Mills. I [also] run a photography business working with dancers, mostly group shoots based on a project I started in 2014, and it’s about empowering dancers and showing strength and power. It’s called the Warrior Series; we’ve got about 100 girls in the ‘tribe.’ We do big shoots, hair and makeup and workshops and all sorts.

I just started doing my speaking stuff last year, in May. I did the National Young Leaders day tour, I was one of the keynote speakers for that. We did 11 events and spoke to 11,000 kids which was amazing! Pretty intense but a cool three weeks, I loved it. Just been doing different speaking things, I did Tall Poppies with Zeal and a few different graduations and things. I’m hoping to make my speaking full-time and just do dance on the side.


How did you get into dancing?

I started when I was three or four. My mum and sisters danced. I was just always dancing. Music was always a big part of my childhood, dance just came along with that. I started classes when I was four and [have been] consistently doing it since then.


What advice would you give to young people who want to pursue dance as a career?

It’s hard, it’s definitely hard, but just put your all into it. Take as many opportunities as you can, keep all your doors open, don’t be fussy about what door you go through. You don’t want to narrow your options because it isn’t a massive industry. And go overseas. New Zealand is great and you can do a bit here, but if you really want to make it in your career you need to be able to go overseas and get on a cruise or be part of a show.


You danced in Sydney, what did you do over there?

I trained full time at Brent Street Performing Arts Centre. Everyday, all day dancing. Training and then we did a massive graduation show at the end of the year. I came out of it with an agent, which was really cool.


How did you decide to make the shift from dancing to getting more into the public speaking?

I kind of got thrown into it. I was going on tour with the NLD as part of the production team. But [I suddenly became] keynote speaker. They coached me through it and helped me write my script so I learnt so much. It was a good, safe way to get thrown in it.


What tips would you have for people who are wanting to share their story and do public speaking?

We don’t often get an opportunity to tell our stories. So, if you want to you just gotta do it. Do things for free to start with. Offer your services, tell people you’re keen to share your story. You need to practise as well, work on it. It’s like all things, if you put your mind to it, you can do it. You’ve just got to really want it.


How do you stay motivated?

That’s a big thing I talk about. It’s different for everything. I try remember back to when I was six, when I had my car accident and lost my arm, that was quite significant.

I think I remember that girl as being this free spirit and someone who really wanted to face the challenge and did it with such grace and courage. She’s my biggest motivation, I know it’s talking about myself but we often lose that young-heartedness. The fearlessness of being that young. Because I was forced to have that big challenge hit me, it was like, “How do we get through this?”

I often look back and don’t want to let her down, and how hard she worked. I want to keep consistently making her proud and work really hard.


Check out some of Erica’s other interviews with the stars of this year’s Festival One:

Sinai: One year, 52 songs!

Chem: Writing the heartbeat through rhythm

ar.lo: Keeping it fresh