Lately, young women of our country have been bombarded with disconcerting stories. From the Harvey Weinstein scandal to the Lori Loughlin scandal, young women are being portrayed in a negative manner. Stories of young women who were forced into victimhood at the mercy of others, or stories showing young women as too weak to accomplish success based on their own effort and merit. This article is the second of a three part series dedicated to showing the other side of the coin. Three Israeli women who demonstrate that with hard work, fierce dedication and omnipresent optimism any life goal may be attained.
Michelle Treves is an actress with roles in Atomic Falafel (2015), My Australia (2011) and The Fifth Heaven (2011). She is a singer and songwriter producing her own album.
1) JF: You speak excellent English with an American accent. Tell us a bit about your background. MT: My grandparents met in Israel, and then lived in the USA, due to my grandfather’s work. My dad was born when they were still in the USA. When he was still young, they moved back to Israel.
2) JF: How does being half American affect your personality? Any difference in your mentality between the lessons you learned growing up and your friend’s mentality for those who grew up with different backgrounds? MT: Oh, I love that! You get the best of both worlds. Celebrating Thanksgiving alongside Jewish and Israeli holidays. We used to visit my grandparents in California almost every year and went a couple of times to the JCC Summer Camp. A sweet childhood it was. I remember one time when it was Halloween — we went for “trick or treat” in the neighborhood. I’ve discovered the divine taste of peanut butter and jelly! As for the difference in mentality, I’d say that in a country such as Israel it really is not a big deal. We all come from different backgrounds, we might have a different cuisine back home, but we are in the same boat.
3) JF: You have had quite a bit of success at a young age as an actor — and yet you are just as passionate about your singing career. If you had to win either an Oscar or a Grammy, which would you choose and why? MT: Since I was very young, I was into acting and performing. My parents noticed my passion and signed me up for an acting studio for youth called “Bimat Hanoar Kefar Saba.” That was my second home for 13 years, since I was 5 years old until 18 years old, I basically grew up there. Every once in a while, there were auditions, I had the privilege of having some unique experiences and I am grateful for that. I acted in a sitcom when I was 6 and in various films throughout my school years. As for singing: I always loved to sing and write. My parents got me a guitar when I was in 8th grade. In high school, I started looking for a way to express myself musically. I found interest in rapping and in hip hop culture. I was in a crew named “Impact” and in 2017 we released an album, called “Sof Yemei Hatom” produced by Ido Maimon. After the album was released, we split upt. I felt the appetite for some rock n` roll, I was exploring new directions. I met the music producer Omer Cohen and the connection was immediate. We started working on a single and then I came up with more and more songs, I knew I wanted it to be an album. We are recording in the “Basement 14” studio. Most of the songs are in Hebrew, but some are in English. I’ve been working on this album for two years, investing everything I have. I can’t wait to release it already. Anyways, that’s a tough call. This might sound like a cliché, but I can’t choose between acting or singing. It’s like asking you to choose between your kids! I really hope I don’t have to face a dilemma like this one day
4) JF: In listening to your music: the lyrics and singing rap songs — how did that come about? It sounds like there is a bit of an influence from the artist Subliminal. Which musicians have influenced the way you write songs and decide which songs you want to sing? MT: Thanks for the compliment! There are plenty of underground rappers I’ve been listening to – Israelis and foreign. From “Microphone Lamaximum” to Cunninlynguists.
I grew up listening to Queen, Abba, AC/DC and listening to the 1970s and 1980s pop and rock classics. Shlomo Gronich and Sheva Choir , Shlomo Artzi and other Israeli classics. Also, lots of musicals! Plus Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits (seriously, it’s a long list …) SOAD, RHCP, Guns n’ Roses, Alter Bridge, Alicia Keys, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston and the list keeps going forever. Bottom line is, I’ve had my influences from so many directions and genres. My music is a combination of indie, folk, rock, pop, acoustic and soul.
5) JF: You portrayed a very strong young women in your role as Nofar in Atomic Felafel. It struck me that even though the movie is a comedy / farce, your character was actually more mature and seemingly in control than that of your mother played by Mali Levi. Do you look for roles which demonstrate strong female characters? MT: I love roles of strong female characters. They convey an important message. Mali is awesome, funny and a fantastic actress. Her character was bold and strong as well. All female characters in that movie were rebellious and strong. I look forward to play all kinds of roles. Any role that will throw me out of my comfort zone is what I aim for.
6) JF: Most Israeli women have a required 2 years of national service after high school. Tell us about how you grew up through high school and the progression of your career. MT: After I finished high school, I continued studying practical engineering for two years and my recruitment to the Army was delayed. It was a wonderful time, because I could work on the album and make lots of progress, step by step. After I finished my studies I was recruited to the army and now I’m doing my mandatory service. I am lucky to be able to combine doing military service and making music.
7) JF: Not in an arrogant way, but the fact that you have actually gotten hired and paid to do what you love at a young age- what do you believe has set you apart from everyone else and allowed you to follow your dreams? MT: I did have a unique childhood and I got into the entertainment industry when I was very young. But I couldn’t have done it without my supportive family. They were always there for me, protecting me from things that sometime I was too young or not mature enough to understand. Having their support and encouragement is so important to me and I’m glad that I have it. They used to say that if you have a dream, no matter what it is, you should be tenacious, be professional and consistent about it. I’ve been following that advice for over a decade.
8) JF: What do you love the most about living in Israel? MT: I grew up here all my life, but also feel connected on a personal level. My grandfather nearly died, and he lost his two brothers, in order to make this place our home. It’s hard for people in my generation, including myself, to understand that everything we have here was created out of nothing. We often forget to appreciate what we have here. I intend to live abroad and want to explore the world for a few years, out of curiosity. But I would not leave my home for good just because I’m struggling to make a buck or I don’t like the politics. There are things that definitely need improvement, but this is my home and I love it here.
9) JF: What is the greatest lesson you have had to learn through your own personal experiences that you wish every female teenager could understand? MT: Stand up for yourself and never underestimate who you are and what you are capable of! Family is the most precious thing. Love yourself. Do not be intimidated by pressure. Surround yourself with good, supportive people. Your health comes first.
10) JF: You seem to be more interested in being a decent person, treating people with respect and enjoying your life than you do about doing “whatever it takes” to become famous around the world. Is this true, and if so why? MT: I was taught to treat people in the manner that you would want them to treat you. I’m not a saint, but I’m trying to be a good person. If we’re talking about “success” – I know I’ll get to where I want to be one day. I’ll do it my way.
Another important lesson I was taught is that everything comes with a price. Sometimes shortcuts can be tempting, yet through deceiving the price is just too high. But it does not mean you have to turn down every opportunity. I think embracing opportunities and pushing yourself is great as long as you stay true to yourself.
Stay tuned by following on Instagram @michelle_treves and on Facebook: “Michelle Treves- מיכל טרבס”.