There is a lot more to the gorgeous Masiela Lusha, actress, poet and humanitarian than meets the eye. Not only is she a successful actress, seen on hit TV show George Lopez and most recently in Sharknado: The 4th Awakens fame, but she is also a polyglot -- she speaks English, Hungarian, German and Albanian. She is an exceptional student and has a unique speaking pattern that makes you know that she is a poet, even if you didn’t know that before. Lusha is a world traveler and an avid philanthropist who spent her time as the ambassador for World Assembly of Youth -- a UN-sanctioned organization that helps children in various countries and Sentebale and UncommonGood.
Masiela Lusha has published four books with The Living Air available on Amazon on November 19.
TheCelebrityCafé.com: Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us. I'm looking forward to it.
Masiela Lusha: Of course. Likewise.
TCC: Can you please start by telling me a little bit about yourself?
ML: Sure. I'm an actress, primarily. I love to write poetry. I've been writing poetry since I was 12 years old, and I've had about 4 books published, and my most recent book, The Living Air, is being released on November, I believe November 19, actually.
ML: Thank you so much. I always feel vulnerable talking about the poetry aspect of my career because it's little diary entries that I need to sometimes close read, and to reveal that much, it's a bit nerve-racking.
TCC: I'll bet. I have quite a few questions about that, but I'll ask those a little bit later. I'll get you warmed up.
ML: Oh, boy.
TCC: What was it like growing up in Albania and then moving to the U.S.?
ML: So Albania … My experiences there truly defined who I am to this day as far as my humanitarian work because I was a refugee in Albania. I was about four years old, and as a child, my earliest memories were being on a bus heading out of the country -- my beautiful home, the only home I knew -- and because of the political turmoil and having threats of bombing on the bus as a result of the political turmoil and having these volunteers from the American Red Cross position themselves between the people and the window inside the bus as we drove towards Hungary, and that kind of experience just completely reoriented me and basically wrote my identity to this day because always driving to contribute to some degree, whether it's through my poetry because I feel every medium of art needs to heal to some degree. It can't live in it's own void, and this came from my earliest experiences as a young refugee. Just knowing that I always have to contribute, I always have to pay back what these selfless people did for us, and I owe my life to them to these perfect strangers who disappeared like angels at the end.
TCC: How was the transition to living here from there?
ML: English was my fourth language. I arrived, I enrolled in public school, as a child, I believe I was about six years old when we finally landed in Michigan. And I was initially put in special education because I couldn't quite wrap my mind around the English language because I was listening to Hungarian and Albanian and German. My mind broke down like I couldn't quite wrap my mind around the fourth language. And to this day actually I find that sense of diversity early on in my life, I find it to contribute to my poetry because through my former experiences, writing poetry and learning other languages leading up to English I find ways to stitch words together that may seem a bit odd, but somehow, sometimes they do work. And I feel in poetry there aren't that many rules that you need to absolutely live by depending on your style of poetry. I feel my poetry has contributed through all these languages that I needed to learn leading up to English.
TCC: Which four languages do you speak again, please?
ML: Albanian and Hungarian, German, and English.
TCC: How did you decide to become an actor?
ML: I didn't even know what acting was at 11 years old. I truly believed that acting was hidden cameras everywhere. And I felt that these actors on the screen were somehow real people. But there was an agent who was combing the Midwest at the time. He was, I think, searching for new faces, fresh faces, to bring back to Los Angeles, and he held an open call in my hometown, in Michigan. And my mother knew more than I did, as far as the industry. So she brought me in and there were about 600 kids. And he held a seminar that lasted from 9:00 a.m. till about 6:30 p.m., met every single child, one by one, interviewed everyone. And then, by the end, decided to bring three with him back to Los Angeles, and to introduce casting directors. And I was one of the three. And within a week, we moved to LA, with just a suitcase, and started all over again.
ML: And never looked back.
TCC: Now, please tell me about your time at UCLA?
ML: Sure. So actually, I graduated from high school at 15, so I could work full time. But, being as restless as I am by nature, I couldn't simply just be on set, wait for my turn to rehearse for the week. And I kept reading, but it wasn't enough for me. So I enrolled in community college, in Glendale College. And I chose Glendale College because the hours were so flexible. I could arrive at 6 o'clock in the morning, till 9 o'clock in the morning, go to work from 9:30 till 6:00 p.m., and start up again around seven to midnight. And it was all leading up to a degree, eventually, that I wanted to acquire at UCLA. So I was 15 when I enrolled in college and I earned my degree. By 18, I was accepted as a junior at UCLA. Again, with scheduling, because with UCLA the curriculum was a bit more rigid, so I took extension courses because they were more flexible with the hours because I was still filming on set. I took courses and I eventually graduated. It was one of my best experiences. To this day, I feel like I've reorientated a lot of my thinking based on the UCLA curriculum and how they teach certain literature and close-read material.
TCC: Would you advise other actors to take time to go back to school?
ML: Absolutely. I think as actors we need to close read scripts and we need to fully understand the intricacies of dialogue as well as the symbolisms of what the actor wears and what they hold in their hand because that only adds more layers to the character. I think going back to school, studying as much as you can, especially literature and close reading some of the most beautiful works. You can always apply that to acting. For me especially, I always need that literature medium. I need to be able to write a poem after every film and to kind of cleanse myself from the character because for about three months or so, I'm constantly living through the character's eyes. I'm thinking like the character in order to be as authentic as I can. But after a while, how would I be able to cleanse myself from this unless I do something that's a different medium but also creative. That's what I do. It's my little ritual. After every filming, I just write a poem about it and my character specifically and I can let her go.
TCC: It's a process. What was it like working with George Lopez?
ML: George was my earliest experience actually. One of the newest experiences I had in Hollywood because leading up to the George Lopez show I did a music video for Alanis Morissette, I did a JCPenny commercial, a multinational for Mexico and the U.S. And I did print work with Ben Affleck for, I believe for Variety magazine, for trade. So this was my very first big project. And I learned on set, on the site. Working with George showed me what it is to truly be authentic about your craft, and to base it on the many layers of one's history and one's past. And that's actually one thing that I admired about George. I learned a lot from him, specifically -- was how he was able to utilize whatever adversity he felt in his life and make it into a positive contribution to society. Before that, I was still new to the industry. I didn't know that that was possible. And then, being surrounded by people like Bruce Helford, the creator of the show, I mean, he's a titan of comedy. He's phenomenal. And to this day, I consider him my mentor. To be surrounded by these people, and to learn from the very beginning what it is to have work ethic, and how to cultivate your craft, this is an experience that I was blessed to have and I still carry it with me. They've really defined my path in the industry, as far as how I contribute. They've established that, this show.
TCC: Well, Sharknado is an incredibly popular series. What did you do when you got the call about starring in it?
ML: So it came 48 hours before they needed me on set. I didn't even know they were casting for it [chuckles] ... But they offered me the part. Within 48 hours, I was on set. And the character Gemini that I ended up playing, she was such a loose outline in the beginning, because it was so quick. It happened within two days, so that we didn't fully flesh her out yet. So the director and I, Anthony Ferrante, we sat down and we kind of built her along the way. And we filmed for about three weeks, and every single day, we brainstormed on who Gemini is, what her backstory is. We needed to build her from scratch, basically. And it was fun, because, initially, she was brought in as the family friend, who ends up joining the Shepard to Vegas. And then Anthony and I, the director, looked at each other like why would [chuckles] the Ian character go to Vegas with a family friend like her? So then we had to turn [chuckles] her into the babysitter of the boy, Finn. And then again, we're like why would Ian go to Vegas with the babysitter [chuckles]? I mean, we had to really work her out and eventually, she became a cousin, and I think that actually [chuckles] reflects my personal experiences on the movie because I feel like it was a family. I stepped into an already developed family unit and immediately, I felt welcome. So in some way, art reflects life in that way, and I'm glad that they make her a cousin actually.
TCC: You did your own stunts?
ML: I did my own stunts, and I would do it again. I liked it. But it was actually -- the producers came to me one day early on while we were within the first week of filming and they said, "By the way, we're going to have your character jump off the Stratosphere Hotel. It's about 855 feet but, obviously, you're not going to do it. So we'll just have a stunt double coordinate and everything. So don't worry about it. You won't do it." I said, "What do you mean, I won't do it? Why aren't you giving me the option to?" He said, "But you won't. You'll chicken out. There's no way." I said, "Of course, I will."
Of course, I'm that weird oddball that, if someone says you can't do it, I'm already contriving a way to make it happen just so I can establish that. So, of course, I'd been telling them, now, for about -- during filming for about two weeks, I'm like, "No, no. I will do it. I'm not even questioning it." And nobody believed me. The director didn't believe me, the producers and up until that last day at 4:00 a.m. when they needed my character to jump off, we still had the stunt double. The poor girl was standing there, waiting, all evening. And I told them, I said, "Guys, I don't think you believed me when I told you two weeks ago, every single day, that I would jump off, so here I am. Strap me in. Let me [chuckles] dive out."
And then the director, Anthony, said okay, all right, good. But you can't scream. And I'm like, "All right, as long as I'm not looking down, I'm fine." He's like, "No, no. We need you to look down. We need you to see the skyline, the Vegas skyline, before you dive in [laughter]." So you know what? 4 o'clock in the morning, you need to love what you do. We ended up doing it twice [laughter] and it was amazing [laughter].
TCC: You're doing a new project now?
ML: It's tentatively for Lifetime. It's a movie which I consider one of the most rewarding in my career because it's about healing and because of my past experiences as a child refugee, I always feel like it's not enough, like I always have to do more to contribute to society. And this is one of those films that I actually feel content that I've contributed, to some degree, in a positive way. Because my character endures so much and basically is saved. She is left for dead and she comes to after six months of coma -- doesn't have any recollection of who she is, what she is, what her likes and dislikes are and has amnesia. And it's basically her redeveloping herself, finding her identity again, finding a new name for herself, new friends, new family. And I think that a lot of people could relate to that to some degree. And if that's one way that I could offer some kind of healing to those people, then that's it. Then this has been one of the most rewarding experiences. And it's been rewarding for me emotionally, personally, too.
TCC: What's the name of it?
ML: Forgotten Evil.
TCC: Forgotten Evil. Okay. Are there any other stars in it that should be noted?
ML: We have some incredible actors, like the core cast and Anthony, the director. We're talking about it. We have three main cast. So we have the person who plays the love interest, Kyle McKeever, and we have Angie Dick who plays the best friend, the nurse who brings her in and kind of reorients her back into society. And Anthony Ferrante and I were discussing this, but if any one of the cast was weak in this, the whole movie would've fallen apart because these are the three core cast that were in. And, yes, it was amazing, but I'm kind of still releasing her from my system right now. So I'm still working out a poem to get rid of her [laughter].
TCC: So we're going to go into your scary zone right now. So you're a poet?
ML: Yes. Oh my gosh.
TCC: What is your poetry about?
ML: Oh, man. This particular book starts off where my last book ended as far as my age. I was about 16 when I released my last book, Drinking the Moon. So this collection starts off 17 years old up until now, actually. Up until last year at 29, 30 years old. And this whole swathe of time, it reflects on my loves, my identities and how they've shifted slowing based on experiences, my career. It talked about people in my career that mattered to me and sometimes I feel too transparent in my poetry, but that's what I think the beauty of poetry is, because as transparent as the author can be, it's usually only a reflection of what the reader can interpret, and based on their own personal experiences. So in that way, I feel safe. I felt it's vague enough for the reader to pull their own story and their wisdom out of the poem, but for me, it's actually very painfully transparent what I've written. Sometimes very literal, which is scary.
TCC: It is. After the interview, would you be able to send me a poem or two to include with the interview?
ML: Absolutely. Gladly, yeah.
TCC: Now, would you like to recite a poem now?
ML: Yeah, I could, definitely. There's always an added element of a poem when it's read aloud because then you can really hear the rhythm, and the cadence, and even the pronunciation sometimes adds another layer to the poem. But I've never actually read any of these poems aloud before, so it'll be interesting what comes out.
TCC: Good [chuckles]. As this is a written interview, it may not to translate as well in regards to formatting, but...
ML: Yeah, it's fine. Yeah, sure. So this one is actually -- let's see here. I can recite the first poem called Poets, and it basically sums up my philosophy on what a poet is and what their purpose is, how it's served. Here we go. First time.
Poets. We stalk the truth as poets, sensualists, a duality, limited insanity. We labor in our muse, carving alphabets of experience into our hearts. Bound in primal longings, we pine to be understood by ourselves. As poets, our lamentations are glorious, filled with the virtues angles would learn to envy. We fall in love forever many times, and many times we die. That's it.
TCC: That is very nice. Now, who are some poets that you admire?
ML: I've translated poems by Mother Teresa here, so she's the ultimate poet that -- I completely adore her. She's also Albanian. Her family lived in Tirana, the capital city where I was born in Albania, so I feel like there's a resonance there, and she knew by the time she was 12 years old that there was a purpose in her life and a certain path that she felt compelled to take. And starting my career at 12 years old, I can somewhat understand that. And she never saw her family again. Once she turned 18, that was it, and she just moved into a completely different path. And back in that time, it's unfathomable for a young girl to never see her family again. So she was such a strong, powerful force that I'm in awe of her. So she's my ultimate favorite poet, but in a traditional sense, I'd say Yusef Komunyakaa. He's American. He changed his name, but I always find his poems to be so restorative that whenever I feel in disarray I can read his poems and kind of be grounded back because he is so tangible. His words are so forceful, it kind of pulls you back into his reality and you're just kind of restored, to some degree. That's what I feel with his work.
TCC: I love the cadence of your language and your speech patterns.
ML: Oh, thank you.
TCC: I'm liking your vocabulary too, but I think the way that your turn of phrase makes you even sound like a poet when you're talking about normal things.
ML: That's what I think. That's the experience I've had growing up with many languages. I just don't know how to stitch words in a predictable way sometimes [laughter]. It's a weird instinct I've developed.
TCC: Well, a lot of people who are multi-lingual have that problem.
ML Yeah, exactly.
TCC: And I call it a problem, but it actually turns out to be a gift.
ML: If you're a poet it could be, maybe. I don't know.
TCC: Well, your book is going to be available in hard copy on the 19th. Can you please tell me about it?
ML: Absolutely. I think it's available on Amazon at the moment as well, but it'll be formally released on the 19th.
TCC: Is it a paperback or hard cover copy?
ML: It's paperback. I believe there are over 100 poems in here, actually. It's 106 pages, and it's my newest collection from the moment I was 17 until now. It covers that entire swatch of time.
TCC: Wow. One more thing on Mother Theresa. She just got canonized in the last year.
ML: I can't even tell you how excited I am. I love that.
TCC: Are you from a Catholic family?
ML: I'm actually very spiritual. I'm not religious, and I feel that has to do with me being uprooted so many times in my life that I've explored many religions and sentiments from many different families basically across the globe. So I can appreciate -- I participated in many different rituals, but for me, I'm very spiritual and I believe that there's definitely be a greater force that defines us and leads us. For sure. No question for me.
TCC: What is the title of your book?
ML: The Living Air.
TCC: And is it only poems, or is it also musings on life?
ML: These are only poems, with the exception of the translations of Mother Teresa's musings and prayers. And I've also translated poems of my -- I've written and translated my own poems from English to German. It's basically a summation of my identity as it stands now.
TCC: What are some Albanian holiday traditions?
ML: Oh gosh. I was so young when I left, but I know that there's this one Albanian myth that's always reflected on, and I think it reflects on the actual core culture. That myth is called The Besa. B-E-S-A. The Besa is a word that Albanians use to mean avow, but it's such a strong promise, that even past death, one cannot break that promise. It is unfathomable. So if you give someone your besa, life or death, heaven or hell, you have to fulfill that besa.
ML: Yeah. It's very strong, and I think that's the core value of Albanians as far as believing in their word and their culture and their identity. And I actually wrote a novel about it. So I wrote it. It's called The Besa, and it's about a family and how a young son, he needs to fulfill his promise even beyond the grave. And it's considered impossible, but he finds a way through living. Yeah. That was another way I wanted to bridge the Albanian culture into the American society. Another way that I wanted to contribute to American society and say thank you, basically. I'm alive because of you. Anything that I can do to contribute, I would [laughter].
TCC: What is that book called? That was called The Besa?
ML: That's called The Besa, yes.
TCC: How could people find that?
ML: That one isn't published yet. It is a completed manuscript, and I may be working with a publisher on this very soon. I'm very excited about this book.
TCC: Here's a fun one. How did you meet your husband?
ML: Okay. So one of my very close friends, Jessica, she had three contenders for me. In true contemporary form, she decided that there were three potential suitors she absolutely needed to introduce me to. And she described the first one -- my husband's name is Ramzi. So she described the first one as saying that this is her husband's best friend, Adam. You should fall in love with him. I want you to be together. She's like, "The second one is Ramzi. If I wasn’t with my boyfriend, I would totally date Ramzi." And the third one, "He's on the prowl. I don't trust him, but if you want to give it a shot, let me know, but I don't trust him [laughter]." And I immediately -- I mean I love her. She's been my close friend now for nearly a decade -- I said, "Fine, let's meet with Ramzi."
That was it, and then within the first date, I knew. I don't know how I knew, but I knew he would be my husband, and a part of me for the rest of my life. And that was it. The first date led to always being on the phone or calling or texting every single day. So five years later, there was not one day that passed that we hadn't communicated on a daily basis.
TCC: When did you get married?
ML: Three years ago. And it was a six-month engagement, and the wedding was in New Zealand. It was just family. It was ten people, but it was exactly how we wanted it. It was a vacation for everyone.
TCC: Nice. Do you have kids?
ML: Not yet. And nothing has a routine right now in our life. We're just still trying to build our time and -- maybe soon, though. Who knows [chuckles]?
TCC: Good luck on that. It seems like work, creative, home, and philanthropic life balance is important to you. How do you balance those items?
ML: I think finding and building and sustaining a routine is probably for us, the bedrock of our relationship. I find a way to make sure that we either have breakfast together or at least dinner. One or the other needs to exist on a daily basis [if we're both in the States?]. And then he also comes on set for each filming. It's like a ritual. He'll come for one day for the entire filming. But at least that kind of puts us in the same wavelength of understanding of what's happening in our lives.
And in this, we've learned to have even the most difficult conversations. We don't parse them. We don't mince words. We have very difficult conversations but in a very nurturing way which makes any conversation manageable. I think the more difficult sometimes, the more healing and the more restorative for a relationship, at least for us. But definitely routine is the bedrock of our relationship.
TCC: And what does he do for a living, if you don't mind my asking?
ML: No, sure. He's in finance. He works at a hedge fund.
TCC: Do you find it difficult to be married to someone who's in such a different career path than you?
ML: I feel it's a -- what's the word? It makes me feel like I'm growing because his logic and my logic aren't exactly synced. Because as a poet and as an actress, we're taught to be far more elaborate with our words and -- I wouldn't say generalize, but definitely stronger with our choices. It's been instilled in me to always use the words always, or never, or -- because it's a stronger choice for words. And for him, he's very analytical. He's very precise and specific for his craft for his work, and he's always correcting me and making sure that we're kind of on the same wavelength. And through him I've grown a lot and I've seen a different world through analytics that I could not have explored in my creative path. And I think he's learned a lot from me as well, being more creative with his words and with his perspective as well. I've been able to kind of show different versions of a reality for him in our current situation, and I think he appreciates that, actually. So definitely we've helped each other in our shortcomings [chuckles].
TCC: What do you like to do for fun?
ML: I love to cook. Before marrying Ramzi I didn't even know how to boil water. I was genuinely suspicious that there needed to be something else besides water and fire, like there needed to be salt or something to make it boil. I just had no idea. So I took it upon myself, marrying Ramzi -- another growth spurt -- that I would cook one new meal every single day for a year. Just to try it out. And it had to be international, it couldn't just be the same standard meals that we're used to eating every day. And it worked. I feel like that's what I do to decompress. If I'm not writing a poem to decompress from my experiences on a movie set, I usually just cook and it's like meditative. Especially since I'm at the stage now where I don't really use measuring cups. Kind of instinctual, I just kind of prepare my own dishes as I go along. And Ramzi has been kind enough to complement every dish, even when it's burnt, so I appreciate that [chuckles]. That's always good.
TCC: What are some of your favorites that you like to cook?
ML: We're very health oriented, so I love cauliflower, stir so it tastes just like rice with the right seasoning. You can't even tell the difference. It feels lighter once you completely eat it, but it's cauliflower, rice, stir fry. I love making pizza with cauliflower dough. Again, can't taste the difference once you add enough ingredients [chuckles].
TCC: Do you make any Albanian recipes?
ML: The Albanian recipes have a lot of rice and a lot of potatoes and fried food, so not necessarily. It's not something that we tend to eat right now, but I love the yogurt. They have such fresh, pure food. Like, they have just vegetables with yogurt. My mom makes this amazing little snack that, to this day, I still think about. It's pita bread wrapped with melted butter, feta cheese, and cucumbers. That, to me, is still heaven. It's my childhood.
TCC: Can you please tell me some of the charities that you support?
ML: Absolutely. I was the ambassador of the World Assembly of Youth, which is a UN-sanctioned organization that helps children in various countries through the government and through the grassroots as well. So they attempt to impact laws that benefit children, whether it's safety, health, education, full spectrum. Over 20 causes. And I was able to travel to these locations because my soft spot with charities that I've been impacted by is physically being there, meeting the children. Another cause that has truly reshaped my identity to some degree is Sentebale. I was asked to be the ambassador for two years at Sentebale, which is charity. And again, visiting the children in Lesotho, Africa and experiencing their world and their reality with them. I took me about like three years afterwards for me to stop tearing up every time I talked about my experiences. These children are just -- I've never seen such happiness emanate from kids who have absolutely nothing.
TCC: So do you have some charity work that you're going to be continuing doing in the next few months?
ML: Yes, there is some. I work with UncommonGood, and UncommonGood is a cause that works specifically in Southern California among immigrant families and they work with the whole family unit. They provide mentorship for the children to go to college -- about 100 percent of their kids actually attend college despite their circumstances. And then the parents are offered jobs and -- one thing specifically is if the parents want to work as farmers, they're taught how to grow organic produce. And it's kind of a self-sustaining charity that helps an entire family unit. Again, it's one of those causes that my soft spot -- working directly with the families and meeting them and talking to them. These kids are phenomenal, I've taught them poetry. We've had sessions, and their first poems blew mine out of the water. So, they were great.
TCC: What's something you haven't done yet that you want to do?
ML: Skydive. Skydive for sure [chuckles]. Gosh. What else? I feel like I try not to limit myself. So every experience so far, I've just gone headlong into. I was asked to dive off the Stratosphere, for Sharknado, off the Stratosphere Hotel. And yeah, I did it. So I can check that off.
TCC: And you did it twice.
ML: Twice. Yes. So, I'm trying to think, what have I resisted and regret resisting? I can't think of anything yet, but I'm sure it will come up.
TCC: Is there a place you haven't traveled to yet that you want to travel to?
ML: Oh, my gosh. Oh, goodness. I've been to Asia, but I'd love to go to Thailand. I'd love to go to some rural areas in China. That's the best part about being an actor though. One of the rewarding aspects of it is you're actually traveling in parts of the world that one wouldn't necessarily go to just because it's so far removed, but also like even beyond the metropolitan areas. You're in the woods. I remember my favorite experience was filming in Macedonia in Skopje. And we went into the countryside, and it was stunning. They had one of the original stone carved seats for astronauts to gaze up for the very first astronauts in the region where they could look up in the sky and cosmologists just kind of measure the star. And they still have that seat carved out of stone in the mountains. It's like where else can you see this unless you're forced into these environments through acting or through some kind of creative element. It was beautiful.
TCC: You seem like you live an interesting life. You don’t seem to let yourself get bored.
ML: You know, we have such a finite amount of hours on this planet, and there is just no excuse for living a mundane, predictable life in life. Just go for it. We're renting the space that we call Earth, so we may as well just go for it.