SYTYCD Star Melinda Sullivan: “Rejection is a Huge Part of the Industry”

Last week, Melinda Sullivan, 22, became the third contestant to be eliminated from the seventh season of FOX’s smash hit, So You Think You Can Dance. The Colombian tap dancer from Thousand Oaks, California spoke to about her experience on the show, the harsh criticism she got from the judges and what she’ll miss most:

Tell us about your experience on So You Think You Can Dance.
It was amazing and it was a rollercoaster. I went into the competition because I wanted to get more exposure for tap dance and I wanted to grow as a person and an artist. I pushed myself harder than I’ve ever pushed myself—physically, mentally and emotionally—and I’m proud of the work I’ve done and how much I’ve grown. I’m very grateful for the whole journey.

How did it feel getting such harsh criticism from the judges last week?
Obviously, harsh criticism never feels great, but I didn’t really feel sad at all. I’ve been a professional performer since I was 15 and I know that rejection is a huge part of being in the entertainment industry, which is why a lot of people can’t handle it. I also realize that this is a television show, so sometimes their comments can come out a little more dramatic than how they feel personally. It was what it was, but I’m not going to remember the experience by those comments.

Did you agree with what the judges said?
I think every bit of criticism has a bit of truth in it, but one of the things they said was that I don’t connect with people. I believe that, in general—when I do meet people and when I’m dancing— that I am someone who connects with people from all walks of life. That’s something that has always been important to me, to treat everybody the same whether they’re a millionaire or a bum on the street.

After your performance, Mia Michaels said: "Everyone's going to hate me for this…I feel like we made a mistake last week by letting [Cristina Santana] go." Do you think it was unfair of her to say that?
I don’t think this competition is about being fair. It’s a popularity contest. At the end of the day, it’s not America’s best dancer—it’s America’s favorite dancer. It wasn’t nice to hear that because I don’t like it when we’re compared to each other. We’re all unique and we’re all special and I love Cristina—I didn’t want to see her go either, but that’s the name of the game and each of us leaves at some point.

What’s next for you?
In addition to dancing, I act, and I want to continue pursuing that. So I just moved back to LA from New York so that I could go back to the audition scene. In a couple of weeks, I’ll be reunited with the other contestants for the finale performance [on SYTYCD], which is going to be so much fun!