Lyft’s guide to the transportation revolution

Meet Your Driver: Emmanuel Malette

Emmanuel Malette - Jun 6, 2023
Meet Your Driver: Emmanuel Malette
Illustration by María Jesús Contreras

For our “Meet Your Driver” series, Rev asked several Lyft drivers to write about their lives, in their words. These are their stories.

When I was 13, I started taking dance lessons with my cousin. She led a group at our church that put on performances. It was my first time dancing, and I sucked at it. I was a hot mess. But I didn’t know that. I would record myself dancing, and I would look at the videos and be like, “Yeah, that was good.” Then I would post them online. Now, when I go back and watch them, I’m like, “Whoa, I posted this online? What was I thinking?”

I loved it, though. Dancing distracted me from the pain of my parents’ divorce. It also helped me build confidence. I was a shy kid. I was bullied as well. When I danced, I just felt so alive. 

I kept dancing all the way through high school. I also got into acting. The school I went to had theater classes. After our first performance, the teacher had us write out how we thought we did. I ripped myself apart in my critique. But my teacher said, “What are you talking about? You’re great on stage.” Those few words were the catalyst that helped me to really start to believe in myself as a performer. I don’t think I would have acted again had she not said that.

When I went to college, I had to make a choice of whether I was going to be a dance major or a theater major. I chose dance. A few years after I graduated, I moved to Atlanta to pursue a dance career. 

I started to miss acting. So toward the end of 2020, I signed up for acting classes. I learned so much and just fell in love with it. By the end of my second class, I broke down and cried because of how much I wanted to grow and get better, and I hadn’t realized that that fire for acting was so present. 

I trained for the first part of 2021, and then I started going to auditions. One time, I was booked for a role that required me to cry. I was so worried about that. I was like, “Oh, my god. I don’t know if I can do that.” When I got on set, I told myself, “Look, I’m just going to be fully present in the moment, and I’m going to let whatever happens happen.” And then when action was called, I was in it, and the tears started happening. The emotions were firing off on all cylinders. It just really defeated a limited belief system that I had about myself, that I wasn’t emotionally available as an actor, that I wouldn’t be able to give my roles what they needed. That was huge for me. As a man — dare I say, an African American man — it’s tough to really feel safe to express your emotions without judging yourself or fear of judgment from those around you.

My ultimate goal is to be an Oscar-level actor. I want roles where I can be pushed. I want to do things that are uncomfortable for me. I do have a dream of being a superhero, though. That would be cool.

I do something every day to work on my craft. I’m going to acting class. I’m going to the gym. I’m going to the basketball courts and working on my skills just in case I want to be able to play a character that plays basketball. I’m going to auditions — typically, I get about three a week. I still dance. I use it as a special skill to support my acting, meaning I market myself as an actor that can dance. On top of all that, I substitute teach, drive for Lyft, and also have a girlfriend. 

I post a lot of videos on social media. One was me showing my life on a day-to-day — doing Lyft and acting and dancing and visiting my girlfriend. It went viral. That was not the plan. I really just wanted to show people: “This is a part of the grind. This is a part of the journey.” The video really resonated with so many people. That’s something I appreciate. I want to inspire people on their journeys with my journey. I want them to know, “Hey, it’s OK for things not to look perfect.”