Tillsonburg's Azucena steps into the spotlight

Article content

Wouldn't it be cool to be 'that' kid? The one on the TV show or in the commercial?

That was the question Tillsonburg's Mahriana Azucena was asked last winter.

Why not audition with Premiere for a youth showcase that might actually lead to an acting or modelling career?

"My mother encouraged me, she said this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said 11-year-old Mahriana. "Usually I like to try new things, I find it fun and it's a good thing to do. I was confident I could do it. I said, 'I'm going to put Tillsonburg on the map.'"

At the same time, she recognized the enormity of the task, travelling to Toronto to earn a chance to attend a Premiere showcase in Florida. Established in 2009 to showcase actors, singers, dancers and models between the ages of 5-20, Premiere is known as a kickstarter for entertainment careers.

"It's a huge thing to be talking about and a lot of kids go there. There was over 1,800 kids (auditioning in Toronto) and only 40 got picked to go to Disney."

"She's very outgoing, very talkative," said her mom. "She doesn't need approval from anybody, she'll do what she wants to do. And she's super brave."

"I never imagined that just one day it would happen, just like that," said Mahriana. "Got it, boom, we're going. I never imagined that I would get into something like this."

Mahriana recalled two Toronto auditions on back-to-back days.

"One to separate people, and then you really go in depth in the second stage - you use props. We had chips and they said 'keep going with your lines.' So you have to read your lines, but you also have to focus on what he was doing and kind of play along.

"He kind of spit chips in my face," Mahriana laughed. "Then he gave me chips after, so it was kind of win-win."

"To see their reaction, I guess," said her father, Donnie Azucena. "At first I thought, 'Oh my gosh I'm going to lose it... but she didn't really look at us. She just kept going. And I think that's what they wanted to see."

"They say comedy's the hardest," said Nancy. "Drama is easier."

She auditioned for comedy, drama, soap opera, sitcom, commercials and one-liners, which Mahriana said, "is just plain jokes but you had fun with it anyway.

"You could read it off the paper, but I think some of the older kids actually memorized it. I read it."

On the second day, with about 60 per cent eliminated, they were divided into groups of 20-30 to read.

"They'd call your name, you go up and present your monologue, and you sit back down. I was the first both days actually."

The January 2017 auditions led to an opportunity to attend a mid-August Premiere function, held every summer and winter at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, to showcase talent from 13 countries - less than 500 out of the 75,000-plus international applicants - in front of dozens of agents, managers, record labels and casting directors.

Mahriana did five monologues - six including the 'one-liners.'

"It's to show your preparation. And 'this is me' - if you're interested, you give me a call-back. I was saying, 'well, you only need one call-back' and that basically just starts everything. So I got one call-back and it was from Refinery Artists (Management)."

Based in Vancouver, Refinery Artists has a 'sister' company in Los Angeles (Velocity Entertainment Partners). She was asked to send a video, which will be used to gauge interest.

"We might have to travel to Los Angeles or Vancouver to meet with them again," said Donnie.

Interest from industry professionals also means she needs to develop a presence on social media, which will be managed by her parents - something they just started.

"I don't have any, except for Instagram (@mahrianaazucena)," she said, noting she picked up 30 followers on her first day.

Her parents planned to start her Facebook account, which they would also manage.

"I didn't allow it before, just because we're very aware of what's going on with kids these days," said Nancy.

"They specifically told us that at Premiere, kids shouldn't be running their own social media," said Donnie. "I was happy with that, that the kids are not allowed to... they said kids shouldn't be managing their stuff."

Acting and modelling agencies, however, do monitor how much support they get from their hometown, from their friends and family, which means aggressively branching out.

"It's huge," said Donnie. "Some professionals, some industries, that's what they want. They want someone that has a lot of followers."

"They think of it something like how the kids think of it," Mahriana nodded. "If you've got more followers, you're somewhat 'famous.'"

Mahriana got to meet some of the industry stars while in Florida.

"We got to meet a bunch of celebrities and it was so much fun! We got to meet Miranda May (Bunk'd) Kayla Maisonet (Stuck in the Middle), JJ Totah (Spider Man) - I can never remember his last name - and a bunch of other kids. You basically meet new people and I'm always open to seeing new people.

"My schedule was really booked. There was a lot of practice, and some fun things like Improv classes. The dance party was fun when all the celebrities got up and danced with you. And I met a lot of people from all over the world which is really, really cool. We also got to do a couple fun things like go to Epcot."

She found that once she tried a monologue, she wasn't nervous.

"I still like being the centre of attention," she smiled. "It was really fun actually, I thought it was more fun than 'nervous.' And that's the main thing you want to do - have fun. They pretty much said, 'if you're coming here because you want to be famous, rich and all that, you are NOT going to get it. So they can tell what you're like up there, your personality. This is presenting yourself. So you put all your hard work and your effort into those monologues."

In a way, acting runs in the family. Mahriana's grandfather was in cowboy movies 'way back in the day', including a John Wayne movie.

"Her (Nancy's) dad did a lot of cowboy movies back in Mexico," Donnie noted. "But she gets her comedy from me," he added with a laugh.

"We've always encouraged our kids to do what they really want to do. She's played football, she's doing judo, so she's busy."

A volunteer at Darkin Riding Stables near Vienna, Mahriana spent some of her free time tending horses and helping saddle up children.

"They love here there," said Nancy. "It's a huge passion for her."

"And in return, instead of getting paid, we get to ride the horses," said Mahriana. "It's fun."

She tried to join Tillsonburg Teen Theatre this summer, but was not allowed due to her age, so she joined the Theatre Summer Camp for children 5-12.

"It was so much fun - I like being the centre of attention," she said, hoping to get into Teen Theatre next summer.

She also plays piano, taking lessons from Dianne Clark, but mostly she wants to focus on acting, and some modelling.

After discovering her talent, reaction in her hometown so far has ranged from 'wow, cool!' to 'I don't believe you...'

Mahriana responded with, "'Ok, well maybe you'll see when I get bigger in this...' Even if they hate on me, I'll just keep doing my thing, let them be."

There is a realization that in most cases - if it happens at all - it doesn't happen overnight.

"I may have a long way to go, but I'm going to work hard and do my best, and that's all I can ask for," Mahriana summed up. "I'd rather take it slow. Fast things, they don't last long. But things that you work for last a while. Step by step, that's what is going to make me better at this stuff. Even if I just get into a commercial that's still going to kickstart something.

"So you work hard, put all your effort into it, and you'll get somewhere. And I know that I'll eventually get somewhere." 


This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

News Near Tillsonburg

This Week in Flyers