Lights, camera, action: 9-year-old Saskatoon performer catching attention of Hollywood agents
Ayla Pearson brought home 5 trophies from Toronto talent competition
A young member of Saskatchewan's Little Pine First Nation has made some big steps toward breaking into the acting world.
Ayla Pearson, 9, who lives in Saskatoon, brought home five trophies from the Canadian Model and Talent Convention in Toronto over the weekend.
"I'm just really happy," said the Grade 4 student. "I'm very proud of myself."
The CMTC involves a variety of singing, dancing, acting and modelling competitions. Ayla entered hoping to capture the attention of film, modeling and advertising agents.
Among 300 peers, she won awards in the commercial casting and TV casting categories, which are set up to resemble actual auditions. She also took home awards in the self-tape category, in which performers record themselves performing a pre-selected script, and cover modelling category, for which competitors submit one photo to showcase their magazine cover potential.
She also took first place in the competition's overall 8-11 division.
Ayla said during the competitions, she performed both with scripts and improvising.
"I like it because it's a way of expressing myself, being in the moment and just doing it," she said.
Ayla, whose family moved to Saskatoon from Whitehorse in 2014, started taking dance classes when she was three. Her first acting experience came during a Saskatoon Summer Players production of Annie when she was seven.
She has modelled in local campaigns and is a member of the Saskatchewan Express musical theatre company.
"My husband and I say that Ayla was born an entertainer," said her mother, Lana Wickstrom. "I think that she was singing before she left the crib and she was probably dancing before she was running.
"This source of entertainment inside of her has always been a significant part of how she's shown up in the world."
So far, she says 18 agencies from Toronto, New York and L.A. have been in touch.
"The continuous feedback that we would get is she's the whole package — she is able to sing and dance and act, she has confidence, she has the ability to articulate herself," said Wickstrom.
"We can see in her eyes when she walks out and she takes the stage that she wants it, and that she's self-driven.
"I think that's a huge part of what they're looking for in a lot of these young performers is whether or not it's them that wants it or someone else."
Ayla said the competition was a good experience, and one she thinks will better her chances of having an acting career.
"I want to go further and I want to be famous doing it," she said. "If I could do anything, I would want to be in movies and on Netflix and stuff."
Wickstrom and her husband have two other children, but she said they have decided they would be willing to travel to help Ayla meet with agents, and are hoping to get her a working visa in the U.S.
"I think we would be 110 per cent supportive if she was able to secure something even at this age, because it is a burning passion inside of her that is much bigger than any hesitation or reservation that I have," Wickstrom said.
"Our next steps are continuing with the singing and the dancing and looking for more opportunities locally, nationally, internationally for her to be on a stage."