Many children with dreams of a career in show business are quickly shut down by those who perceive the path as unrealistic or unfruitful.
Not so for Amanda Linwood, who is entering the eighth grade at Chehalis Middle School this year. She’s had a mother who supported her dreams since Amanda began dancing at the Southwest Washington Dance Center at age 3.
Amanda’s resume includes theater, dancing in the Nutcracker and getting into the final five of the Little Miss Friendly competition.
“I would always get a lot of people, when she was up on stage, thinking that she’s got a great stage presence and she’s going to be a really good dancer and we can see it in her,” said her mother Teresa about when Amanda first started dancing. “We were at the mall one day. I think she was 8 and there was dancers and some models and some acting tidbits up on a stage and she was like, ‘I want to do that.’ And we kind of saved to get to there.”
Amanda cut her teeth on stage in “Annie Jr.” at the Evergreen Playhouse a few years back, where she played an orphan. The kids got to be involved in every piece of the musical’s production, from costumes to prop-making. To fit the role of the unkempt child, she rubbed coffee in her hair to mimic dirt.
Her love for that experience inspired Amanda’s next move: A 10-week course in acting with “NYLA Talent,” after which she was invited to attend iPOP2021, a conference in Orlando, Florida. The course allows up-and-coming talents to learn and practice their skills before an audience of potential agencies.
She spent the nine months leading up to the conference in a Zoom training course. Every Saturday from 3 to 5:30 p.m., Amanda and her cohort practiced modeling, acting, dancing or singing. Obviously, practicing a skill you mean to showcase in front of a crowd while technically alone in your room can’t prepare you completely, but the conference had several workshops before performances.
“For the modeling, there was this big runway with judges all along the runway and judges at the end of the runway. And I’m like, ‘that’s a lot of judges,’” Amanda said. “Once I got up there I was like, kind of nervous but then it all just went away.”
Teresa could see that instant shift in Amanda’s confidence as she peeked through the cracks in the door for a glimpse of her daughter’s performance.
“There’s 650 kids in this whole iPOP convention and say there’s a hundred kids in her age group doing this one, say she’s up for commercial auditions, you’re all lined up in that one little room together and so you kind of get to play off the energy of the person in front of you, watching mistakes,” Teresa said. “She nailed it. It was like a totally different kid up there.”
Amanda received four “callbacks,” the industry term for offers to sign on with an agency. She decided to go with a Los Angeles-based agency, 90210Talent.
Since then, she’s been training in various acting skills to prepare for her breakthrough gig. Both the agency and her mother are in the search of Amanda’s first job. She suggested it might be a commercial, but her ultimate dream would be to one day act in action or science-fiction films.
Prior to her conference experience she had never modeled, but the confidence she gained had a lasting impact on Amanda, even after coming off the runway.
“It was my first year modeling this year and I think I did pretty good for that. Because you don’t have to memorize anything,” she said.
Financing her budding stardom is one major hurdle, but Teresa took to crowd-sourcing via Facebook to fund Amanda’s trip to Orlando. And the pandemic has made this year an especially challenging time to break into entertainment. Because of some medical issues, she has opted to hold off on getting the COVID-19 vaccine, so she is only applying to local gigs for now.
“We’re kind of on hold for going to California or Texas, Florida. … But Seattle is crazy for the Hollywood market. It’s unbelievable what is actually in your own backyard,” Teresa said.
Despite the challenges, the process of getting to where she is today has already been rewarding for Amanda. She said she has made friends and discovered herself along the way.
After being asked what makes her most proud, she said: “That I’ve made it this far.”