For some, COVID-19 stay at home orders brought time to catch up on TV watch lists, start a hobby or learn a language. Vanessa Van Deusen, 12, decided to use the time to pursue her dream of being an actress.
Vanessa has always enjoyed the spotlight in one form or another, either through her competitive baton twirling at Lynnette’s Twirlerettes, modeling opportunities that arose through that or creating skits on Tik Tok.
“I’ve always liked being in front of a camera. I’m always filming videos and doing goofy stuff, which is what you’re doing with acting and modeling. It was just fun and interesting,” said Vanessa, who lives in Carbondale.
Last May, Vanessa’s mother, Lynnette Lepre-Van Deusen was scrolling through social media when she saw an advertisement for a free casting call with Talent Auditions, a company focused on preparing children for careers in the performing arts, in her daughter’s age group.
“There was nothing going on at home, so I thought ‘what do I have to lose?’ and signed her up,” said Lynnette, the owner of and instructor at Lynnette’s Twirlerettes.
When Lynnette told Vanessa about the audition, the 6th grader at LaSalle Academy could not contain her excitement.
“I was bouncing off the walls,” said Vanessa.
The casting call took place on June 20, which gave Vanessa and her mom about a month to prepare and rehearse the short commercial script sent to Vanessa.
On the day of the audition, Vanessa was on a Zoom conference with 1,000 other kids, vying for a chance to make it big. From there, everyone in the call was split into groups of 250. A talent scout watched as each candidate in the group recited the script.
After several auditions, Vanessa was chosen as one of 75 other potential actors to participate in a showcase to ultimately choose 12 actors to attend iPop, another showcase where performers from around the globe audition for casting directors and talent agencies.
As Vanessa continued to move up in each of these auditions, she felt a mixture of excitement and nerves each time around.
“You don’t know what you’re in for, but that’s what makes it exciting,” said Vanessa.
Vanessa was chosen to attend iPop in January 2022. She’s already been contacted and signed a contract by two talent agencies, Acquire Entertainment Group, based in Los Angeles and New York City, and MMG, based in New York City.
“While we’ve been sitting here in the winter through COVID, we’ve been very busy,” said Lynette.
Part of Vanessa’s success throughout this journey has come from her background in baton twirling and the skills she has acquired for the past nine years, including good posture, self-confidence and public speaking.
“It [baton] has helped me with my presentation in front of people,” said Vanessa.
So far, Vanessa has auditioned for commercials for major brand names, including Under Armour and Nike. She has also auditioned for a short film and two voiceovers, and is waiting to hear back about those roles.
“The industry is always auditioning for new things, you might get a call back and you might not, it’s about keeping that motivation and trying until you get parts, until you get accepted,” said Vanessa.
Much of the experience for Vanessa, though, has been exhilarating.
“I like the challenges; I like going places, traveling and meeting new people. I’m just going where this takes me,” said Vanessa.
Lynnette has also felt the fun in this journey as well, but also recognizes the demands this industry has for both her and her daughter.
“When these opportunities come up for auditions, there are deadlines set on those. We’re juggling everyday life while trying to find time to do these auditions and do them correctly. It’s not always a one shot and done, it’s a work in progress,” said Lynnette.
Vanessa has received a ton of support from her parents. Her father, Jesse Van Deusen, has helped Vanessa with each of her auditions, practiced lines with her and attended interviews with casting agents. Lynnette has kept everything organized and is doing her best to learn the ins and outs of this industry.
“It’s very exciting and it’s interesting to learn something that you’re not familiar with. It keeps you on your toes, but it’s exciting to hear that your child keeps getting picked and people want to further connections with her. It’s a great feeling,” said Lynnette.
Right now, most of Vanessa’s work has centered on commercials and smaller shows. The 11-year-old has dreams one day acting in a movie or a sitcom.
“I have to work my way up, though. Right now, I’m just getting my name out there.” said Vanessa.