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Larissa Laurel on Discovering her "True North"

May 20, 2011 - Careers

Larissa Laurel

The road less traveled is often the best way to reach your destination.

From performing on stage, television and in national commercials, to finding success as a model, AMDA alum Larissa Laurel discovered her ‘true north’ in the bright lights of New York City.

What was your experience like as a student at AMDA?

It was boot camp for musical theater. I was a sponge back then because I didn’t have the benefit of attending a performing arts high school in Corpus Christi [Texas], where I grew up. Fortunately, at AMDA I was able to study with Brian Aschinger, who gave me the confidence I needed. One day he pulled me aside and told me I can do this, I just needed to decide which path I wanted to take. And I knew exactly what he meant. I was a young character actress with a large vocal range, but my voice hadn’t yet matured so I was going to have to carve out a very specific niche to accomplish my goals. He believed in me, and AMDA believed in me. AMDA did a great job at letting my parents know that it takes time with this type of career. I have been so thankful that AMDA helped my parents understand that.

What are some of the benefits of studying in New York?

I had never visited New York, but I knew that I was meant to be here! Studying here got me acclimated to the city, which was definitely a culture shock. It taught me that if you can be a student and succeed with all the distractions New York City has to offer, you’re off to a fabulous start. AMDA offers a great home base where you can rehearse, take advantage of the facilities and be surrounded by other like-minded individuals. Some of the best teachers in the world are right here. And when you graduate, you’re already in the city, so you can begin working right away. Just being in New York inspires me every day.

What other experiences helped shape you since graduating from AMDA?

I was a founding member of The Glamazons from 2000–2004. We were the first plus-size burlesque song-and-dance troupe to become a national sensation. The whole downtown and underground scene back then was so welcoming and encouraging. I learned to work a crowd and how to walk into a room with confidence. I now have many layers of my personality that I can tap when creating a character or bringing a song to life.

What are you working on now?

My first love is theater, but after getting my first taste of TV I was hooked. I’ve since worked on several independent films, web series, industrials, commercials and TV shows, including Celebrity Ghost Stories. I also have a main role on a horror/sci-fi web series called Haywire. I support myself financially by being a plus-size model. I was working as an agent’s assistant for a modeling agency when the owner walked out, looked at me and sent me on a go-see. I booked my very first job, and now I’m considered one of the top plus-size models in New York. The term actor/model was something I never thought I would use, but I’m a true believer in keeping your options open. I did, and it’s been a truly amazing and blessed adventure.

What advice do you have for current students?

Play, play, play! And be uncomfortable. School is the time to get out of your comfort zone, so let your teachers guide you into something unfamiliar. Just because you think you’ll probably never book a certain type of role out in the real world doesn’t mean you can’t explore it. If you feel you aren’t being challenged, speak up! And be open in both heart and mind. Some of the bonds you make at school will be with you forever. So nurture each other.

How about advice for recent graduates?

Stay focused, but be open. It sounds like an easy concept, but it’s actually difficult. You will need your survival jobs, so learn what you need from those but don’t lose faith in your reason for being here. You never know what can come to you when you truly open yourself up. I found a way to support my acting by doing something that complements it. If I had been laser-focused on acting and scoffed at the idea of modeling, I wouldn’t have had the flexibility to find my true north.