Determined to challenge the status quo with films and psychology

Maddie Smith-Ledford 3When I was a sophomore in high school, I had the pleasure of participating in a psychology seminar. In the comprehensive study of psychology in Colorado, we learned basic neuroscience and structure and created experiments to test perception in rats. I immediately fell in love with the study of the brain. It was both humbling and invigorating, and I knew I wanted to continue my work in psychology. I also was actively involved in theater throughout high school. Acting became my escape–an outlet to safely release frustration and joy, and to entertain others.
I had always known that I didn’t want to be stuck in a normal job. I wanted the excitement of acting with the art of psychology. When I reached college, my life took a drastic change. I entered my first acting class feeling confident that I could compete with the other aspiring artists, however, I was stopped in my tracks. Most of the people enrolled in the program identified as wealthy white students, which I was not. They trained leading ladies to focus on becoming dashing heroines. I didn’t fit this. I’m Hispanic, curvy, and I had no wish to be a leading lady. I’m a character actor, and more often than not, I play male characters. I knew that I would never have a chance in the program to succeed–not in classical training. I still wanted to act, but I felt robbed of diversity.
I changed to film for my sophomore year of college, and I realized that I could facilitate that diversity. The movie industry of late has been opening up to a more diverse range of actors, far more than classical theater. I knew that if I couldn’t experience that diversity as an actress, I could create it for others. With a degree in film and psychology, I long to create films that threaten the status quo of film diversity. I want to promote films that deal with marginalized races, genders, and other identities. I want the voice that I couldn’t get through classical acting to appear more readily for audiences through my movies. With psychology, I could make them realistic.
I want to make a difference in the world by giving voices to those who aren’t leading ladies. I want people to be comfortable in their skin, and by changing the media, I want to give kids role models beyond what is now accepted.
We are proud to announce Madeleine Smith-Ledford is one of the current LatPro Scholarship finalists. Vote for her essay (Facebook ‘Like’ and other social media sharing options in left column) and/or leave comments of support to help us with the selection process.

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  • Madz, simply put, is phenomenal. She is a force to be reckoned with.
    I had the honor and delight of directing her this Spring in the university of Arizona’s production of The Vagina Monologues. Madz was the first to audition, and we wanted to cast her in every role.
    I feel that this fact is very topical to her essay. The Monologues are about carving out a space for women that don’t necessarily fit those stereotypes she discussed. The point of the show is that even if your femininity and womanhood aren’t defined by magazines, that’s okay! You exist and we welcome you with open arms. Madz exemplifies those ideals, and I know her future will be awash with the diversity that is so badly needed in theatre.

  • Maddie, this is a fabulously written piece, and I am so with you on bringing the marginalized front and center and creating space for diversity in the field of films. You are a gifted person, and it’s been such an honor to get to know you. You’re utterly deserving of the scholarship. I love how you’ve identified your purpose through your struggles! Can’t wait to see what brilliant things you create with your keen mind and accepting heart. Best of luck, love.

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