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.