Alana Cavanaugh: A Fresh Path through Acting, Music, and Middle School

"You have to keep the dream and the hard work in front of you. You need to work for it--it won’t just come to you. You have to push through and enjoy it." Alana Cavanaugh

Bright, sparkling eyes and a dusting of freckles introduce you to beautiful, 13-year-old actress and musician Alana Cavanaugh. Even as a toddler, Alana enjoyed performing. According to Mom, Helene, as soon as Alana could hold a microphone, she was giving impromptu concerts and singing her heart out.

At around three years old, Alana realized that there were some people who got to be on the Disney Channel and have a "real" life. "She asked me how a girl in a magazine got to be there and on the Disney Channel," says Helene. "I explained that the girl was an actress. Alana said, 'I want to do that!' I put her off for two more years, but she never lost interest in becoming an actress. At five, we began to pursue her career."

Above: Alana shows her serious side.

Alana's first job came with her first audition for a role on a Disney commercial, a good option for a Florida native who lives near Orlando . After that came roles in Dolphin Tales 2, on the television series Sleepy Hollow, and the film Allegiant. By 2014, she was beginning appearances in three seasons of the AMC series Halt and Catch Fire In 2016, she appeared in Dolly Parton's Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love. Soon she will be seen in this season of IFC's Brockmire, the April 1st episode.

It may sound like with all this work, that Alana's career has been one successful audition after another, but the teenager says that one of the lessons she has learned is about handling rejection. "I always live by the saying, 'You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,' so I always give my best, but I have to remember that you don’t get everything that you audition for. I take heart in knowing that it’s good that you tried, and hard work pays off in the end."

Helene explains that they were given great advice by William Riggs whose son, Chandler, played Carl Grimes on The Walking Dead. "Celebrate every step of the process. We celebrate everything! We celebrate the audition, we celebrate the call back. We celebrate everything along the way and all the little steps in between. When it comes down to the final decision, it’s not as tough to hear rejection because we’ve celebrated along the way."

Below: Alana shows some behind-the-scene action.

Even with that said, some rejections are harder than others. Sometimes Alana becomes really close to a character for which she auditions. After an audition for a character like this, Alana learned the show was going in a different direction. "It was hard," says her mom. "We got ice cream, a carton each, and watched a movie. When the ice cream was gone and the movie over, we moved on."

Moving on from rejection is not a skill that many middle school girls have mastered, but Alana is not your typical middle school girl. Though she attends school and plays goalie and midfielder in lacrosse, she is able to hold her own on film sets filled with adults. This unusual social interaction has made her both level headed and grounded. She applies this maturity to balancing school and career. Helene says, "The school she is in is supportive of her career as long as she gets her work done and keep up her grades."

Alana adds, "My mom says 'You are not a normal kid, so you’re not caught up unless you're ahead.' I have to be able to drop what I’m doing and go to an audition or a job and still meet all the school deadlines."

Alana credits the support of her family, including a younger sister, as the reason she can keep a healthy attitude balancing a career and typical teenage challenges. "My family does so much for me. Being a 13 yr old and an actress, it really does put a lot of pressure on my family. The fact that I can come home and share the things I want to share with my family, from grades to friend drama, has always taught me to share kindness with others."

Alana has taken this attitude of kindness and spread it to the children and their families at Ronald McDonald House. "It’s amazing to realize how fortunate you are when you hear about what hard lives other people have had." In fact, the last couple of birthdays, Alana has asked for things for the Ronald McDonald House instead of gifts.

You would think that with acting and school and family, Alana has enough to do, but Alana truly wants to be known as a musician. "Music is my passion. I get my love of music from my dad who is a huge music fan, and I get my singing abilities from my mom. Music is like another language. It makes me so happy. When I’m having a bad day, I sit down with my guitar and play some songs or write some songs."

"Right now, I use my music for myself, but I love it when I get to perform. I performed at a local pizza place and getting to see the people’s faces and watch them dance to my music was amazing to."

Alana gets inspiration for her music from musicians like the Avett Brothers and Brandi Carlisle. "The Avett Brothers sing songs about self reflection, and they tell hard truths; I love their music! Brandi Carlisle really puts it out there in a soulful and authentic way, and I admire that."

With all these interests and ambitions, Alana is a good person to ask for advice about pursuing your dreams. She says, "Even middle school, I hear about all the things that people want to do, but they always give the negative side of why this won’t work for them. They need to remember that nobody’s perfect, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to give up on what you believe in and keep going. Nothing comes from nothing, so you have to start small and build your way up. Just do the next best thing to get where you need to go."

Parents can gain from Helene's experience in raising a child who pursues her dreams. "It has to be driven by the kiddo and its got to fit in with your family. Find the balance and find what works for you while keeping your entire family as the number one priority. One example of this is that we try to travel as a family and not to make the trip just about an audition, but, instead, and make it something that everyone in the family can enjoy."

Alana closes with this, "There is no limit to how far your imagination can go. If it's something that you really, really want, first you will need support. My family is my main source of support. You have to find your drive--the reason you’re doing this and know what it will take to get you there. Find your people and know who you are. I’ve learned that you need to find the people who will love you even though you’re a little different because these are the people you will take along with you to help you grow. You have to keep the dream and the hard work in front of you. You need to work for it--it won’t just come to you. You have to push through and enjoy it

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