Fresh Path Story: Victoria Baxter

From elementary school teacher to actress, Victoria shares about her journey toward her calling.

Fresh Paths: Tell us a little about yourself. I grew up in a very small town on the Jersey Shore— like the kind of small town you see in movies, where all the neighbors know each other, kids play in the street and walk to school together, and you can’t go to the grocery store without seeing 10 people you know. My mom, Jennifer, and my dad, Robert, met in high school—the one I was also one day intended to attend— and they had me on the first day of Spring in March, while snow still fell to the ground. My sister, Jacqueline, was born two years later, in the same hospital where I was born, as well as my mother… See? Small town. I’ve always been close to my extended family as well, one set of grandparents lived down the street, and other grandma just on the other side of town. My cousins, aunts, and uncles would also join in for the holidays, birthdays, and piano or ballet recitals. I cherish my childhood greatly. I realize now that not a lot of people have this kind of nurturing, encouraging home life. I know it was by no means perfect, no family is, but the Lord has used this as the solid foundation that set me up for the plans He holds.

Fresh Paths: When did you become interested in acting? It was very apparent from a young age that I wanted to be involved with everything that had to do with performing. From acting in church plays, to making up skits with my fellow GirlScouts, competing as a gymnast, and taking any opportunity to make up a song about anything— performing was seemingly how I was hardwired. I always loved making people laugh, smile, and be entertained. It brought me so joy in return. I’ve pretty much always known I wanted to be an actress, but I just never thought it was possible.

Fresh Paths: When did you decide to “go for it”? What were you doing for a living at the time? What led to the decision to pursue this dream? Deciding to “go for it” was a series of small, incredibly impactful moments, that lead to a big change. I had been signed with a talent agency, attending auditions here and there, since 2012. I booked a lot of local commercials, participated in short and independent films, but fear of pursuing the industry full-time kept me in my safe little bubble. The first notable thing was my college major— I had switched it six times throughout my four years. SIX. I tried everything from molecular biology, to hospitality management, and landed in elementary education. It was like I was always trying to find my “Plan B” since I determined that “Plan A” (acting) wouldn’t work. After my first year of teaching, I left for an 11-month missions trip called “The World Race." I was determined that God would show me my calling in one of these 11 countries. I’d be the person who realized they belonged in Cambodia forever! Only, my desire for acting grew stronger. I loved the idea of storytelling. I believe God to be an author of incredible stories in people’s lives, and I thought how amazing it would be if I one day could portray different characters in film, telling moving stories that touch people’s hearts, encourages them, brings them together or makes them cry or laugh. That’s when the second notable thing happened: A fellow squad-mate had said to me, “Victoria, I don’t think you’re afraid of failing at acting. I think you might be afraid it would go really, really well. Because, it would change everything.” Those words have never left my heart. Lastly, I went back to teaching post-Race, and in a lesson on goal-setting, one of the students raised his hand and said, “Miss Baxter, why are we doing this?” I explained the point of setting goals to achieve your dreams, accomplish something you hadn’t thought possible, etc. To which he responded, “Well, you always talk about how you dream to be an actress. So… why are you still here?” That third notable moment put my feet into motion.

Fresh Paths: What did your friends and family say when you told them your plan? Did anyone think you were crazy? Telling my family made me sick to my stomach. I knew my mom loved that I was a school teacher, as did my extended family members— especially my former-teacher aunt, and my grandpa. I was concerned of not only letting my parents down, but my entire family. My teaching career was only a whopping two years, and I had already won Rookie Teacher of the Year in my first year, so the future looked bright. It was almost like I was throwing it all away. I will never forget telling my parents. I was out-of-town, and finally had enough courage to give them a call and tell them my plans. I said it in one bold, firm sentence: “Hi Mom, I just want to let you know that I’ve decided I’m going to quit teaching and I want to move to Atlanta because I’m finally going to be an actress.” My mom responded with, “Well, that makes sense, that’s where the jobs are.” I could not believe it. My parents have always told me I was very talented and encouraged my gifts, but they also (like most parents) wanted a good life for me, a solid career, and a chance to provide for myself, and possibly my own future family. Being a starving artist doesn’t put you in the best position for that. We had to talk out logistics— where would I live, how would I afford it, etc.— but overall, it turned out a positive conversation. The funniest part, is when I tell strangers. I’ve met people in coffee shops or even the guests I wait on at my restaurant who have looked me in the eyes and said: “Oh, that’s a terrible idea. I’m sorry, I know it’s your dream and all, but… it’s probably not going to happen.” In those moments, I let people believe what they want, but I’m clinging to the calling God’s put in my heart.

Fresh Paths: Did anything intimidate you about pursuing an acting career? What obstacles did you face? There are lots of intimidating things about acting and the industry as a whole. First off, they always say “it’s all about who you know.” Okay, great because upon moving I knew a total of ZERO people in the Atlanta film industry. Perfect. I also didn’t have any formal training. Everything I’ve booked up until 2017 was all based off of my instincts behind the characters. Once I started meeting actors and taking classes, I was learning this new lingo of what it meant to “find your objective” and “how high are the stakes”. It made me feel like I was behind. Speaking of being “behind” my age was an intimidating factor. I’m currently 28, and I decided to pursue this career full-time at the age of 27. Most actors have already been grinding for years by that age, so I often struggled (and sometimes still do) with not feeling “good enough” because I don’t have the same amount of time and experience under my belt as other actors my age.

Fresh Paths: How did you get started? What were your first few months like? The first few months was an emotional rollercoaster. It initially seemed like everything was against me. My place I was going to move into fell through. I needed new headshots, but couldn’t afford it since I was still paying rent back in Orlando for my old room. Which also meant I couldn’t afford classes. I was working in a restaurant, but because I didn’t have serving experience, I had to start as a host/busser at $7.25 an hour, which meant I was working tons of hours, and therefore had zero time for acting-related gigs. The beauty of all that is I was in the absolute perfect position to rely on no one, but God. And boy, did He provide in miraculous ways! I was given a home to stay in with the most incredible, God-honoring family. I moved up to being a server quickly, where I was blessed by people who left notes on receipts about how I’m living in God’s calling. I got a few roles, one of which I was flown to Bogota, Colombia, all expenses paid, for a commercial shoot, and I even booked my first speaking role on a television show. It was like God continuing to show me step-by-step, little pieces of the promise He has. Just when I started getting down on myself, or thinking of quitting, He would gift me with an encouraging word, quality time with a friend, a meeting of a fellow actor, or some type of physical need.

Fresh Paths: Did you ever think of quitting? Why? Why didn’t you? Honestly, I thought of quitting every single day when I first moved here. I’d stare up at the ceiling and be like, “God! Why did you let me do this?! This was a terrible, terrible mistake! I’ve given up so much, and for WHAT?!” Because at the end of the day, no matter what you’re called to in this life, it’s going to require sacrifice and there will be hardship. That’s the chance to press in deeper into relationship with Jesus. Not because He’s a genie who will make it all go away, but because that’s where I found Peace and Joy, no matter the circumstance. I also found hope one day while listening to the radio. A new song by Shaun Mendes popped up and they lyrics said, “Sometimes I feel like giving up, but I just can’t— it isn’t in my blood.” I wept, feeling like God was just saying, “You’re my daughter, covered with my Son’s blood, you’re made to endure with patience. I’ve got this.” And at times, when I start to doubt, I proudly declare that I won’t— it isn’t in my blood.

Fresh Paths: What is it like for you now? Tell us some of the shows/movies/commercials you have been in! Are you going to stick with it?

It’s been almost a year now, officially on August 12th! And to be honest, not a whole lot has changed… outwardly. If you were to look at a list of “achievements” the number is few, and I’m still living it up as a waitress. The thing is, this doesn’t happen overnight. I was fully prepared that this could take 2 years, 7 years or 10 before “the big break”. I’ve had the absolute luxury of flying to a foreign country for a commercial. The amount of people who watched my tv debut on Homicide Hunter (with my two lines), made me feel like the biggest movie star. I experienced being stand-in for a champion female WWE fighter on a movie, and was a photo double to an actress I used to watch on Disney channel. I’ve met incredible people in the film industry: actors, production assistants, casting directors, acting coaches, and talent agents. I’ve been chosen to participate in two showcases this year. And most recently, booked a part on an upcoming feature film, which I cannot wait to share with the world. I feel humbled and honored to be in a position where I am a sponge—learning everything I can about “the craft," spending time in acting and improv classes, and discovering so much about who I am as a person. That’s the greatest part. The day I finally decided to trust God with my dreams, put me on the path to discovering not only who I am as an actress, but who I am as His daughter and how He created me with such intention and purpose.

Fresh Paths: What life lessons has this pursuit taught you? This pursuit has taught me so much and continues to do so every day. I have discovered the necessity of introspection— taking the continual time and energy to know your values, your mission, and the lens in which you see the world. It is an absolute must to be firmly rooted in who you are, so that when hardship, judgment, or opinions come flying your way, you’re able to be both open-minded, but not uprooted. For my faith, I have learned the joy of being in dependence on God, while trusting Him with my dream. There is absolutely no way I could be sharing where I am at today without Him. I would have caved a long time ago. It’s also cool to see how, though I’m not where I thought I would be at 28 (as far as I know, I’m not married, nor have my first born child like I planned), it’s a place I believed was impossible, a dream and nothing more.

Fresh Paths: What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a “crazy” dream? For those with a crazy dream, I’ll share the first thing I was told in day one of acting class: “If there is anything else you could dedicate your life to, and be totally fulfilled, go do that. If not, then be ready for a crazy journey, that will be a worthwhile feat.” You have been created for a purpose, which is far beyond a career path, relationship, or social status. You have been given the talents and the passion to pursue those dreams. It will take hard work, trust, endurance, and tons of patience. And, never let the fear of “failure” keep you from making the first step. You’ll beautifully stumble on the way to achieving your dreams, or you might even find another dream along the way, and those both sound like success to me. Fresh Paths: Anything you would like to add?

I know that I have been created to bring indescribable Joy and Encouragement to the lives of others, all the while bringing them together, so that they may discover Life in abundance. I get the joyous opportunity to do that every day, no matter the role: friend, sister, daughter, waitress, babysitter, or actress.

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