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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  • I’m sorry to hear that there is such a large prejudice in classical theater, but I find your response to that quite admirable. Some people do not realize that all the change we are experiencing today are the result of those that wanted to pave a road for others, such as Martin Luther King Jr. You are probably right that you will not experience acting as an actress, but I am sure that you will become a hero for others.

  • You go! You are an inspiration to those of us who don’t fit within the bounds of traditionally picture perfect. I am sure that your mindset and determination will get you very far in this career!

  • Madz, your story is so inspiring. You see the world in a totally different perspective than a lot of us do, and it’s incredible to see the drive you have to think differently and innovate in a field where creativity on new subjects needs to happen. I wish you the best, love!

  • You inspire others to “just be” and lead with example. This way of being will greatly help you see your dreams fulfilled. Best wishes to you always!

  • I admire you so much for your goal of using your passions to challenge the way people see the world. I know you, and I know that because you’ve set out to do it, you are going to achieve it! You have my love and support!

  • Fantastic work Madz! I agree that we need more diversity and roles for diverse people, which is part of the reason I want to be a writer. Well said!

  • I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with Madeline “Madz” and I could not imagine a better candidate for this scholarship. She is hardworking, extremely dependable, intelligent, inspiring, optimistic, an absolute joy to be around, and is one of the most empathetic and passionate people I know (I could go on all day). She is not only able to provide an eloquent and admirable voice to the voiceless but is also fully prepared to stand up and scream at the top of her lungs on their behalf. I know that she will create an environment filled with diversity, respect, and equal opportunity when given the chance. The world needs more people like Madz; the world needs Madz! This strong, independent, young woman is on her way to making a huge and positive impact in the community and having extra funds to aide her in the completion of her education would get her one step closer to reaching those goals.

  • Congratulations,Madz! That is a great essay. You have always focused on making a difference in the world. Now will have the chance to expand your reach. I am so proud of you. Keep doing what you love and loving what you do.

  • Good luck! I hope you win the scholarship. We met more than a few years ago… but we not very close. However, I’ve seen the updates and such on FB… I wish you the best.

  • Thank you for sharing your journey and for standing up and finding a way to make your dreams a reality. You are inspirational.

  • LOVE LOVE LOVE!!! Diversity is so important in any form of education or industry. Couple that with being a woman on a mission, you can do anything you put your heart and soul into. You are going to have resistance but never give up!!! I was a woman working in construction for years and even in this day and age you wouldn’t believe the things I had to endure. Much luck to you and your journey!!!

  • Maddie! Congrats on being selected and may your visions and efforts bring important and impactful change. You are ahead of the curve with important insights!! Keep it up! Fight this good fight! Enjoy every part of the journey too!

  • I have no doubt that YOU can help to change our outlook on this world. You are an original. You are a role model.
    Huge congrats to you Maddie! You deserve this!!!

  • I have had the pleasure of watching you grow and develop into the amazing woman you are today. I am still astounded by your ability to see things so clearly and your ability to rebound with such grace when faced with what others may think of as an insurmountable obstacle or wall.Your unique way of coming up with creative solutions to changing the inequalities and social injustices is a gift. You are a gift. I am glad to know you. You renew my faith in mankind & make me believe that the future is going to be a kinder and more peaceful place.

  • You are the hope that we need. You and those who believe change is possible and are willing “to be the change” are the light we all are yearning for.The world is chaotic and experiencing monumental metamorphosis. Madz, you are a woman of strength and intelligence. Go forth and conquer.

  • Madz you have always been hella smart and devoted to everything you put your mind too. I am so proud of your advancements and wish that I had been there more often but I know that you will succeed.

  • This young woman has such a great gift to share and so many traits we need more of – passion, character, ambition, caring, diversity. I applaud you Ms. Ledford. Go get ’em!

  • I found your essay to be eloquent, direct, and genuine. Best of luck Maddie….you make us all proud to know you. It’s young people like yourself who will change the world and are already doing so.

  • Best of luck. More representation such as yours is needed. You are beautiful. I looked for your beauty as a youth and needed your role model myself. Thanks for stepping up. 7vD5

  • This is an amazing article! You’re absolutely right about the film industry and you will succeed at making the difference that the world needs to see! Great job!

  • Maddie I am so impressed. Seeing you grow up from a step away has always been so interesting. Even as a youngster you were so quick to figure things out and had a unique way explaining yourself. While reading your essay, I thought to myself, this is a very well educated and articulate young woman. Great job and I wish you the best and the fulfilment of your goals and dreams.

  • Wonderfully worded. Madz it is a joy to watch you go into the world with confidence and a sense of self. All the best in your scholarship pursuits. We are so proud to call you a graduate of The Colorado Springs School!

  • Madz is one of the most deserving and buoyant young women I’ve met. I met her first when she was in middle school practicing for a play. She delighted and impressed me then and continued to do so in the subsequent years. This is a young woman who will make the most of any opportunity awarded her. Of that I am positive.

  • Madz, you see what the theatre needs. Film as well. There are stories not being told because they aren’t attached to white actors with pretty faces. Your work is the ideal approach to the industry. I hope you make it.

  • 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.

  • 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.