Up-and-coming actress Ysa Penarejo plays a young gymnast in the movie An American Girl: McKenna Shoots For The Stars. Like her character in the film, this tween works hard and looks to the future.
Ysa has been in front of the camera for years, appearing in commercials for retailers like Old Navy and Target before landing the part in this heartwarming American Girl movie, where she shares the screen with Oscar-nominated actress Nia Vardalos and real-life Olympic medalist Cathy Rigby. Celebrity Teen Scoop spoke exclusively with Ysa and found out what’s coming next for this rising star.
Celebrity Teen Scoop: In your new movie, An American Girl: McKenna Shoots For The Stars, you play a young gymnast. Tell us a little bit about the character you play,
Ysa: In the movie I play Toulane Thomas who is McKenna’s best friend. Toulane has been McKenna’s gymnastics teammate since the girls were three years old. A strong, competitive gymnast, Toulane pushes McKenna to stay on her game and do her best. Toulane is sometimes too competitive, though, and puts a lot of pressure on herself to succeed and to live up to her mother’s expectations. Like McKenna, Toulane needs to learn about life “balance” and remember how to just have fun.
CTS: Were you actually a gymnast before you were cast in the movie?
Ysa: No, I am a dancer. I did gymnastics when I was younger so all of the things I learned in gymnastics helped me train for the movie.
CTS: No doubt you’ve seen some of the gymnastics competition in the
current Olympics – is there anyone that reminds you of your character
Ysa: That is a good question. USA team is amazing! I don’t really see Toulane on the Olympic team because in the movie she wanted to go a different path.
CTS: Were you a fan of American Girl dolls before you were cast in the
Ysa: Yes. I am a big fan of American Girl! I have four dolls myself. I have McKenna, Julie, Ivy, and a My American Girl doll.
CTS: You’ve been in front of the camera since you were very young. How do
you balance work life and personal life – school, friends, family, etc?
Ysa: School is my priority. I make sure that I finish my school work and keep my grades up. Everything else falls into place
CTS: Now you’re singing, too. Tell us a little bit about your new song, ‘Like Not Love.’
Ysa: Like Not Love is a song about tween relationships, making choices, having all that pressure on you, and not being afraid to say what you feel.
CTS: Which do you enjoy more, acting or singing?
Ysa: I don’t have a favorite. I enjoy both of them so much!
CTS: Who are some of your role models?
Ysa: One of my role models is Kat Graham. She is an amazing actress and singer who makes time to help people in Africa.
CTS: What’s coming up next for Ysa Penarejo?
Ysa: I am in the studio and have some projects in the mix but nothing that I can talk about right now.
CTS: What advice can you give to other young people who have dreams of
making it in Hollywood?
1. Always be prepared and do your best
2. After an audition, forget about it
3. Never take it personally
4. Don’t give up!