Lights, Camera, Action!
This girl knows what it's really like to be "in the spotlight." She hosts her own TV show, performs on stage, and has been recognized in magazines for her outstanding community service. In pursuing her dream to become an actress, she makes it a point to be active in her community and get a positive message to teens. Read all about Austin-Nichole Zachrich in her interview with girlshealth.gov.
Where are you from? How old are you?
I was born in Columbia, South Carolina and relocated to Ohio when I was 5 years old. I am 16.
Do you have a role model? If so, who is it?
From media and television, I have to say Oprah. Over the years I have watched her show with my mother and it has always been tasteful and helpful. She always reaches out to help others. It is really a great wish I have to meet Oprah one day and just sit down, talk to her, and get advice on the television business. I’d love to ask her how she has maintained her reputation in the business when so many others have failed.
My role model for “life lessons” I have to say is my mom. I admire her so much as she has been able to balance being my best friend and still being my mother. My mom has always been open and honest with me about life and she makes me think about the things that are most important. Without the relationship with my mom, I would not have the confidence I do in myself. She is my biggest fan as well as the person who guides me to make the choices that count in my life.
What do you consider to be your biggest success?
In 2004, I received the honor of being named High School Volunteer of the Year for the state of Ohio by the Prudential Community of Spirit Awards. I went to Washington, DC to represent my state and I met other teens that all wanted to make a positive impact on our world. The experience was something I will never forget. I toured historical landmarks, met with my congressmen and I was able to meet political reporter Cokie Roberts, Mrs. Colin Powell, and the funny, talented, Whoopi Goldberg.
What message would you like to give girls about going after their dreams?
Well, first I want to say that dreams have to be yours. Each person is gifted in a unique way to impact the world. Find your God given ability and use it. I found mine in the media and speaking out on important issues for today’s youth. Other people may be born to be a doctor, artist, musician, scientist, environmentalist, politician or many other things that only they can do. So many times I have seen girls look around and want to conform to what other girls are. When you do that, often times you are not taking the time to explore your own special abilities. To fulfill your life and to have a complete purpose, you have to be true to yourself. Follow your own dreams, don't be afraid of what other people think, just do what you feel you can do to make a positive impact in this world.
What sorts of things do you do to stay healthy?
To stay healthy, I try to maintain a balance in my diet. I am not saying every meal is a perfect balance; I love pizza, candy, and ice cream. I also love fruit, salads, yogurt, and juice. I am also trying to drink more water. I like to use lemons and limes to give the water a little burst and make it more exciting!
How did you become interested in acting and production?
I started singing in church when I was about 6 years old. I did a few beauty pageants as a child too, but I hated to see girls cry when they lost the competition. My mom always told me that I could not win every competition and that others needed a turn, too.
When I was about 8, I decided someone else could have my turn-- I did not want to do them anymore! At that point I found places I could sing even if it was in the middle of the grocery store while my mom shopped. I also started taking dance lessons in ballet, tap, jazz and pointe—and I still take them today. I even help teach dance now, as well. I think dance is something all girls should try. It gave me a lot of confidence and exercise over the years. When I was in 4th grade, I started auditioning for parts, in our local youth theater. At first I was only getting small parts but I did not care as long as I could be on the stage.
I got my big break in the sixth grade when I landed the part of Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz” and at the same time got a part as one of the orphans in “Annie.” I pulled both parts off and since then I just felt I could do anything if I worked hard enough for it.
How did you come up with the idea for the Austin-Nichole & Co show?
I was approached by the public access station manager and asked if I would want to create a program for local teens. The show really focused on information related to local teens in our area. The first episode aired as, "Austin-Nichole In & Around Our Community," with me showcasing community highlights and volunteerism opportunities.
Within 5 months, the show grew. As people spread the word about the program, other access stations started carrying the show. Today the show is being aired at 10 other stations, including a station in Germany. There has also been mention of a possible web casting.
When the show grew, the name changed along with the direction. The new name is "Austin-Nichole & Co." The topics brought to air now are meant to relate to kids everywhere, not just the teens local to our area.
What is most memorable thing that has happened on the show? What are the most unique things you’ve gotten to do because of your show?
Well, there are so many great things that I have experienced. I just spent 2 full days with the band Blessid Union of Souls on their Ohio tour and that was so great. These guys are so talented and focused, and even with several hit songs under their belt, they have never forgotten the hard work and dedicated fans that have made them successful. They really made me feel welcome and thought that the show was an amazing thing for a young person to be doing.
Other unique things I’ve done include interviewing Davy Jones from the group The Monkees. After the interview, he sang “Daydream Believer” with me on stage. I also was able to go to the Teen Choice Awards last year thanks to a business called Backstage Creations. I interviewed celebrities and was able to really get a taste of what that lifestyle is like. Meeting celebrities like Ryan Pinkston, Beverly Mitchell, X-zibit, Blink 182, Paris Hilton and so many more was a chance of a lifetime!
In February of this year it was my pleasure and honor to sit down with Yolanda King, the oldest daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and talk to her about her father, history, and the positive influence her father had on her life. She is such a great role model, a talented performer, actress, and public speaker. I was actually nervous interviewing Ms. King--it’s not everyday I interview a person whose father has his own holiday!
The thing that I enjoy the most is finding kids out there who are using their abilities to help the world. I’ve interviewed people like Janine who is saving the rainforest in Costa Rica; Matthew, who owns his own production company in Toronto and is only 18; Becca, who created a space camp for young girls to inspire them to be involved in science and technology; Julian, who is a positive rap artist; Chad, who produces a teen magazine.
These are the stories that other media outlets ignore. Other media focuses only on the negative aspects of today’s youth. I feel that kids live and learn by example, so these kids’ stories have to be told.
What do you think the Austin-Nichole & Co. show gives kids that other TV shows don’t?
The show is focused on kids that are from 5th grade to high school. It brings topics of interest that they relate to. When a parent sits down and watches our show, they can be proud to have their kids watch us. We keep everything clean and tasteful. Some things we do that others things aimed at teenagers don’t do:
- We share healthy after school snacks in a funny way to make kids pay attention.
- We encourage reading and try to expand their vocabulary.
- We talk about important topics like web site safety and how the Internet can be a fun place to go if you know where to go.
- We get advice from celebrities on how kids can obtain their dreams and share it with our viewers.
- We have a peer to peer mediation time where kids write to us for advice on issues they are facing and can hear 7 different views from positive kids and how we would handle that situation.
- We make crafts that are easy and useful.
- We encourage kids to get involved in the world around them because volunteerism is the secret to a successful tomorrow.
- We work very hard to bring a show every month that makes kids think outside the box and also search within themselves on how they can get involved in their communities.
Are there any things you do on your show that promote a positive, healthy lifestyle? If so, what are they?
Our whole show is about living a positive, productive life. We feel if kids are surrounded by more positive media and reminded how great they are and can be, then that improves their emotional and mental health.
It is hard living in a society that is always knocking kids down. If I accomplish nothing else in my life, then I hope I accomplish making one kid feel how special they are and to know they do fit into this world and there is a place for them. We need to stop comparing ourselves and remember we are all as unique as our DNA.
Face it, as soon as the warm “Sesame Street” days are over, the media outlets for tweens and teens are not very motivating. I feel that is my gift and talent to work on this project. I work very hard trying to inspire and make a difference. We are the future and without being involved and motivated at this age, then what will our future hold?
You are known around your community for volunteering. What kinds of things do you enjoy the most? What volunteer activities do you have planned for this year?
When volunteering I love to work with kids, the elderly, and animals. I usually volunteer for our library summer reading program; I am a youth service leader for the YMCA. I am an educational mentor for a younger student. I help out with the area humane society. Also, our local shopping mall has a kids night and I help out with that.
I go by one of the area nursing homes and visit with their residents. Sometimes we just talk or play cards. I love to hear stories of their lives, where different people come from, and how they experienced life.
This year my volunteer project is a little bit personal. I had a friend that was killed by a local youth that stole a gun. When the investigation came out that many area youth were aware of this gun days before the shooting and no one told, I was just dumbfounded. I knew right away someone had to educate our youth on Crime Stoppers. So I am working with my area Crime Stoppers to include a youth education program for our schools and community. We are making new posters that are kid friendly, educating people on how youth can use Crime Stoppers without anyone knowing they reported a crime, and we are making new Public Service Announcements for radio and TV geared towards the youth. I will probably continue with all the other volunteer services I do as well, but remember my whole show is a volunteer project, so I do believe in getting involved and taking part in life. If you don't, then it will just pass you by.
Out of all of the work you’ve done in your community, what is the most memorable or the most rewarding?
I have to say that all volunteering is rewarding. When you help someone there is no better feeling. However my show has to be the most memorable and rewarding. Who would have thought a local 14-year-old girl could have made a show on the public access channel that would broadcast to over 300,000 people?! When I get a letter from someone that says I made them think about who they really are and what they want to do, then that is so rewarding. Or, if I am at a store and a parent comes up to me and thanks me for making a show they feel is safe for their child to watch, that feels great. I hope to spend the rest of my life making a positive impact in my community—wherever that may end up being.
What do you think you want to do after you graduate high school?
I am planning on attending college and majoring in communications and media. I am not sure what university I will attend at this point, but I do know I am going for at least a 4-year degree. I would love to do an internship with Oprah and continue working my way to be a household name in the future.
If you don’t become an actress, is there something else you want to do?
I really believe I will end up with some type of media career. However I am young and I do have a passion for the medical field as well. So I will not rule that out at this point, as I have always been interested in being an Audiologist and working with the hearing impaired.
What is the best advice you would give young girls about what they can do now to prepare for their future?
Find their true selves and be true to it. I never fit in to a popular crowd in school and that is ok. I don't have time to worry about what they think of my hair and fashion. It is so important to like the person in the mirror you are looking at every day. Learn about your community; learn about your environment, politics, and local needs.
There is something out there for everyone to be doing. Sometimes I think I learn so much because I am out in the world listening to what people say and their concerns. Sometimes I think I can make a difference in what they are saying while other times I may know someone else that could help them.
Remember school is for you; how you do in school will only affect your future and where you will end up. Study and listen a lot. Even if you don't agree, listen. When you have an idea share it, don't be afraid to be the change. One day this will be our world and we will have our children, what will say you did to make it better for them?
Think about what is really a value to you, make friends that bring you up and not pull you down, and make every second count. Remember that fun is lasting, not regrets.
Content last reviewed September 01, 2005
Page last updated September 01, 2005