This is my darling daughter, Stella. When she turned five, she asked for an American Girl doll. I thought she was too young, so pushed the whole idea off by getting her a knock off at the local department store. She played with her for about a minute. Then, for her 6th birthday, she asked again, but this time for a real American Girl. I decided to bite the bullet and dive into this new world of matching clothes, hair-dos, lunches and tea, and those infamous big red bags you see lining the streets of Michigan Avenue in Chicago and 5th Avenue in New York City. I took her for a birthday lunch at the American Girl Place in Los Angeles. Not only was it her birthday, but it was also the introduction of the new McKenna doll. McKenna is the first doll to look as close as possible to my daughter, and McKenna is all she has talked about since her birthday in March.

American Girl

A few weeks ago, she hurried me to the television to catch the trailer of the new American Girl movie, McKenna Shoots for the Stars. We have always been fans of the American Girl movies for the playfulness of being able to do the impossible, like being a news reporter and catching a town crook, or getting the chance to compete for a spot on the Olympic gymnastics team. Of course, I love how the movies seem to empower little girls by giving them the confidence to know, they can. Along with that, however, comes strong will, determination and a never give up attitude, which is a side many of these budding starlets never get to see. Enter the recently released Katy Perry: Part of Me movie.

Though it’s a thin line, I’m OK with my daughter being one of her biggest fans, especially after seeing this movie. See, my daughter has the same goals as some of these women and young women, she wants to be a star, just like her name. We’ve taken her head shots, signed her up with an agency, and put her in acting class, singing lessons and have even thrown in ballet and gymnastics. We have driven her down to LA numerous times for auditions and interviews. At her age, she still lacks the determination to dedicate her life to becoming that person. She loves the romantic idea of being a star, but hasn’t quite wrapped her head around the hard work it takes to get there. That is what I loved about the Katy Perry movie; Katy let her guard down, she showed no fear. When she was over worked and exhausted, she cried, and you could tell, towards the end of her tour, it took every ounce of energy left she could find to become that stage presence that is Katy Perry. And, as a mother, I was so grateful for my daughter to see that. It is important for these girls to know who their role models are and why. It’s not the fun, fancy, clothes and hair dos they rock, or the fact they get to meet Justin Beiber and maybe sing a song or two with him. It’s that they work their butts off to get there, and they never give-up. They set goals and intentions and plan their whole lives around who they want to be. While at the same time struggling not to lose who they are. I am 37 years old, and this movie re-inspired me to reach my goals!

The timing was perfect when I was asked to interview Ysa Penarejo, Toulane Thomas, of the new McKenna Shoots for the Stars movie. Stella has had the opportunities at a young age in life to do things I didn’t until I was in my thirties- like meet some of her favorite actors and singers. At 6 years old, she is already so brave, and I want her to learn now to never be afraid of going after your dreams. Even though I am thirty-one years older than her, I think I was more nervous to interview Ysa than she was! All day long, we practiced our questions and discussed what she wanted to learn from Ysa, who is also an aspiring young actress, dancer, model and singer, and not much older than my daughter. We prepared a few days before, and sent Ysa the questions. When it was her turn, she spoke right into the phone and asked away. I was so excited and proud of her at the same time. A special bonus was being able to speak with such an inspiring young lady, Ysa Penarejo.



ysa penarejo

Ysa’s role in the McKenna Shoots for the Stars movie is that of Toulane Thomas, a hard working and determined young girl who is destined to make the one of the final spots on the gymnastics competition team. To watch Ysa fly through the air, and stick her landings, you would think she had been in training her whole life. Not the case! Ysa went to Canada and trained a week prior to filming. Though she had some gymnastics experience, she is more of a dancer, yet the routine and the tumbling came naturally to her. Ysa even had the opportunity to get some pointers from USA Olympic-medalist, Cathy Rigby, who plays the role of the girls’ gymnastic coach. Read the rest of the interview with RSMLV and Ysa Penarejo on VegasBloggers.

Some Fun Facts about Ysa:

  • Ysa has a brand new single out in iTunes right now called, “Like Not Love
  • You can find her and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (ysapenarejo)
  • She is also running a really great contest on her Facebook page for a signed McKenna Shoots for the Stars Blu-Ray/DVD pack and a free download of her new single “Like Not Love”. Just follow her on Twitter and tell Ysa how you achieve your goals or “Shoot for the Stars” on her Facebook wall to enter.

Before we hung up, I asked Ysa, what she would do when she hears her song play on the radio for the first time? ” I would scream! I would scream and jump up and down! I would be so amazed!” Sweet girl…I hope you hear it soon! Good luck to you, Ysa Penarejo, and here’s to you Shooting for the Stars!

Be sure to catch the American Girl movie, McKenna Shoots for the Stars, tonight (July 14, 2012) on your local NBC station, 8/7 central. If you miss tonight’s show, the Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack is available at Wal-Mart and also on Pay Per View.

A special thank you to Ysa who graciously took the time to speak with Stella and answer all of her questions.