Stage combat training, a stunt in the recording studio and beauty pageant preparation is all in a day’s work for Red Deer’s Gina Omilon.
The 20-year-old is attending the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles for her Bachelor of Fine Arts, specializing in acting, and is well on her way to making a name for herself in the competitive entertainment industry.
Her first American film, Second Chance, where she stars as the female lead, is scheduled to be released sometime this summer. And she co-wrote and stage-managed a comedy sketch show, called #thatssketchy, that premiered in L.A. last April. She has also been on several episodes of CBC’s Heartland, performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland and modelled for Vogue as well as the Gap.
Her expanding social network has taken her to the bright lights of the 2013 Golden Globes, where she met Quentin Tarantino, and she’s also been on set twice with Johnny Depp at the MTV Movie Awards and America’s Got Talent.
After a semester studying in New York City last fall, she was granted the chance to attend the premiere of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
“I got to meet Philip Seymour Hoffman weeks before he passed away so I was very fortunate,” Omilon said. “My career has been going pretty fast, I feel, and I’m so grateful that I’m here doing this and being given the opportunities I am. … A lot of people don’t realize that just because I’m not in a magazine yet, doesn’t mean I’m not out there.”
She hopes to eventually make it in the belly-clutching world of sitcom — although she added with a laugh, “Ideally I’d like to win an Oscar,” and maybe even have a Broadway performance or two.
“I know in five years that might not happen. I know it takes a long time to build a substantial career, but if I can get to that place where I’m getting guest roles and building up supporting roles, then eventually I should be able to get a full-time job on a sitcom, which is what I want,” she said.
Born and raised in Red Deer, Omilon’s love for the limelight started when she was five, twirling in her ballet slippers for the first time. After a few years with Dance Magic Studio, she tried her hand at modelling, an experience that “opened up the door” for acting.
“I didn’t grow to be past five foot one so runway wasn’t really an option anymore,” she said with a laugh. “Film gives people a different perspective, it gives people an escape. Art has such a big influence on our culture and society. … Yes, I would love to be able to be wealthy and never worry about money again, but that’s not the main objective.
“I want to leave an imprint on the world. I have my diploma in psychology but I’m not passionate about it like acting. The entertainment industry is where I think I’ll leave my imprint. I’ll be blessed to achieve this at a global level. That’s my overall hope.”
She will enter her third year of the four-year program this fall and so far the experience has been full of auditions and workshops, including sessions with the Society of American Fight Directors.
“I love the film acting classes and I actually really enjoy doing voice overs, not even just in animation but for commercials, and this may sound weird but I really enjoy doing legals, that really fast part at the end of commercials about laws and requirements.”
Omilon was crowned Miss Teen Red Deer-World in 2012 and is currently reigning as Miss Alberta American. She will represent Alberta and Canada in June at the Miss American pageant (now open for the first time to contestants in North, South and Central America) in Florida, the first Canadian to be invited to the pageant.
Omilon will be back in Central Alberta for the summer, working multiple jobs and speaking about empowerment and self-esteem at the True Beauty conference in Edmonton in October.
She says her Western Canadian roots give her humility and grace.
“There’s a constant reminder of where you came from, coming from a smaller community and now living somewhere as big as L.A.,” she said. “And especially in New York, I was reminded of how much I love being from Canada and how polite people are generally there. … Red Deer has been so supportive of me and I’m just grateful for everyone following my journey.”