Going Places: How A West Michigan Family Navigates Hollywood

Jolie Ledford

Jolie Ledford

Jolie Ledford is, in many ways, a typical Midwestern preteen girl, right down to the sprinkling of freckles on her cheeks. In fact she reminds me a lot of my own preteen girl.

As she sits across from me and we chat, she smiles almost constantly. She’s goofy without being entirely self-conscious. Loves horses, despite the fact they make her break out in hives. When the adults start yacking too much, she turns on an electronic device and reads Black Beauty. And boy, does this girl love her daddy. She broke out her biggest smile when he came in the room. Yep, a lot like my girl . . .

With one exception.

Jolie Ledford is beginning to “make it” in Hollywood–a place that sends hundreds of girls like her home with nary a credit to their name.

Jolie2In the past year, she’s appeared on three movie posters, starred in an American Girl Doll Short Movie  appeared on a Nickelodeon television show, and is–as I write–shooting another movie and auditioning for another television show that she’s shortlisted for.

Jolie loves what she does. She’s quick to say, “I just love making people laugh for comedy scenes and making them happy, making their day better. I like, with the drama scenes, making them emotional. I just like making people have the feels.” And then she laughs again.

But it isn’t all glamorous.

It tends to be a world of difficulties and extremes.

When she was filming the American Girl Doll Short Film, it was so hot Jolie had to lie down between takes so she wouldn’t throw up. That is, after all, what happens when it’s 110 degrees, with no air conditioning or even a fan, and you’re dressed in long sleeves and tights.

Contrast that with the time everyone else was shivering in their parkas, while Jolie spent the 45 degree evening wearing a thin angel costume with only shorts and a tank top underneath.

There’s fixing flat tires in dark alleys, being away from home, missing her brothers and sister, squeezing in homeschooling with her mom, living far from friends, and the strain on the family budget (it isn’t cheap to have an apartment in California).

And, believe it or not, Jolie’s still a little nervous when the camera clicks on and all the adults are watching her. That is, until she reminds herself, “No I’m cool. I just need to talk to them like they’re normal people. Because they are normal people. Unless they’re robots. That might be kind of scary.”

Scary indeed.

Jolie feels like she’s meant to be acting on the set. “Called” is the word she and her mom use as people of faith.

There are so many obstacles which have strangely moved aside as Jolie stepped forward in her acting career, the obvious conclusion is this little girl is supposed to be in Hollywood.

The first time they stayed in Hollywood it was at the invitation of a woman Jolie’s mom, Tammy, had talked with for only about 10 minutes.  Jolie’s school let her leave for a month without any issues. Her manager, a very well-respected man in the industry, sought Jolie out and pursued her, even when Jolie couldn’t return to Hollywood for more than a year.

Jolie3When Jolie auditioned for Henry Danger at Nickelodeon, the casting director was a woman Jolie had seen before–and was sure she had irritated. Jolie refused to say some offensive words in a script at a workshop. (So we’re clear, you don’t skip words in scripts. It’s a legal thing.)  While Jolie did receive special permission to change the script, she and her mom were convinced they’d burned a bridge. Apparently not, though, because this same woman gave her the part!

It has been fun . . . and it’s also been full of purpose.

Jolie and her family have enjoyed meeting new people, making new friends, and reaching out to folks who’ve not known kindness.

While Jolie is “going places”, as far as the industry is concerned, she and her mom also hope that the daily sacrifices they make will contribute to quality filmmaking and make a difference in the long run.


Janyre Tromp is a developmental editor by day and a writer at night. She has 3 traditionally published books – a juvenile fiction, That Sinking Feeling, and 2 board books in the All About God’s Animals series. Her passion is writing about the beauty of the world, past and present, even when it isn’t pretty. Currently she’s working on a WWII book exploring issues of forgiveness and hope tentatively titled The Way of the Sharaw. You can check out her blog at http://BeautifulUglyMe.com