Many of you know this phrase, and I'm gonna bet your parents do too (I dare you--ask them where it's from!). So get ready for Fame, the reinvention of the 1980 original Oscar-winning movie. The old one was more gritty and rated R, but this one is rated PG and it's totally hot! The cast and creators themselves seem to be living their own “Fame” stories. It comes out in theaters today and we've got the inside scoop.
First a bit about the movie. It follows a group of talented singers, actors, and musicians over four years at the New York City High School of the Performing Arts (based on the real life NYC school: Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Performing Arts!) It's a diverse powerhouse where students from all walks of life get a chance to live out their dreams. But even with hard work, discipline and talent, not everyone will make it. Plus they've got to deal with all the normal high school stuff like homework, insecurity and romance.
Check out this behind-the-scenes video Fame: Backstage, then READ ON for more inside scoop.
We sat down with three of the stars of Fame: Naturi Naughton who plays Denise, a classical pianist who can rock the microphone. Collins Pennie who plays Malik, an actor/rapper whose family has had too much drama and not enough money. And Cody Longo who plays Andy, an actor whose fame goes to his head.
Q for Naturi: What did you like most about your character, Denise? Naturi: I really liked her innocence. I remember when I was that age — you don't really know who you are. I felt like I could use this character to help other young people figure out what they want to do and how to stand up for what they love, even if it's your parents that you have to stand up to. And I think that it's really hard to do that when you're sixteen or seventeen years old and you don't really know what direction you want to take your career.
Q: Any obstacles that you met when you were in your teens that might help other kids?
Naturi: Yeah, I went through a few obstacles. I was a recording artist at fifteen.
[RATHA: Naturi was in the girl group 3LW in the early 2000's. They sang a song I totally loved “No More (Baby I'm a Do Right”) and toured with Destiny's Child and Jessica Simpson!]
So one of the things I think could help other teens was being told that I wasn't good enough or marketable, or I didn't have the right look. And in my business it's all about packaging and a product and how you look and how you dress. It's very materialistic and as young people we all get caught up in that. But at the end of the day I learned that I can't rely on people to tell me who I am. People might say, “You're not smart enough to get into the AP classes. . . or to be a doctor.” Whatever it is that someone is telling you you can't do, don't let that stop you and don't let them dictate your ability. You have to be strong enough to say, “I'm going to work hard, and if I put my mind to it and believe in myself, then I can achieve anything and no one can stop that.”
[RATHA: You go girl! Totally true!]
So all the young people that are going through that now, it's only temporary, trust me. You will get through it and you will prove all those haters, for lack of a better word, you'll prove them wrong.
Q: Does your name have a special meaning?
Naturi: Yes it does. Naturi — it means “Nature's Girl, Natural Woman.” My parents gave that to me.
[RATHA: I love that! Do any of you guys out there have unusual or exotic names? Let us know in the Comments!]
Next, we spoke with Collins Pennie, who plays Malik. He has an equally inspiring story. He spent much of his childhood in foster care, where he discovered his passion for performing.
Q: Could you tell us a bit about the challenges that you faced living in foster care?
Collins: I would just say that coming out of being in foster care, there's a lot of things that you go through. You want to be at home with your family, so it's a struggle, because you're in another person's home. It's not your own, but I worked hard and I had a dream and that kept me alive. It allowed me to focus on something else.
Q: And then at fifteen you went out on your own. How did you make money? How did you live?
Collins: By that point I had some friends that I was staying with from my dance school, or just some friends in general. It was rough, but I had a dream and I followed it and I'm here.
[RATHA: He is truly living a real life Fame story! I vote they should make a movie about Collins' life. How inspiring!]
Q: When did you know that performing was something that wasn't just fun, but would be a career for you?
Collins: I always knew. I mean growing up, watching Michael Jackson, who I love, I knew I always wanted to perform. I didn't know if I could act [but] I knew I wanted to sing and dance. My stepdad Ronald Lawson, he put me in an acting class when I was about seven years old. And it was like every Saturday. Some Saturdays I didn't want to go, but basically it was so the kids could get out of the house and have something to do instead of sitting in the house.
Q: What challenge that you faced are you most proud of?
Collins: Probably performing arts. I didn't have much support being on my own at that early age - going after what I believed was right for myself. It was very rough, but I never gave up on my dream and I'm very proud of that because look where I am today.
Q: Do you have a personal motto that encapsulates who you are?
Collins: I never give up and I always work hard. I believe in my work. I believe that it pays off. You stay focused and you work hard.
[RATHA: Absolutely! A colleague who was like a mentor once told me this: Work hard. Learn a lot. Earn your keep. When the time is right – blossom and move on.]
Q: Talking about working hard, describe Malik. What is he like?
Collins: Malik is a guy who comes from a background of struggle and he uses that as motivation to push himself forward. To succeed. He basically wants a chance to get his mom out of the projects, to get himself a better life. So he's a very determined guy, and he decides that he's going to audition for this performing arts school. Malik has a lot of walls up, because of all the things that he's been through. He doesn't want to be judged or hurt so [his teacher] Dowd challenges him. Throughout the process of working with Dowd he really opens up and finds his voice as an artist.
Q: Do you keep in touch with the members of the cast?
Collins: We're all very close friends. We basically did our own little performing arts camp before the movie even started going into production. We spent so much time together in rehearsals and filming that we really formed this very close bond. . . and that really reflects in the movie.
Q: Do you like to read?
Collins: I have to read everyday, I get so many scripts! But yes I do love to read. I love to lose myself in a book. I wish I had more time to do so.
Q: What would you like your fans to know about you?
Collins: That most of all, everything in life wasn't always perfect but I believed in myself and I followed my dreams and I never gave up.
[RATHA: Much like his character in the movie! Will Malik's character be one of the few to achieve fame? We'll have to see the movie to find out!]
We also spoke with Cody Longo, who plays the controversial character, Andy.
Q: Tell us how playing your character in Fame was challenging.
Cody: In Fame I played a character named Andy Matthews. He goes down a road from being this actor in school who's a great, great actor and appreciates the work and is really focused. Then he books a [role] on a big hot teen show and he starts down the road of stardom. He gets caught up in his head, and getting involved in drugs and alcohol.
Q: Would Andy be a friend of yours?
Cody: I live in LA and I have friends that — we'd audition and we'd get on certain shows that really blow up and some of us get really caught up in that stuff. I try to stay away from this LA lifestyle and all the partying and stuff, because it's so easy to get caught up in. It's so much fun, there's cool people around and it's easy to kind of lose yourself in it. Sadly, I've seen too many of my friends go down that road. I think in the beginning, sure, Andy would be my friend. But if people go down that road and they're not coming back, I can't be involved with that.
Q: Do you have any advice to kids who want to perform?
Cody: One of the best pieces of advice I've ever received is just be passionate in everything that you do. I think that if you're going to be involved in the arts and it's a way to express yourself, really use it to express yourself and don't question yourself and don't be embarrassed like nobody's watching but you. So I really think that just being passionate about everything you do, and once you step up on that stage let all your guards down.
Are you fired up to see Fame? I know I am! These kids are so chock full of talent, I wouldn't be surprised if they are the next superstars of tomorrow. As for me, I still aspire to learn to play piano some day. What are some of YOUR own personal dreams? Let us know in the comments!