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Photo courtesy of Lori Young.

Success Story: How Lori Young Blended Fitness and Modeling to Create the ‘Picture Perfect’ Acting Career

Lori Young has always been drawn to acting, modeling and fitness—three things that she’s managed to combine when building her dream career. Always keeping a positive attitude, the Iowa native-turned Arizonian opened up about her journey, including an incredible commercial where she got on the driving range with several golf pros.

How did you first discover Casting Networks?

Well, as soon as I signed with Signature Models & Talent [about two years now], we were told to get on Casting Networks right away. I was so nervous because I didn’t know what I was doing, and so I set up my profile. I’m like, “Wait a second. They made this pretty easy.” So for a new actress, I felt like it was really pretty user-friendly.

What are some of the jobs that you’ve booked from Casting Networks?

I think the Grant Thornton [commercial] was through Casting Networks. And that was when I was on-set with Nelly Korda and Tony Finau, and even Rickie Fowler. I’m a golfer, so I loved to be golfing outside with athletes. That was so fun for me.

I was a background [actor], so I was on the driving range the whole time. And it was funny because there were many people that couldn’t really golf. That’s not something that they did all the time, but they were cast as golfers. And I would hit every time and [one of the golfers was] like, “Okay, we’re going to be using you. You are consistent. You know what you’re doing.”

So, it was nice to be out there and it was a two- or three-day shoot. It was just so fun to be out there in golf clothes at a beautiful driving range and getting paid.

How did you decide to become an actor?

It’s been a long time coming, actually. When I graduated from high school, my dad took me to a modeling and acting school because I always wanted to do that, but I just love that my parents were willing to do that for me. Some would be like, “No, we’re not going to entertain that idea.” But they did.

I was in Minneapolis at John Casablancas, a modeling and acting school, and I really got out of my shell there. I built confidence, I did improv and I felt more comfortable. I learned to push myself out of my comfort zone there.

Then, I went to college [in Arizona]. I came out there to golf every year since I was a freshman in high school, and I [decided I] wanted to live in Arizona. I always came out at the perfect time of year—spring break. It was gorgeous.

In college I was in two plays, plus I focused on softball. I continued to do promotional modeling, and was always trying to network with photographers, do time for print.

I had done [modeling] for a long time, but I’d never had an agent. Then I got married [and] got divorced. I had to work on healing first and foremost. And I think a huge, huge part of it is I did some fitness modeling, like competitions.

So I don’t know if you’re familiar with bikini competitions, but you have to eat a certain way. You have to exercise with a personal trainer who knows the competition prep, and I did that. I got on stage and I was in this teeny tiny blinged-out bikini, and I just was so proud of myself for getting back there, doing something like that.

And then from there, I was more confident modeling and I was finally ready to say, “I want to act again.” It just feels so good to have gotten back to this point where I can say I’m an actress.

And eventually, you ended up leaving the corporate world to just pursue your goals, and it looks like you’re just totally succeeding on this end.

I’d been in admissions for an online college, and I had helped people to enroll online. I felt that I was making a difference, and maybe if they didn’t talk to me, then they wouldn’t have gone to school to better their lives.

So for me, it was about helping people. That’s what kept me in my position for so long. And I’m talking 11 years. I grew with the company and it was okay going to work, but then when COVID happened, we were told that we could work from home. While inside, I was like, “Okay, well, I’ll be home. I can fold the clothes, I can do some dishes. I can make eggs for breakfast.” I pictured vacuuming, having lines in the carpet. I pictured it all, and I just thought in between calls or something, I would be able to contribute more at home.

But I was so tied to that computer, it was like ding, ding, ding. And I didn’t realize it until I was home. And then, yes, it was awful. I felt like a prisoner, honestly. And I felt like, “I cannot do this.”

So then I’m like, “Well, what do I do?” I can’t just quit work. And so I was like, “You know what? I’m going to get an agent.” And I had been modeling. I had been in print publications, I had a cover, I’d been doing the work, but I didn’t have an agent ever. So I was just like, “Okay, I’m ready. I’m confident enough, I’m doing it. I know I could work in this environment.”

I got an agent and I met Angie Seger of Signature Models & Talent, and I feel like I struck gold with her. The team has been nothing short of amazing. They are quick to respond, they’re quick to answer questions. They’ve just been there from day one supporting me.

You had a role in the short student film Picture Perfect, which is about the nerves and second-guessing that actors and models sometimes go through during auditions. I wanted to know if you could speak to that. How can actors manage their nerves when in that situation?

Oh, 100%. So I’ve learned that you cannot take things personally. You just have to give your best and then let it go. That’s it.

If you show up and you did your best or you submitted a self tape that you’re proud of, that’s it. And it’s easier said than done, because in acting you don’t get a lot of validation. You don’t at all. It’s like, “I submitted for this. I’ve heard nothing, but I guess I just didn’t get it.” That’s how it goes.

I think that you have to just stay in your own lane and be like, “This is what I can control right here,” and kind of put blinders on and let everyone else fade to the background. That’s the best thing you can do.

And let it go. I think so many people try to hold on to their auditions and let it carry into the next one. And I don’t. [With each one], I’m like, “Oh, a new audition!” I’m so lucky to be doing this. I’m so lucky to get these auditions and get the chance to do that for my job. It’s so cool. It’s awesome.

The other part of Picture Perfect that I noticed was that the lead, Piper, even though she’s super nervous and a little klutzy, she’s very authentic. How important is authenticity?

I’m not an overthinker, so I guess I’m not looking for perfection in my auditions. I record it maybe two times and I’m like, “Oh, well that’s that.” And it just feels good to send it off.

Don’t overthink it [and] don’t redo it until it’s perfect. I don’t think that’s what people are looking for.

I have to agree with you there, too, because it’s those little human quirks that do it, even if it’s something that maybe wasn’t even a conscious choice.

That makes you stand out. So, you just never know what they’re looking for and it’s okay. We don’t have to dissect what they’re looking for. We just have to be like, “Okay, I completed that.” Look at the breakdown because it is all there for you. A lot of times it is so crystal clear what they’re looking [for].

[For example], the one I’m supposed to do today [is] full body, walk toward a camera, walk away and there’s a jump. You just have to make sure you get that all in and you submit it as they ask, and that’s half of it. They’re like, “Okay, she can follow directions. She listens. She’s trying to do exactly what we said.”

Then I’m a contender as long as I can act and be what they want, or they could see me fulfilling that vision. That’s really what it is. It’s their vision coming to life and I get to be a part of it, and that is so freaking exciting.

What’s the best way to approach an audition?

I came in when self tapes were just coming out. I quit my job in quarantine, so self tapes were not appreciated by a lot of people, but man, I like it. I appreciate it very much because you can literally set up anywhere, and as long as you have good lighting next to a window.

But in person, it is a lot of fun. I love to be on-set. So if you’re ever in person, sometimes they give you [part of the] script to practice. At least I’ve had that in auditions. And take your time, take a step outside. Give yourself that minute to just absorb what you’re supposed to do, kind of breathe, get your breathing, relax.

Another thing I do on my way to auditions, especially in person, is I listen to a meditation. It’s on receiving. It’s called, It’s Your Time. It puts me in such a good head space to go into that audition. That’s another thing I do. Maybe run in the morning. Something where you just are in a routine and you’re going to just go do this and do it well.

What would you say helps someone succeed on Casting Networks?

Well, first of all, I’ll start by keeping it up to date. You get a booking—that needs to be one of the first things you do, is go in and update your resume. You learn a new skill, you go in and update your resume. That needs to be so up to date. It should be you on paper.

I learned that you can actually make clips. You can make clips of you doing something and add it to your skills. Or have it at the top of your Casting Networks profile above the fold. That’s the verbiage of it. So it’s right on top.

And that’s something I’m going to do for sure. I added a demo, a demo reel, which I’m very proud of. Well, I’m working on adding it. But I’ve got it. Another thing is the skill set. I could do a clip of paddleboarding. I could do a clip of golfing. I could do a clip of softball, throwing the ball, batting. I mean, whatever it may be. That’s your place to show how valuable and versatile you are.

So I think if you use it right, Casting Networks really, really helps. Plus, they’re constantly sending, if you keep that up to date, they’re constantly sending things. Like, “Did you see this? You might be right for this role.” Well, that’s awesome, right? I might be right for this role. I’ll go check it out and see if I’m right for it or if it’s a good fit for me.

But to have someone go, “Okay, based on everything that you’re telling us here, we feel like this is right for you.” That’s wonderful. So I think it’s like how well you use it. It can be just a tool that you let lay there or you can actually let it help your whole career.

This interview has been edited for clarity and condensed.

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Chris Butera is a voice actor specializing in commercial, eLearning and corporate narration voiceovers. When he’s not helping clients achieve their goals, he’s playing guitar and bass.