Disney Superstar Laura Marano is All That… and She Loves Dogs

Laura Marano
Disney Superstar Laura Marano is All That… and She Loves Dogs
Interview with the star and her Keeshond, Velvet

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Like anyone who loves a child, I want the best for my two Goddaughters. I want Jayda and Avery to live big lives. I want them to give of themselves so that they can make the world an even more miraculous place than it already is. I want them to seize opportunities, to make memories, and to jump into work they’re passionate about. I want them to love people and animals, and in turn to make decisions that protect all people and animals. And I want them to aspire to greatness by admiring those who aspire to greatness.

So when I learned I would be interviewing Laura Marano, the Disney Channel superstar they are positively gaga over, I won’t lie, I was more than a little bit hopeful Laura wouldn’t disappoint. While being the star of an internationally acclaimed hit series (Austin & Ally) and role model for millions of young girls is a very big deal, the reality, of course, is that not everyone in high profile positions necessarily lives up to all the adulation from afar.
So, when I readied myself for our conversation, I desperately hoped she lived up to the hype. And you know what? She most certainly did. In fact, she delighted.

Laura shared insights about her early start in the business, life as a young woman making it in Hollywood, and, of course, her favourite co-star and long-time four-legged friend, her musically inclined Keeshond, Velvet. Simply put, Jayda and Avery, you picked a good one.

 

MD: You started acting at a very young age. What is it that drew you to the stage initially?
LM: My mom owned a theater [the Agoura Children’s Theatre] so my sister and I sort of grew up in there. It was really a second home; a place where we’d go all the time. When my sister (actress Vanessa Marano) was six years old, she asked my mom if we could be actresses. And she said “Nope. No way. Not happening.” My sister basically begged her every day for two years and my mom’s friends started joking that here she was, this super supportive mom, and yet she wasn’t supporting her daughter in the one thing she really wanted. So she started looking for an agent and did some research and found one who mostly worked with kids. It was like ding-ding-ding. So we all went in together; I was five and Vanessa was eight. After Vanessa had gone in to meet the agent, the agent asked to see mom and because I just wanted to meet new people, I went in too. The agent said she wanted to take Vanessa and I said: “But I don’t have agent.” So she said: “Honey, I’ll take you too.” My mom was like: “What just happened?!” We’ve been with the same agent ever since. That was 14 years ago.
It took a good year before I got my first role. I must’ve been six or seven when I started working on Without a Trace. It’s great when you start young because you don’t have the fears and the doubts. I was just like: “Throw me in there. I’m ready to go.”

"When I play piano, when I am practicing, she always, always, always sings with me. Which you’d think is adorable—and sometimes it is. But really, she is very loud."

MD: In 2011, you began your journey as Ally, on Disney’s series Austin & Ally. In what ways are you most like Ally Dawson?
LM: The moment I learned I was down for the role of Ally, I was like: She’s ridiculously like me. Other than the stage fright she suffered from, which I never had, we are so alike. At the time, all I had seen was the breakdown of who she was. Then I read the script and saw that she was so like me. As the show has progressed, it’s gotten even more so.
 

MD: What are some of the pressures of being a young actor in Hollywood today?
LM: I think there is an overwhelming pressure to please everyone. To be mature but also kid-friendly. You have to be okay with not being perfect. And I’m 100 percent not in any way perfect. I am so awkward and ridiculous and I’m completely okay with it.

MD: You have a special four-legged friend in your life. Who is she?
LM: I do. Her name is Velvet. She is a Keeshond. Keeshonds are kind of like a Siberian husky, a Chow Chow, and a German Shepherd all in one. She is so adorable and so insane all at the same time. She is actually very loud. She definitely talks. My favourite—and yet not favourite—thing about her is that when I play piano, when I am practicing, she always, always, always sings with me. Which you’d think is adorable—and sometimes it is. But really, she is very loud.

MD: How old is she?
LM: She is nine years old. But she looks like a puppy. When we got her, she also had a brother, and we were given the option of having the shy one or the spitfire, and we went with the spitfire. And she hasn’t changed.

MD: So she’s been with you during the rise of your career, since you were a little girl?
LM: Completely. She’s been through everything with me. When I have a busy day at school or on set, she always welcomes me at the door. Whenever I’m stressed I know can spend thirty minutes with her and all that will go away. I know that might sound cheesy, but it’s true.

"Whenever I’m stressed I know I can spend thirty minutes with her and all that will go away. I know that might sound cheesy, but it’s true."

MD: How does having a dog in your life help keep you grounded in a city that can be somewhat superficial?
LM: For one thing, it gives you appreciation for animals in general. She has a very big personality. She’s her own being. And I love her for it. I walk her, I clean up after her, she means different responsibilities for me that are outside of my life in the entertainment industry.

MD: What is it that makes Velvet unique?
LM: She fits in so perfectly with my family. She is the dog I can be with after a long day at school. Or, when I’m getting my hair and make-up done at the house, she goes and sits at the legs of my stylists. She wants to be with the girls. She is the best “best-of-both-worlds” kind of dog.

MD: I heard that, along with the Humane Society of the US, you helped launch a campaign in support of an idea called Meatless Mondays. Can you tell us what this is all about and why you chose to get on board?
LM: This is a fantastic campaign. It is all about choosing to not eat meat one day a week. It helps the environment given the (connection between) factory farms and carbon dioxide levels and it obviously helps the animals. I think it’s such an important campaign for so many reasons. Helping animals and helping the environment go hand in hand.

MD: Your philanthropy doesn’t stop there. In August of last year, you were named the UNICEF Trick-or-Treat ambassador, which encourages kids to raise funds on Halloween to benefit children in need globally. What is it about that cause that excites you?
LM: I am so lucky to be working with them. They are absolutely incredible. They are the best humanitarian organization for children’s rights. The campaign reminds kids all over American that no matter who you are or how old you are, you can always make a difference. Literally something as little as one dollar can (help fight) malnutrition for so many kids. It was amazing to see how much even a little amount could do.

MD: What have you learned most about life from having Velvet?
LM: I was the one who wanted a dog. I saved up all my money for my birthday and Christmas. So she was literally my dog and has been ever since we got her. She’s taught me maturity and responsibility. 

MD: Right, because as a six-year-old in a hit show like Without a Trace you didn’t already know about responsibility?
LM: (Laughing) Right. Well, it’s always good to learn to be responsible at an early age.

MD: Given that you’re a young woman with an already impressive resume, both professionally and philanthropically, if you had a crystal ball, what do you see moving forward?
LM: I see a few things. I won’t be able to do them all at the same time, but I will do them. Number one: I will continue my acting career. I can’t imagine my life without it. Number two: I will go to school. Both my parents are teachers, so it’s important to me. I just graduated from high school this year. My sister was home schooled—and she is the most intelligent, responsible, amazing person I know—but I knew for me I needed to go to regular school. And I know I want to get a degree. Even if I’m 37 years old when it happens. Number three: I want to continue to do as much charity work as possible. We are all very connected on a global level and by getting involved you feel a lot more fulfilled. And number four: I want to write songs and have a music career. I’ve wanted this forever, since I was a little girl.

MD: Do I see a duet with Velvet in your future?
LM: I hope so! I suspect it would be what she’d want. And how could I say no to that face?! n
Catch Laura in "Bad Hair Day,” a Disney Channel original movie premiering early 2015. Laura starts as a high school tech whiz who’s bound and determined to be crowned prom queen—but on the big day, everything that can go wrong does go wrong. Here's hoping Velvet has a cameo!

Catch Laura in "Bad Hair Day,” a Disney Channel original movie premiering early 2015. Laura starts as a high school tech whiz who’s bound and determined to be crowned prom queen—but on the big day, everything that can go wrong does go wrong. Here's hoping Velvet has a cameo!

 

>> GO! To learn more about how you can participate in Meatless Mondays, check out “Meatless Mondays” on humanesociety.org! As the New York Times noted, it’s catching on with veg-eaters and carnivores alike!

To learn more about the UNICEF Trick-or-Treat campaign, check out schools.TrickorTreatforUnicef.org

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