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October 25, 2012

Our Neighbors: Presley Morgan is living her dreams

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Many young children dream of becoming ‘stars’ but very few of these dreams come true.

These were also the dreams and wishes of 12-year-old Presley Morgan. And, almost five years ago, her dreams became a reality.

Presley always wanted to be a singer. But when she began acting in 2008, she really liked it.

Her career was kick started when she won Little Miss Kentucky 2006 in the Miss America Scholarship system.

“One of her prizes was a modeling scholarship to Images Model and Talent Agency in Lexington,” her mother Tonya Poindexter Morgan said. “After she graduated, they had auditions for IMTA (International Model and Talent Association), she auditioned for it, made it and went to New York IMTA in July 2007. While there, she met her future manager, Debra Findon of Discover Management from Studio City, Calif.”

The move to Hollywood happened after Presley did exceptionally well at the New York IMTA.

At the show, during which she competed against models, actors and singers of all ages, she was named first runner-up in the Singer of the Year and Actor of the Year categories. She placed in the top five in all 11 categories in which she participated.

Presley was one of three people (out of thousands of hopefuls) who won a $10,000 acting scholarship from Debra Long Acting Studios in California.

Presley and her mom went to Hollywood. “We stayed there for 10 days, signed with Discover, and they got her signed with Maverick Agency and The Osbrink Agency, as her agents, both in Hollywood, and has now been picked up by Heyman Talent Agency in Ohio.” Tonya said.

Later, Presley, her mom and younger sister, Zetta, moved to Huntington Beach, Calif., while dad Dewayne and older sister, Tyla, stayed in London.

“Presley hasn’t been anywhere without me,” Tonya said. “We usually fly, but when we moved to California I drove from Kentucky, there and back, that way we could take what we needed and have a vehicle.”

During her six-month stay in California, Presley took advantage of the $10,000 scholarship and attended acting classes every week. She still has about half of the scholarship left, and when they go back to California she will use it.

Presley also enrolled in public school and quickly fell into the swing of California living — school during the day and countless auditions in her free time.

“She has an Entertainers Work Permit in California (Kentucky does not have these permits) that allows her to be taken out of school as much as needed, if she is working,” Tonya said. “If she works during school hours there, they have a ‘set teacher.’ The company whom she is working for pays the ‘set teacher’ to come and be with her at those times.”

Currently a seventh grader at South Laurel Middle School, Presley uses educational enhancement days if she does something local or something that lasts two weeks or less.

“I sung at the Gusto Theatre when it was on Main Street and had a part in ‘The Music Man’ this summer at The Playhouse Theatre,” she said. “When I get time, I would like to do more at The Playhouse Theatre. I really had a great time.”

“She has sung ever since she could talk, and never had any voice lessons,” Tonya said.  “Since 2006 she has volunteered hours of her time singing for the residents of nursing homes in Kentucky. She will be doing a Christmas special for three nursing homes in December.”

Presley was chosen to sing at a private luncheon for U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao. She sings at the Laurel County and Pittsburg Homecomings each year, NIBROC and the World Chicken Festival and she sang for the dedication ceremony of the Veterans Memorial located in front of the Laurel County Courthouse.

She also won the singing competition at the Abbey Road on the River Beatles Festival in Louisville when she was 10 years old with her rendition of George Harrison’s “Something.” And in 2007 was first runner-up at the Singer of the Year International in New York.

She has not sung in any movies yet, but has starred in a music video for The Squares, an up and coming group in Los Angeles.

Presley has filmed a pilot TV show, two national TV commercials, a music video for MTV and two short films — the first being “Lilly,” filmed in 2008 with Presley playing the main character, Lilly. The second being ‘Blessed Veil.’

‘Blessed Veil’, filmed in Wilmore, Ky., is based on a true story about Ruby, mother of two daughters, who attempts to escape the control of her abusive husband, Freeman. Presley plays the part of the eldest daughter, Laura.

She worked Thursday through Sunday for a month on the film and went to school Monday through Wednesday. Filming just wrapped up on this movie last week.

“She uses the educational enhancement days when filming. But has stayed right up with her schoolwork, so as not to get behind,” Tonya said.

Presley has not auditioned for a lot of movies in the past, but has started to do so. Smaller roles help her build her resume and get a foot in the door.

“I don’t really have a favorite part of being an actress,” she said. “There are too many things to choose from.”

One of the highlights, in-particular, is getting treated like royalty while on a set.

 “I’m used to sharing almost everything and being able to be on set with people who do my hair, makeup and wardrobe is pretty neat. It’s like a day at the spa and it feels like I’m treated like royalty. They ask me what I want to eat, and it’s there a little while later.”

Presley wishes she could show her sisters what it’s like.

“But they have different dreams than I, so I support them in their decisions and they support me.”

Her sister Tyla, 17, said she is so proud of Presley. “I can remember when we were younger, we would put on little shows for our parents where I would be her DJ and she would sing and dance to the music I produced from our little toy piano. Mom would video it. Even at such a young age, I knew that she had a gift. She could entertain people in such an extraordinary way, it was unreal. I’m here to support her in every way that I can.”

Tyla said she doesn’t want to go into acting. “It would sure be an experience, but I have chosen the career as a criminal profiler/psychologist.”

Eight-year-old Zetta had this to say about her sister —  “Everybody has their career and Presley’s is singing and acting. She is good at it and likes doing it. I feel very happy for her and I am proud she is my sister.”

“It would be fun to be a ‘star.’ I just about got the part of Adam Sandler’s daughter in the movie ‘Grown Ups.’ I have done modeling jobs too. I even got to do one in Las Vegas for Zappos. They pay good money! But what I really want to do is have my own restaurant and be a chef. I like to cook.”

Presley said she enjoys the acting. “It is so fun getting away from school, even though acting can get pretty complicated. I love playing the different roles. In this last film that I did, it was the first time that I got to be in an intense role and I loved doing it. Like everything else, it has its ups and downs (I miss my friends when I am gone) but that’s all part of life. All of my friends support me, which is wonderful. I really feel blessed being able to do what I love, having the support of my family and friends ... it’s like a dream coming true.”

“When I was about to audition for ‘Blessed Veil,’ being nervous was the last thing on my mind. I was too excited to be nervous,” she said. “I had some tough competition, but was totally relieved and full of adrenaline when I was offered the part.”

“Since Presley was very young, she has had this aura about her. It seems like everyone she meets sees it,” her mother said. “When she was four, her preschool teacher told me, at the end of the year, that she didn’t know what Presley was going to do in her life, but she knew that she was going to be famous and on TV or a stage. Several of her teachers from different grades have told me the other children are just drawn to her and how Presley makes no difference in her classmates, she relates to all of them and stays out of ‘cliques.’ Presley can go from being your normal 12 year old girl one minute, and then, when she gets on a stage to sing, or act ... it is all business. She takes her singing and acting very serious and wants to do the best that she can. When she gets off the stage, she goes right back to being my Presley again.”

Presley is supported and encouraged not only by her sisters but also her parents.

“If singing and acting is what Presley wants to continue doing, we support her fully in her decision,” Tonya said. “As long as she has fun doing it, and loves it, and doesn’t fall behind in any school work, we couldn’t be happier for her.”

Presley is the granddaughter of Jackie Creech, Jim and Linda Poindexter, James and Agnes Lincks, and Donnie and Shirley Morgan, and great-granddaughter of Troy Ingram.

The South Laurel Middle seventh-grader has been on the honor roll or principal’s list since fourth grade; is a student member of the VH1 Save The Music Foundation, which is a non-profit group that raises money to keep music in public schools; is active in 4-H, the Art Club, Art GT, and the school All Festival chorus; and was presented with the Alpha Delta Kappa Award for Outstanding Student Citizenship in 2007.

The brown-eyed beauty holds the titles of — 2006 Little Miss Kentucky America; 2007 Little Miss Laurel County Fair;  2007 Little Miss Laurel County Homecoming; 2008 and 2010 Preteen Laurel County Fair; 2010 Preteen Laurel County Homecoming; and is reigning 2012 Junior Miss Kentucky America.

Her birthday, May 27, was proclaimed Presley Letayne Morgan Day by London Mayor Troy Rudder because of all that she has accomplished at her young age and all of the community service that she does.

To keep up with Presleys career, visit youtube.com/user/presleysworld and facebook.com/presleysworld.

sminton@sentinel-echo.com

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