Mississippi mom always in search of talented Southerners



By Leslie Criss

Daily Journal


“I believe that every person is born with talent.”

Maya Angelou


“Great things are accomplished by talented people who believe they will accomplish them.”

Warren G. Bennis

A decade ago, Vardaman-raised Angie Grant took her Tupelo-born 10-year-old, Allie, to Los Angeles.

The plan was to give it a year to see if Allie might break into the acting business. I’m not sure if there was ever a Plan B, but there needn’t have been.

Allie found work not long after her arrival on the West Coast. She was cast as Isabelle Hodes on Showtime’s dark-comedy, “Weeds.” And most recently, Allie stole many half-hour episodes as Lisa Shay on ABC’s “Suburgatory.”

Of course, there’ve been movies and theater roles too.

Now Allie’s made a place for herself in Los Angeles and “the industry,” and her mama wants to help others with talent make their dreams come true.

Long before anyone realized Allie’s acting future was going to be as bright as it is, her mama believed. She believed not only in her own daughter’s talent, but the talents of other young folks. And she did what she could to help encourage them to move in the direction of their dreams.

In her decade with her daughter in Los Angeles, Angie has learned even more lessons to pass on to young people who aspire to act, model, sing for a career.

So she and her friend and business partner Tomi Eisenbrei of Dallas, Texas, created Showcase South.

It’s Angie’s way of “giving back” to Mississippi and the South. She believes in the talent that abounds in young Southerners. And she wants to help them find their way to the right people.

Last week, Angie brought 15 scouts from agencies in New York and Los Angeles to Olive Branch, where they worked with young people interested in modeling, commercials, acting and singing.

On Saturday, the participants auditioned for the scouts, and on Sunday, there were call-backs.

My friend McCoy Butler, Pontotoc-born and Tupelo resident, received eight call-backs. What does that mean? It means eight of the scouts were interested in talking to McCoy about possible modeling jobs with their agencies.

No contracts were signed at the showcase, but I imagine within the next few weeks, McCoy’s life, as he knows it, will be forever changed.

I know this because I was in Olive Branch for the four-day showcase.

I’ve heard about big talent expos before, companies that charge big bucks up front and then keep charging. And I’ll admit to being suspicious.

Showcase South’s not like that. There’s a one-time fee up front that helps get the scouts to Mississippi. And the young talents get one-on-one time with those in the know who can help them learn the right way – and avoid the wrong ways – to follow their dreams.

I wish my painfully shy younger self had had an opportunity like the one my friend Angie Grant is providing for kids today.

It’s an amazing thing she’s doing.

Giving back.


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