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An Interview with Ayla Kell- Star of ABC Family's Make It, or Break It

If confidence could be bottled up and sold, like Red Bull Energy Drinks, it would be called, Ayla: Does not give you wings, but will teach you to fly. Ayla Kell, who plays Payson Keeler on ABC Family’s Make it, or Break It, has some of the most contagious energy and flawless confidence of anyone I have met.

Over organic coffees and herbal tea, I got the chance to not only converse with this rising star, but the chance to be inspired. Even though I have steered clear of high school drama television shows since I hit my mid-20’s, Make It, or Break It may be one guilty pleasure that I will need to add to my growing list of secret indulgences; and it looks like I am not the only one! Make It, or Break It is nominated for the Teen Choice Awards as best TV Drama. If you are a teenager, click here to vote!

Photo Courtesy of Bobby Quillard



You were a ballerina for 15 years. How did you get started in dance?

I instantly loved dance as a kid. It was something that just made sense to me. At three years old I convinced my mom to let me do ballet and I just loved it. I kept pursuing it and eventually went professional. I learned so much discipline from ballet that I still carry these principles in my daily life now.

What made you decide to pursue acting?

I also did some acting as a kid, but as my dancing progressed, it required more attention and I put acting on hold. However, I got a knee injury in 2001 and would have needed surgery. Instead of getting the surgery, acting seemed like a natural transition.

I am very much a strong-willed person and I do what I like. I knew going to college was not in my plan. I marked every answer as ‘C’ on the SAT! I scored a 1450. I am lucky to have the most supportive and awesome mom and dad because they understood that college was not meant for me. I always wanted to be performer that there was never a need for a college fund for me.

How do you prepare for auditions and how do you select which roles to pursue?

My prep usually depends on how much time I have. If I have a week, I will build up a backstory for the character so that she feels natural to me. I test the character. I also like to read the sides with someone.

Many actors or actresses that land their first big role lose themselves within the first year. They stop dressing how they like to and take jobs that they don’t necessarily agree with. I always dress how I want to and I always try to go with my initial instinct in taking a role. I usually visualize specific scenes and the way that they will be shot before taking on a role. I am very visual like that. From there, I try to make sure that I am consistent with the vibe and what my character’s role is. I like to choose characters that I find interesting and would not be offensive to my younger viewership.

How did you feel when you landed the lead role on Make It or Break It? Were you surprised?

I felt confident in my audition but I was not totally sure that I would get it. I thought the role was perfect for me, especially because of my dance background. I mean, I already knew how to wear a leotard and put my hair in a bun.  When I was casted the very same day, I so excited!

What has been your most memorable career experience?

Sometimes while shooting for Make It, or Break It, I look around and I feel like I’m in a dream. Like, is this really my life? Am I really at work right now? I would honestly do this for free!

What is your favorite part about acting?

My favorite time is play time. No matter what the role is, I love letting go of any fears or anxiety and just getting lost in another world. I always was the best at “dress-up” as a kid.

Photo Courtesy of Josh Madson



How do you stay balanced and focused with such a busy schedule?

I stay very active. I play beach volleyball, run marathons, play basketball, and the list goes on. I also try to stay positive and surround myself with supportive and happy people.

How much of your overall success do you attribute to goal-setting?

A part of being goal-oriented is not just working hard, but having the confidence to know that you will achieve your goals. It does not matter what type of stage you are on- TV set, dance performance, etc.- If you are afraid of the work, the audience will not enjoy it. No one wants to see you looking terrified.

I find that a lot of my confidence comes from being prepared. I work my butt off beforehand so I can just get up and have fun. That is why I think being prepared is just as important as being goal-oriented.

Who are your role models?

My role models are Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, and Twiggy. My favorite actress of today is Michelle Williams. My favorite actor, although it might sound ridiculous, is Charlie Day. I also love John Ham and Charlie Hunnam.

What advice do you have for other aspiring actors/actresses?

Knowing who are is a requirement. You see so many young girls get their first job and their first tube of lipstick and it’s all down from there. They get caught up in the life and the fame and forget about the work. I personally don’t get this. You will never see me at a club opening.  I am an actress because I love acting and I want to inspire people to be goal-oriented.

You are only responsible for you and it doesn’t matter what every else does.

How does it feel to be considered a rising fashionista?

I try to not do what is totally popular right now. I am so upset that people have started getting stripes on their nails because I have been doing that for so long, and I do it myself! I don’t ever wear pants. I own one pair of jeans. I just always want to dress like myself and no one else.

I also read that you are a certified cake decorator. How did you get into this hobby?

I just did it because I was interested and I was already baking all the time. When it comes to something I want, I have really good follow-through. I get things done. The problem then sometimes becomes that I make myself too busy.

Where would you like to see your career in five years?

I do not know where my career will be in the future, all I hope is to be happily creating. I would like to go into movies but there is no predicting in this business. I do not want to get my heart set on one thing and potentially miss out on another.

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