DB’s own Maddie Bowden, 11, and Tiffany Amber Tomlinson, 6, have their sights on stardom this month in the shadow of the Great White Way. Elizabeth Kerr reports
Maddie Bowden, 11, and Tiffany Amber Tomlinson, 6, are taking their love of being on stage to the next level this month, by spending eight days in Manhattan learning about show business, with the bonus of content producers like Disney, Virgin and Nickelodeon looking on.
The DB girls, both of whom attend Discovery College (DC), have had the good fortune to be selected as two of just 25 kids from Hong Kong – two of 2,000 globally – to attend the International Modeling & Talent Association (IMTA) convention in New York this month. As a one-stop clearinghouse of sorts for talent agents, casting directors and other industry professionals looking for fresh blood, the IMTA event provides budding entertainers coaching, a taste of competition and invaluable lessons from star-making industry pros.
“These are the same people who ‘discovered’ Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Biel and Katie Holmes, so sort of a big deal, I suppose,” says Maddie’s mother, DC teacher Tanya Surawski. Hobbit Elijah Wood, nerd icon Amy Acker, Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, Garrett Hedlund (Pan) and Desperate Housewife and producer Eva Longoria are also among the IMTA alumni.
As it turns out, Tiffany has already been scouted by New York agency Talent Inc. “One of the talent scout judges who discovered the tot is a director on a Disney Junior movie and several Nickelodeon shows. He calls Tiffany the mini Jessica Alba,” says her mother Cherry Tomlinson. Like Tanya, Cherry is treating the IMTA event with caution. “For sure, we are hoping that Tiffany gets discovered, though we will not be pushing this career onto her,” she says.
“I’m not sure where it came from actually,” Maddie begins of her interest in showbiz. “I’ve been dancing since I was two or three, and I started singing last year at school.” Drama came from school too. “I did the school play and that made me like acting more.” “Maddie has had no outside school singing or drama lessons at all, so her skills are a credit to her drama teacher, Mr Donnoli, and her primary music teacher Mr Burrows at DC,” says Tanya.
“Maddie’s always been interested in performing, in storytelling,” continues Tanya. “When she was a year or two old she’d run in, in a princess dress like Snow White, and she’d throw herself on the floor like she did in the forest and sweep the dress around, imitating the movie.”
Likewise, the Tomlinsons knew from the get-go that Tiffany might be destined for a career in the entertainment business. “Tiffany showed a huge interest in dancing, singing and acting from when she was about two, and she’s always been a bit of a poser,” says Cherry.
Notably both DB kids have honed their growing skill sets at Island Dance, Tiffany since she was 18 months and Maddie since she was five. “Miss Nimi’s class is so great,” says Tiffany. “We have lots of fun, and she encourages us to learn new dance steps. She is the best dance teacher because she always smiles.” While Maddie is equally enthusiastic about class with Nimisha Kashyap, she shows her maturity by giving a shout out to her former Island Dance mentors Rohita Menon and Sorrell Thomas.
Coach Charles Chan of Sportsmanship International gets a nod from both girls, and Tiffany also boosts her gymnastics at iGym with Kim Doherty. In her free time, Tiffany also takes class with Mariles de Guzman of Embody’s Zumba Kids and drama workshops with Faust International at Discovery Bay International School.
Maddie was born in Amsterdam but considers DB home, and so a career in the cutthroat entertainment industry is only at the idea stage. Ask her if she’s hoping for a gig with the big boys like Disney and the career path of Miley Cyrus or Justin Timberlake and she waffles a bit, considering. Point out that a job opportunity would likely take her away from DB, and she casually states, “I could say no.” Maybe she’ll be Hong Kong’s Beyoncé? She’s not sure – yet.
“Maybe I’d like to act for television. When I was a bit younger I used to watch comedy shows that a lot of famous actors were on,” she remarks. Who those are never do get identified, though Sia’s histrionic 2014 single Chandelier inspired some mad mimicking around the house. Post-secondary schools offering scholarships also make appearances at the IMTA, which could be a welcome opportunity. Maddie is keeping an open mind.
Little Tiffany, meanwhile, definitely has her sights on stardom. “I want to be a big star like Jessie J, Katy Perry and Meghan Trainor,” she says. “Because I can be on television, and people and my friends will see me perform.”
As seasoned performers, the time is right for the girls to get a taste of what the industry is really like. For acting, singing and dancing they share a passion but on modelling they differ. Tiffany, a former ‘Huggies Baby’ is a fan, with an extensive portfolio. Maddie is less enthusiastic.
The fancy clothes and the make-up don’t appeal to Maddie in the least, and she’s tolerating the modelling element of the IMTA event because she has to. “I don’t model,” she says with a small scoff. “I don’t like the whole idea of it.” Pointing out that turning pro down the road means hours in the make-up chair as part and parcel of the job gets an emphatic: “But that’s a different type of make-up. The only reason I’m wearing a skirt right now is that I’m out of school pants.” Cue tweener eye roll.
Busy preparing to take part in 12 competitions (acting, singing and dancing) during the week spanning July 21 and 28, Maddie and Tiffany’s current schedule could safely be described as packed. But life isn’t all rehearsals all the time. Tiffany enjoys swimming (with Harry Wright) and her art classes at Treasure House. Maddie spends her free time upside-down doing “cartwheels, backward walk-overs and aerials,” while angling for a trip to the Maldives. Those are some superstar tastes right there.