Once upon a time, if you had a favorite singer or dancer or actor, your opportunities to hear from them or learn about them were limited to talkshows, magazine interviews and gossip rags. But today, if you want to know what that fan-favorite is up to you can often just open Twitter or Instagram and WALLAH! You’ve also opened a small window into their work, their creative process and maybe even their life.
For most of us, social media is a way to show the world what we’re having for lunch or to share a pic of that really cute thing your dog is doing. But for others – like myself – it’s a way to peek behind the curtain (Ok, Ok. I post dog pics too). I’ve always been a total nerd when it came to the “Special Features” that accompanied most movie and show DVDs and the rise of social media amongst celebrities and performers has given many fans an ongoing, up to the minutes stream of special features. Everything from rehearsals and pictures from the set to a night on the town or a day in the life, you can in many cases get a daily update from the worlds of entertainment, seeing things that were before a mystery.
Enter today’s bright and charming guest, Ashleigh Ross. Born in Australia and dancing since the wee age of three, Ashleigh is part of a performing generation that isn’t just adopting social media, they know, understand and embrace it. Spreading her talents between dancing, acting and singing, Miss Ross can also add community manager to her resume. She may have started her Instagram account to use like the rest of us, but once she made the choice to share her art an amazing thing began to happen: A community started to grow.
Nominated in Nickelodeon’s 2017 Kids’ Choice Awards for Favourite #Famous, Ashleigh’s role as a social media influencer is just as important to her career as a role on a hit show. Her ability to cultivate a positive, interactive fanbase is more than just being popular, it’s an important connection between the worlds of entertainment and fandom. Between the big three, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, she’s got just under six hundred thousand people following her exploits, over half a million of which are from Instagram. But enough from me, let’s hear what this talented up-and-comer has to say!
onFiction: You do everything, you dance, you act, you sing, where did that all start for you?
Ashleigh Ross: I started dancing when I was three years old. My older sister Danielle is three years older than me and was a dancer when she was younger. She would always come home after dance class and after dance competitions and be so happy and excited about the day she just had. So I asked my mom if I could be put into dance class as well, so that’s where dancing started for me. Then after dancing I slowly got into singing a bit when I was around seven, eight, and then acting when I was around that age as well.
oF: You’re a great example of this new generation of performer where interacting with your audience plays such a big role, how does that start? When does social media become part of being a performer?
AR: Social media is everything right now. It is massive, everyone has some type of social media. It’s definitely a big part of what I do. Dancing has really brought up my social media profile and social media has brought so many, not only jobs, but opportunities and so many incredible things. It has definitely helped move my career forward.
oF: So when you post, is it an extension of your job at that point?
AR: It doesn’t feel like a job at all, I love posting on social media. Some people do run theirs like a job, but it’s definitely not a job for me. I love to post, I love to interact with people on Instagram and Facebook and everything. I do put a lot of thought into my posts, but it’s not really a job to me, I love it.
oF: Did you start out on social media because you enjoyed it, or because it was a way to promote your dancing?
AR: No, I did not think about that at all. I got into social media when I was in year seven, so I was around twelve years old, and I just posted photos of the sky and I posted photos of new shoes I bought, I just posted all of the stuff twelve year olds post about. I did not even think about posting my dancing back then. And then only when I started going to this studio, a dance studio back home in Australia, they were all about social media, “You should really post your dance stuff. You’re amazing, you should start posting dance photos and videos to your Instagram account.” So I went onto my Instagram and I typed up all these dancers I loved through YouTube and realized they all had these massive Instagram profiles. That was just so inspiring to me, looking at everyone’s Instagram profiles and all the dance photos and videos they posted. So I started posting dance photos and it just turned into this whole other thing, I started to gain thousands of followers a day. It just went so crazy at one point and that was all just from starting with selfies and stuff like that. I never really thought about it and thought it would go as crazy as it did.
oF: What was the number? At what point did you see how many people were following you and interacting with your posts that it felt unreal?
AR: There’s so many social media influencers out that that have millions of followers. Some people have twenty million followers just from starting on social media, and I think I had two thousand, maybe three thousand, and I was so excited!
oF: Do you think about how at some point it’s not just people following you anymore, that you’ve actually created a community around your work?
AR: It’s so crazy to think about. The people with twenty million followers and other influencers that have a following like that, it’s just incredible to think that they have created this whole platform for themselves. They’ve created their whole career. It’s incredible to think just social media has jump started so many people’s careers.
oF: I remember when actors and dancers and singers were inaccessible, and now you can get a glimpse into their work and their lives and maybe even interact with them, and it ties the fans to the performances so much more.
AR: I go on social media more to look at other people’s social media than to be on my own. I love looking and having a glimpse at people’s lives. Other dancers and singers I admire, so I love social media for that.
oF: It’s even become the way so many people consume news or any other type of information.
AR: I find out all news though my phone, I never find out news from actual news papers or news on TV anymore, it’s all about what was posted or what’s trending on Twitter or what everyone’s posting on Instagram. That’s how you find out all of the latest news.
oF: I know that the internet and negativity go hand-in-hand, but what are some of the positive things that have come from your community that impact you as a performer?
AR: I have been so incredibly lucky to be one of those social media influencers that hasn’t received a lot of hate. It’s really incredible, I have not been one of those people affected by bullying or hate on the internet. Honestly, I’m so grateful for that. I know there are so many people out there that get smashed on the internet from cyber-bullying and things like that. It’s just awful. But Instagram in itself, that’s just one social media platform and it has helped me give back to charity and travel the world. I have traveled to places I never thought I would travel in my life because of the social media platform. I’ve met so many people and have made people happy, which is literally, that’s the goal. It has just made me and other people very happy.
oF: What do you hope people take away from being able to see into your life and behind the scenes of you as a performer?
AR: When I post on my Instagram I just think, “Oh, this is a photo of me and my friends.” Or, “This is a photo of me dancing.” But then I get a reality check when someone will comment, “Oh my gosh, this has made my day.” Or I get a message saying, “Thank you so much for posting, I’ve had a really tough day and this has really helped me.” It just inspires me so much and I just hope that that continues and that other people can be inspired and we can make everyone happy.
oF: I spent some time looking though your posts and seeing what kinds of responses you get, and pretty much everything you’ve put up on Instagram gets between ten and twenty thousand interactions – between likes and comments. It’s impossible to read and sort though it all, how do you process that?
AR: Yeah, even just you saying it now kind of blows my mind. Usually what I do, I kind of have a routine, I try and read and respond to as many things as I can to people who are posting on my account. So, after about an hour, I’ll post something, wait an hour, keep going on with my day, I’ll come back to my phone. I’ll look at the comments that have posted in the last hour and try and comment back to them, I’ll go into their profiles and like their photos, I’ll go into my direct messages and try to respond to some of them. Obviously it’s so hard to respond to everyone, it sucks that you can’t respond to everyone, but I do try my hardest to make sure everyone knows I’m reading their comments. I’m seeing them and thinking of them and really appreciating them.
oF: It could be a full time job reading and responding to comments!
AR: It really can be. I remember, I think it was early in January, I posted a photo and said, “I’m going to try my hardest to respond to everyone.” It was late at night and I was awake and I was going to try to respond to everyone. I was on my phone for four hours responding to comments and when I looked at the time I thought, “Oh my goodness!” And people were still commenting, because when I respond to comments, more people comment because they can see that I’m responding. It just went crazy, it was so much fun getting to answer their question and get to just talk to them about life and things that they were going through and things they were excited about. So much fun.
oF: Tell me a little about the Kids’ Choice Award. You’re part of an evolution where it’s no longer just about being a performer, being globally connected to your fanbase is so important and now there’s recognition for that.
AR: Well I found out that I was nominated for a Kids’ Choice Award and I was honestly so shocked. I really couldn’t believe it, I still actually can’t believe it now. Every time I see someone post a photo saying, “Make sure you vote for Ashleigh.” I still get butterflies because I can’t believe they got me nominated. It’s all them, I couldn’t have gotten nominated without them. I really appreciate everything that they do and it’s just so incredible, I’ve watched the Kid’s Choice Awards for so long. It’s an incredible award show and to be attending this year and to be nominated, it’s just a whole other thing.
oF: That’s an interesting point, you go from being a fan of something to being a part of it, when does that sink in?
AR: I really don’t think it has. I’m still talking and trying to figure out what to wear to the award show, it’s next week. It’s coming up fast and still, it hasn’t really sunk in that I’m going or that I’ve really been nominated. I’m still seeing comments saying, “I’ve voted for you ten times.” Or, “I’ve voted for you everyday since I found out you were nominated.” It’s so heartwarming to see. Everyone cares so much and they’re trying so hard to get me to win, it still just hasn’t sunk in.
oF: I know it’s still so early in your career, but you’re already done quite a bit: acting, dancing, singing. Where do you want things to go next?
AR: I’m really happy with everything I’ve done so far and I’m really happy with where I am right now, I do want to head more into acting. I absolutely love dancing and have been doing it since I was three. It has been such a big part of my life and I want to continue it, but I definitely want to head down the acting track.
oF: I noticed it says in your profile that you’re spending quite a bit of time in the US, is that for more acting opportunities?
AR: Yeah, the acting world in Australia versus Los Angeles is incredibly different. Opportunities are everywhere in L.A., auditions are every day, every hour, every minute. It’s crazy over here. So definitely being out here for pilot season is a dream come true. I can’t wait.
oF: Having been dancing so long and having been sharing that work via social media so much, how do you think your posts and fan interactions will change as you move more into acting?
AR: I really don’t think it will change that much. I have been focused more on acting for around a year now, and I always keep posting dance photos and dance videos on Instagram because that’s what I love and I know my Instagram following likes to see that. And I still love dancing, it’s seriously been everything for me, it’s helped me so much. So I still keep posting my dance videos, I still keep posting my photos. So I haven’t changed my routine too much.
oF: You’re doing a million different things, what do you do when you step away from performing and posting, when it’s just you doing what you want to do, what’s a good day?
AR: My parents and my sister are everything to me, and my other sister is back home in Australia. But they are just everything, they’re so supportive and inspiring and everything in-between. I love hanging out with my sister, I love hanging out with my friends, binge watch Netflix all day, just all the good stuff.
oF: Between all the comments and interviews you’ve been asked countless questions, but is there anything you haven’t had the chance to share with your fans yet?
AR: People do ask all the time – to other social media influencers – “Is there anything you want to say to your following?” And I just want to add on that, everyone that has supported me, every single one of them, mean everything to me. they mean the entire world to me. They have helped me so much, the only reason I’m living in L.A. right now is because of them. I so grateful for everything that they have helped me with. I just want to say that again because they truly do mean everything.
Thank you very much to Ashleigh for her time and sharing her story! Make sure to follow her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter! And make sure to check her out on the Kids’ Choice Awards, March 13th @ 8pm Eastern.