Raising your hand and speaking up in an enormous classroom can be rather intimidating to many. So it’s reassuring to know that this can also be true for people who are accustomed to being in the spotlight — like actor and musician Laura Marano.
“My political science class is in a huge lecture hall and whenever I raise my hand to talk, I still get nervous,” she said. “My heart is beating and it’s like, ‘Here we go!’ It’s exhilarating.”
Aside from being a freshman at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Marano stars in the Disney Channel series Austin & Ally. The show, which premiered in 2011, will begin its final season this winter.
After graduating from high school, the Los Angeles native deferred her admission to USC so she could take a year to focus on two of her biggest passions — acting and songwriting.
Like mother, like daughter
Balancing her college and professional careers this semester, she’s attending USC Dornsife part-time, though she hopes to graduate around the same time as her peers. She loved USC right from the start; the university is also her mother alma mater.
Whenever I’m on campus, I get the Trojan feeling.
“Whenever I’m on campus, I get the Trojan feeling — honestly, it’s so cool.”
Marano is unique in part because she has already chosen her career. She wants to continue working in the entertainment industry as a singer and actor — something she’s done her entire life and still loves.
“Usually people go to college and use that time to figure out what they want to do. But even though I already know, I still want to go to college and continue my education.”
Along with “Law, Politics and Public Policy,” she’s taking the general education seminar “Humanistic Inquiry.” Choosing her major of philosophy, politics and law was a cinch because she’s always been interested in politics. Part of this interest stems from her international charity work with UNICEF.
“In order to make substantial changes in a third-world country or countries with conflict, you really have to know about government. I’ve been wanting to learn more about law and governments — how the different kinds function. I thought this would be an awesome major to expand my knowledge in that area.”
Ever ready to give back
The 19-year-old has made giving back an important part of her life’s work. She started working with UNICEF when she was 16 and was named the 2013 Trick or Treat for UNICEF ambassador. She’s particularly interested in working to expand educational access around the world.
She’s worked with The Humane Society of the United States for its Meatless Monday campaign, which challenges Americans to eat less meat both for the benefit of animals and their own health. She also worked with Do Something — a nonprofit organization that works to motivate young people to take action for social change — on its campaign to warn people of the dangers of texting and driving.
“Whether it’s finding one specific thing that really means a lot to you or spreading your efforts across several issues, I think it’s so important to give back in some way and be part of a bigger-picture idea,” she said.
Now that filming for Austin & Ally has wrapped up, Marano is excited to prioritize her work as a singer-songwriter. In March she signed with Big Machine Records — Taylor Swift is a label-mate — and since then she’s been recording, performing and traveling around the country.
Marano sings and plays piano, and her music is generally categorized as pop.
If Maroon 5 and 5 Seconds of Summer had a female lovechild, that’s me, genre-wise.
“If Maroon 5 and 5 Seconds of Summer had a female lovechild, that’s me, genre-wise,” she said.
“In the mornings, I’m on campus going to my classes, then the rest of the day, I’m recording music in the studio — so I go from student to singer-songwriter throughout the day. It’s pretty awesome.”
When asked if she gets recognized on campus, she said that everyone has been very polite. Recently she was amused to hear a couple of guys who passed her in the USC bookstore whisper, “Wow, she looks just like the girl from Austin & Ally!”
“I think some people think I can’t see them — sometimes they’ll try to sneak photos or casually walk past to confirm it’s me. Overall everyone’s been awesome though.
“When I go to classes, I’m not putting any effort into my appearance at all. I’ve got my glasses on, hair in a clip and I’m in sweatpants. There’s something I call the Clark Kent Effect, where I can literally put my hair up and glasses on and people will not recognize me. It’s hilarious.”