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McDonalds Young Entertainers star guiding the next generation

Jan 13th, 2015 | By | Category: Editor's Picks, Latest News, Most Popular, News

Ainslie Allen posing in the alley way

STILL ROCKING: Ainslie Allen has been working non-stop since McDonalds Young Entertainers. IMAGE: Liam Cavanagh

MANY child stars struggle to adapt to fame but McDonald’s Young Entertainer Ainslie Allen has  been working ever since being thrown into the spotlight in her teens.

The Wellingtonian is also setting the bar when it comes to staying grounded in the limelight, kiwi-style.

Take note, Lorde.

She recently started a new venture teaching people how to sing and perform after helping a friend’s daughter practice for her X Factor audition.

The daughter had been going to lessons in Christchurch and the father told Ms Allen that the lesson was better than all the lessons combined, she says.

She does it to supplement her major music gigs but being able to teach others has always been in the back of her mind.

“I was on a hit TV series at the age of 16, so I’ve got all this experience I can hand off and pass on,” she says.

That television series was McDonald’s Young Entertainers, bastion of New Zealand 90s pop culture.

Since then she’s been hard at work touring, performing in shows and productions, having a child, releasing music, and looking to the future with an album in the works.


IMAGE: Liam Cavanagh

Sitting down at her favourite Wellington café Memphis Belle, she orders a flat white and chats with one of the baristas, “Hey Johnny.”

She is a far cry from the girl with the “big huge” hair in the 90s, but still has presence with a platinum-blond and pink pixie cut, sparkling gold eye shadow and red lipstick.

“I’m still the Ainslie Allen, I’d like to say a wee bit wiser.”

The Titahi Bay native laughs about people who think she only comes out once a year for Christmas in the Park.

“Of course you are working hard out throughout the year and then people see the show on tv and they say ‘Oh that’s it. They brought her out of the freezer’.”

The reality is that she has been working ever since and she credits that to Young Entertainers.

She has performed at Christmas in the Park since 1998 and for children’s charity Variety Bash, and is a regular at major sporting events for pre-match entertainment and national anthems.

She performs with the Beat Girls in Wellington, has starred in productions of Hair and the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and formed an all-girl rock band The Rockettes with her sister in Australia.

Most recently she finished touring with the Elvis Presley’s TCB band and another Kiwi singing star John Rowles.

Trying to forge her career post-motherhood takes a little more effort however, especially since self-promotion does not come naturally to this star.

“If you have that backing behind you, you know like a label, they do all the marketing, all that stuff I’m crap at. You need that backing, I feel.”

Self-deprecation aside, Ms Allen still managed to have a child and record an EP in the process.

Two years before Emerson was born, she lost her step-father ‘Gaz’, a man who had been in her life since she was two-years-old.

Ainslie posing in an alley.

IMAGE: Liam Cavanagh

“I was at a loss,” she says.

Her mother Chrissie Allen says her partner’s death took a toll on her family.

“It affected us deeply, and still does. There’s not a day goes by that I don’t shed a tear,” she says.

Ms Allen says she dedicated the EP to her father.

“That’s how much of a loss, how much of a dent it was,” she says.

She says Gaz was an amazing man who met her mother Chrissie and took them in as if they were his own.

“He worked six jobs for us to go to tap lessons and jazz. So I’ll forever be indebted to him,” she says.

She says having her son Emerson gave her the impetus to focus on her career and push towards the future.

“Those were probably two big pivotal moments,” she says.

The 34-year-old never got sick of being on television.

“I loved being in a TV studio. I loved the catering,” she laughs.

She also loved meeting some of the big stars that appeared on the show, like the Danish-Norwegian 90s pop group Aqua.

“They came on when they were touring and that’s when they were big time. They were cool to meet. She was beautiful, her skin and her figure. She was just gorgeous,” she recounts.

Growing up on television had its drawbacks however.

“I was 16. It was hard for me to grow up and be a teenager, if you know what I mean. It was all in the public eye, so it was pretty damn hard.”

Ms Allen says younger stars, like Lorde, grow up faster than her generation did but the challenges of being in the limelight are the same.

She highlights the story of Britney Spears shaving her head during a tumultuous period.

“I went through a little bit of that but on a much smaller scale here in New Zealand. You just want to rebel and get rid of everyone for a moment and be yourself, she says.

“I probably drunk alcohol, smoked cigarettes and tried marijuana. It’s probably what I did and went a bit mad, but on a smaller scale,” says Ms Allen.

Ms Allen does not see any stigma attached to the former child star label and rather enjoys being among the likes of Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, and Kylie Minogue.

“I’m in a nice little nest there I think,” she says.

She says the controversial Miley Cyrus’s transition from child to adult is genius.

“I take my hat off to her. She can be a little crass, as we all can sometimes, but I think she made that transition beautifully,” she explains.

The former Whitireia student does not regret growing up on national television but she says had her moments where she wanted to throw it all in.

These days Ms Allen is a little more ambitious.

“My major goal is writing beautiful music for my album and getting signed. I want to tour doing my own original music. That would be gold.”

“You know, forget about the money, forget about the fame, I just want people to put on this EP and go, ‘This girl, I love listening to her music’.”

She says music has always been in her blood and it is all she knows.

“It was given to me, and I am grateful for that,” she says.

“A long time ago a Maori Kuia told me ‘this is your gift to give to people because when you sing it’s like a healing, you’ve got this gift, so use it, spread it out and share it to as many people as you can’.

“I took that on board and that’s all I have done,” she says.

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