Zoe Simek ’14 fought her way to success – literally.
After graduating from Grove City College in 2014 with a degree in entrepreneurship, Simek set out pursue her goal of working for the Walt Disney Company. Simek has a black belt in American aikido and thought that her martial arts skills might be her ticket to Disney magic.
Without any internship experience in the field or contacts to work with, she flew to Walt Disney World in January 2016 to audition for a spot in the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, a show featured at Disney’s Hollywood Studios park.
“I got cut during the second round of the audition for being ‘too tight,’ meaning that my movement was very controlled and very self-defense inspired, which is the exact opposite of stunt fighting, where you have to be loose and open your body up and be over-dramatic,” Simek explained.
She decided to learn from her loss and spent the next several months training for another audition with the hope of connecting with stunt professionals in the Pittsburgh area who could help her improve her craft. She ended up at blind audition for a television project being filmed in the area, feeling intimidated and a little confused amid a crowd of experienced and unionized performers. After performing some stunts for the director, she was one of just 15 hopefuls selected to spend the summer training to become a professional stunt performer for the project.
Simek spent more than 250 hours training, received her Screen Actors Guild card and made her debut in the Season 2 premiere of “Outsiders,” a TV series about the struggle for power in the mountains of Appalachia.
“I’m now able to pursue so many other opportunities in the entertainment industry, which has become my biggest passion,” she says.
“It is the most insane story of how God takes someone who is so not qualified by the world’s standards and qualifies them to prove His immense faithfulness,” she says. “I had a dream of working for Disney, but it was like God said ‘Zoe, dream bigger than that!’”
Simek isn’t sure what her future plans hold, since stunt-acting is often a part-time job based on the needs of the industry. Since filming wrapped up for the “Outsiders” season, Simek has been working as a physical therapy technician and waiting for her next big break. Nevertheless, she is excited to have come this far and to see how she can challenge herself in the entertainment industry and beyond.
“I’m always bouncing around different dreams,” she explains. “I don’t know what it will look like yet of course, but I think an aspiration in the future would be to find a way to blend my passion for entrepreneurship and passion for entertainment. I love being able to watch, challenge and encourage other people chase their dreams as well, so I could see myself perhaps doing motivational speaking, or working as a talent agent. I definitely have learned to chase opportunities, but at the end of the day, let God lead, and trust His timing and the doors that He opens, even if they are daunting and seem impossible.”
She’s particularly thankful for her time at Grove City College and the way that her professors taught her how to stand on her own two feet in the world of business.
“The entrepreneurship department taught me everything about business from the standpoint of starting it and running it,” says Simek. “As an entertainer and performer, you are your own company. In the entertainment industry, you have to market and sell yourself constantly to casting directors, producers, etc.”