Today we raise our fists high and put our hands together in celebration of our Feature Girl Warrior, Artistic Director and Founder of Spotlight Academy, Jacqui Kaese, who has forged a foundation of opportunity for actors in a global industry. With over 30 years experience in the entertainment industry both in Canada and the UK, Jacqui is an accomplished actress, and acting coach. She has worked as an agent and is now in Casting partnered with Gemini Award winning Casting Director Lynne Carrow. Alumni students have worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, including Nicole Kidman, Robert DeNiro, Tom Cruise, Matt Damon, Jason Statham, Nicholas Cage, and Scarlett Johansson. She is respected for her coaching technique and career development strategy. Many success stories have emerged from Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland through Spotlight Academy!
What makes you a Girl Warrior?
Having grown up through decades of change for women’s rights, I’ve never allowed a man to tell me that I couldn’t do something. I’ve always believed in gender equality therefore I’ve never given more than my personal best. Ultimately that has led me to success and fulfillment.
You grew up surrounded by artists. Who were some of your earliest influences?
My father and grandfather were musicians, my father being one of the best Jazz drummers in the UK at the time. My grandfather was one of London’s original cinematographers and played piano to silent movies during WW1.
What stands out the most about your “wonder years”?
Just the joy of loving music, stage and screen. To this day I feel sprinkled by pixie dust. My life has been blessed in so many ways.
Tell us about your first role in the 70’s cult movie Quadrophenia starring Music Legend Sting and produced by The Who.
After graduating from NYT (National Youth Theatre) many of us were accepted to play Mods and Rockers in the movie. It was such a thrill working with Sting who played the leader of the MODS.
Chasing up and down Brighton Beach and riding on the back of the scooters was great fun. In fact I fell in love with Brighton during this time and ended up living there.
You were a resident vocalist with The Top Rank Organization in the UK. That must have been an exciting time! You played with some amazing artists like Annie Lennox, Tina Turner, Tears for Fears and China Crisis. What did you learn from that experience?
That I wished I had had a voice coach. Tina Turner asked to buy one of my stage outfits. I said no! I wish I’d said yes.
I also learned that chasing stardom takes a huge amount of talent (in most cases). I developed nodules of the vocal cords, which ended my singing career. If I had gotten more consistent training (other than drama school), I might have gone further with my singing career.
What happened with Margaret Thatcher that almost got your band fired?
She requested a ‘quickstep’ to dance to for The Conservative Party Conference. The only one the band knew was ‘Lady is a Tramp’… Well you don’t have to have much of an imagination to see the potential consequences of singing this to the Iron Lady. Oops!
How did you go from performer to entertainment manager?
After developing nodules of the vocal cords, and having to give up the residency, it was a natural transition to move into entertainment management; it was a business that I had grown up in.
You were enormously successful in the UK, taking Shanghai Sams, the nightclub you managed, to #1 in the country. With so many accomplishments under your belt, why leave all that and move to Canada?
I fell in love and fell pregnant. The night club industry although exciting was not conducive to family life. I chose my son and his father and the Land of Promise.
What was your biggest challenge starting over in a new country?
Women with my background were not industry leaders and living on Vancouver Island in a blue-collar environment, I was very homesick, and felt very unaccepted. The love of my family got me through.
You opened a school for acting, Spotlight Academy on Vancouver Island, coaching students who have worked opposite A list Actors. Wow! What stands out as your greatest achievement so far?
Coaching one of my students Cameron Bright and working with Nicole Kidman on her second Oscar nominated performance in ‘Birth.’ It was shot at Silvercup Studios in New York and also starred Lauren Bacall and Danny Huston, with Oscar winning DOP Harris Savides and directed by Academy Pictures Jonathan Glazer. It was a truly wonderful experience.
Sadly, both of your sons were diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. That must have been a heartbreaking blow for you and your husband Trent. How did that change the trajectory of your career and your life?
Staggering so, because we were blindsided, not once but twice. There was no other conscious choice other than to put my career on hold and dedicate myself to finding a cure. We’re still not there but we’ve raised over a million dollars and we continue to fundraise.
What obstacles have you overcome and walls have you broken down to get to where you are today?
I despise being told that I can’t do something. Generally I set about proving them wrong. I hate an injustice; there isn’t a wall big enough to hold me back from a fight if my integrity is attacked. Abuse within two failed marriages, personal pain and great sacrifice.
What would you say to your younger Girl Warrior?
The only thing we can rely upon is change, so always be open to it. Stand up for your personal beliefs and values, but above all, respect that someone else has the right to disagree, so listen. This way we learn.
What would you say to future Girl Warriors looking for inspiration?
Look in the mirror and see greatness. It’s there.
Who is/are your Girl Warrior hero(s) and why?
Anne Boleyn, second wife to Henry VIII, beheaded for adultery (that she didn’t commit), reformed the Catholic Church, stood up to the lords of government and was despised for it. Educated and strong-willed, she would not become the King’s mistress and would only accept him as a husband. Henry proclaimed himself head of the English Church, broke away from Rome and married her after divorcing Catherine of Aragon. Anne gave birth to Elizabeth who eventually became the greatest Queen that England has ever had. In her last meeting with Henry she said, “Watch her as she grows Henry for she will be a greater Queen than you could ever have been King” and she was FAR GREATER! Something in this particular phrase has always resonated with me. Anne sacrificed her life for the greatness of her child Elizabeth. Elizabeth 1st, the Virgin Queen, who sacrificed her life for the greatness of her country. A portrait of Anne sits beside my bed and in my kitchen. Girl Warriors both.
What next and where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I am on a mission to continue contributing to the growth of the film industry on the Island. With the opening of the Vancouver Island Film Studios and hopefully the third season of Chesapeake Shores, I am going to be busy.
If a Bioflick were made of your life, what would it be called?
Jacqueline Anne – Confident, Courageous, and some say Charismatic. Convincing the rest of the world is for the next chapter.
You can learn more about Jacqui and Spotlight Academy at http://www.spotlightacademy.com/
Follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jacqui.kaese
And Spotlight Academy at https://www.facebook.com/spotlightacademynanaimo
Connect with her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacqui-kaese-54497948/