Meet The Rising Star Behind The Latest Issue Of StarCentral Kids: The Amazing Winston Vengapally

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A scroll through Winston Vengapally’s Instagram says it all. This up-and-coming child actor has all the animation, life, and prowess of his mega-watt mother; serial entrepreneur and social media influencer, Meeta Vengapally.

The Vengapally family recently moved to Los Angeles to pursue the acting careers of Winston and Sitara, and as it turns out, they both hit the ground running in Hollywood.

Winston’s acting chops on the screen have been appearing up a lot lately. It all began with Pop Evil’s music video for “Be Legendary,” where Winston played the young version of the lead singer, Leigh Kakaty. The music video is riotous and inspiring, and Winston’s performance steals the show at several moments. Similar to his Instagram, the young actor proves that he has the nuance and skill to express himself with a presence that is very rare in child actors. This kind of inspired performance also appears on “Never Have I Ever,” a popular Netflix series where Winston had a guest-starring role.

The very charming Door Dash commercial, which continues to run on all the NBA and MLB finals games, ends with Winston jumping on his bed, excited for his order and exuding a state of young exuberance that is effortless and puts a smile on your face. His Go Daddy commercial is another lighthearted hit, and to put things into perspective; he booked this job with his sister, Sitara. Recently, he made his debut on the Dhar Mann series and has been asked to return for several more episodes since its debut.

So, when we say that the Vengapally kids hit the ground running in Hollywood, we mean it!

As with any child prodigy, success doesn’t come out of anywhere. Hard work and mentorship have brought him to where he is today. The 13-year-old is achieving things that many can only dream of, but practice and intention have kept him on the move and favored by casting directors in the City of Angels. He’s highly praised by the directors and producers he has worked with. In fact, a writer and producer for a hit series for whom Winston auditioned for said: “Winston is a natural; his comedy and improv abilities are more honed in than some of the seasoned celebrities we work with here .” Door Dash commercial director Clay Weiner along with casting directors Krisha Bullock and Jamie Snow ( Bullock & Snow Casting) have been key mentors for Winston, who have taught him the importance of acting; the fact that acting is an art, so he needs to keep working on his craft and pursuing his dreams (Bullock & Snow Casting is a well-respected team in the industry, focusing on children’s television shows and comedies). Other influential people who have taken Winston under their wings include Howard Meltzer, Joey Paul Jensen, AHC Casting, and Catherine Stroud. Being able to train with such a brilliant group of experts continues to shape Winston’s foundation as an actor.

Everyone is familiar with the famous actress Mindy Kaling of The Office, who happens to be the producer of Never Have I Ever. The actress, comedian, writer, and producer was responsible for casting Winston to play co-star in the new upcoming season.

Dhar Mann knew that Winston was the right actor for his series after the feedback received from the audience from his first video, which went viral and has accumulated over 11 million views. The kid has shot more than six episodes in less than a month – there is definitely no slowing down for Winston Vengapally!

One of the most crucial turning points in Winston’s new journey stems from when famous casting directors Sally Stiner and Barbie Block got Winston closer than ever to his big break last year. He was one of the last in a long string of actors who were considered for a role in the Netflix movie Home Team. This process entailed six to seven meetings that proved Winston’s talent and highlighted how the entertainment industry, in the end, is very much about talent as well as looks and physicality. Is someone the right fit to play someone else’s parent or sibling? This entire experience has helped Winston to tackle every audition and meeting with an open mind and from the point of view of being the best actor, he could be. In the end, many factors that are out of an actor’s control play a part in the decision-making process.

This brings up another topic which Winston’s rising star gives voice to: children of color have fewer opportunities in the entertainment industry, but that doesn’t stop this child actor from being constantly invited into the room, proving to directors and casting directors that diversity in casting isn’t about optics, it’s about discovering talent that would otherwise be overlooked. Putting himself in the spotlight repeatedly proves that Winston not only has conviction but also has the chops, training, and mentorship to back it up.

StarCentral Kids sat down with Winston to ask some questions about his rising star status and what he hopes for the future and here’s what went down:

Winston, you’re on a roll at the moment; well done! Many people in the industry are talking about how well your career is going. What is your favorite part about acting?

I really like playing different characters and expressing different feelings. Each new part I get to play is different, and I like to think about what my character is going through. I also get to meet a ton of amazing people who are creative and inspire me so much to keep working on my craft. I work with so many talented people, and that’s really cool. It’s weird that so many people see what I do on screen.

You’ve worked with and met so many industry experts. What have they taught you?

Everyone I’ve met has been super nice to me. From casting directors to producers to fellow actors, they all offer something I can learn from. The casting directors and film directors are mentors to me because they show me how everything works, making it easier for me to act and not worry about anything else. They encourage me, so I know I’m doing good and should just do what my instincts tell me. Sometimes it’s scary because I work with a lot of people who are considered famous and respected by everyone in Hollywood.

Do you ever get intimidated when you meet powerful people in the industry?

At first, I did. Like, I know someone is special and important. But my mentors taught me just to be myself, and if I get nervous, it’s okay because being myself is the most important thing everyone wants from me. Even the important people tell me to be me, making me more comfortable with being creative.

How has your life been after moving to Los Angeles? Is it hard to balance your career and school?

It’s busy, I think! I am usually doing homework on set these days, so I am used to it now. I guess it’s good that I have school work because it’s something to do while I wait on set. I also love to shoot around the hoops, so I do that when I am free on the weekends.

You’ve worked with your sister Sitara before. Is that fun to do?

It is fun because we’re really close. We can play games and stuff on the set. We’re different actors, but we tell each other we did a good job when the day is over. Sometimes I don’t feel like telling her that, but my mom makes me, hah!

That’s too funny! Sitara, while we have you, would you say that you and your brother have different acting styles?

Sitara: We both have fun, and it makes me happy he’s doing a good job. We both do a lot of work, and I am proud of my brother because he’s really focused even when I think he’s weird.

Last question. Winston, what is your biggest future dream here in Hollywood?

I want to do more movies. I just love being on the set and playing different characters. I love cool stories a lot, and it seems like doing movies, you’d get to be in the best stories. And I’d like to be in stories that people think are really important. Also, I am not sure if I mentioned this, but one of my favourite things to work on is learning how to do an Indian accent. I don’t have an accent naturally, but I work on learning to speak in an Indian accent because it’s fun. I try to come up with new jokes and practice with my friends and family; they get a kick out of it. It would be so cool to be on a show where I get to showcase that.

Meet The Global Phenomenon Behind The Latest Issue Of StarCentral Kids: The Talented Vlad & Niki

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“Vlad & Niki” is the global preschool phenomenon and the number 1 boys channel on YouTube, starring the imaginative personalities and antics of brothers Vlad and Niki, who are showcased in non-stop fun and crazy adventures. Since launching on YouTube in 2018, “Vlad & Niki” has attracted more than 266+ million subscribers worldwide, 83+ million subscribers to their English Channel, and 154+ billion views while averaging five billion monthly views on 21 channels and translated into 18 languages. Their mobile apps have surpassed more than 100,000,000 downloads. Each episode is produced with a creative mix of live-action, animation, and music to create comedic videos for the preschool demographic. “Vlad & Niki” is the property of Content Media Group FZC, LLC, headed by co-founders Sergey and Victoria Vashketov, the parents of global superstar kidfluencers Vlad and Niki.

“Vlad & Niki” continues to be well received by critics as well as the public as the dynamic duo captured three more prestigious awards, including being named ‘Best Web Series for Kids’ by the National Parenting Product Awards (NAPPA); winning the Shorty Awards honor for “Best Influencers & Celebrity YouTube Campaign;” 43rd Annual Telly Awards’ “Silver Winner in Children’s Video;” 26th Annual Webby Awards “Honoree in the 2022 Social Category;” 42nd Annual Telly Awards’ “Bronze Winner in the General Children’s Online;” International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences’ 10th Annual Lovie Awards “Outstanding Work Shortlist” category. Their Zuru Toy’ Surprise Egg” won the silver prize in Toy Shop’s UK’s 2021 Independent Toy Awards Silver Prize in ‘License of the Year’ category.

In April 2022, Vlad & Niki began streaming on HBO Max, and they are expanding their family with a new baby this Fall.

StarCentral Kids recently caught up with Vlad and Niki’s mother, and co-star Victoria Vashketova to discuss their journey in the social media world, and here’s what went down:

Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourselves and how you started?

‘Vlad & Niki’ started as a family hobby. Vlad saw other boys making videos and asked us if we could make our own. Our dad started shooting fun videos on the weekends when he wasn’t working. He would edit them in his spare time and then post them.

What are you both currently doing to maintain/grow your profile?

YouTube is our focus. We continue to create content kids love watching, and their parents approve. Each episode we produced is filled with an innovative mix of live-action, animation, and music.

We began in 2018 and now have 21 channels, translated into 18 languages. It is incredible; we have 266+ million subscribers worldwide (83+ million on our English channel). We published more than 300 videos and have a staggering 154+ billion views.

It’s important that we maintain an authentic voice of our personalities. We hope we are inspiring other families to play together on their own adventures.

What social media platforms do you usually use to increase your brand’s awareness?

Due to Vlad’s and Niki’s young age, we have to manage their social media accounts on Instagram and Facebook. They help us select photos and sayings, so we stay true to them. My husband Sergey and I each have our own Instagram profiles.

You can find us via our Instagram accounts:

Vlad @vlad.super.vlad

Niki @nikitoys_official

Victoria (me) @vsv_viki

Sergey @vashketov

Facebook @Vlad.and.Niki.

What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?

Learning to say no and how to balance the kids and our time. We have had to decline some fabulous invitations and opportunities so that we do not burn the kids – or us.

What new project would you guys love to start?

We partnered with Zuru Toys and Playmates Toys, and it has been a long road to get them developed and finally in the stores and sold online – the toys are currently doing very well.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Believe that anything is possible and figure out how to accomplish it.

What advice would you give someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

Make sure the content you are creating is authentic. The audience/fans know when you aren’t being real.

Meet The Rising Star Behind The Latest Issue Of StarCentral Kids: The Talented Connor Dean

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Connor Dean started acting and modeling at the age of 4. He moved to LA and began booking small roles in short films and commercials. His breakout role was playing Butch the Bully in the Cool Cat movies starring Erik Estrada and Vivica A. Fox. This character has reached cult status creating video views in the millions along with a multitude of fan pages and memes. Connor was nominated for 2 Young Entertainer Awards for his work in Cool Cat and his recurring role in Fox’s hit drama 9-1-1, starring the incomparable Angela Bassett and Peter Krause. His leading role in Jingle Trails, now streaming on Amazon Prime, garnered him another nomination and win for Best Lead Actor. Connor is a philanthropist and celebrity ambassador, using his platform to help such organizations as Starlight Children’s Hospital, St. Baldricks, and SNPLA. At just 18, he is the CEO of his own production company, Penny Arcade Pictures, which has several projects in pre-production. Connor is an elite, competitive tennis player training 20+ hours per week outside of the entertainment industry. In his “off” time, he enjoys gaming, playing piano, and drawing.

StarCentral Kids recently caught up with Connor to discuss his journey as an actor and here’s what went down:

Can you tell us more about yourself? How did you get started in the entertainment industry?

I was born in Florida and moved to Los Angeles when I was about eight years old. My older brother was an actor, and I had to tag along with him on his auditions. I decided I might as well start auditioning, too, since I had to be at the casting offices anyway. I found I really liked it, so I started taking classes, got an agent, and the rest is history.

What do you like most about acting?

What I like most about acting is that it gives me a chance to play different characters. I like reading a script and finding my own interpretation of the character to make it my own. I also love that acting has allowed me to meet many interesting people and have amazing experiences that I might otherwise not have been able to if I had not become an actor.

What are your weak points when it comes to acting? How do you try to improve them?

I think my weak points when it comes to acting is a lack of confidence. Sometimes I do not think I am good enough to play certain roles, but I always love to challenge myself. I had an acting teacher tell me, “what you believe you can achieve,” Whenever I feel like I am not good enough, I try to remember those words and use them to motivate me to reach my potential.

What are your strong points as an actor?

I think my strong points as an actor are the fact that I am willing to try anything the director asks me to do. I always put my faith in the director and know that they want me to be my very best. Some actors are stubborn and only do the role the way they want to do it, but I feel that the director also has a vision for the role, and it is important to work together to make the project the best it can be.

What have you learned from the directors that you have worked with throughout your career?

I have learned a lot from the directors that I have worked with, but I have learned to trust them most of all! I also learned that actors sometimes make the best directors because they have been in your shoes and know what you are going through.

Photo Credit: Rodin Eckenroth

What are some of the difficulties of the acting business?

Some of the difficulties in the acting business are the amount of rejection an actor sometimes faces daily. As an actor, you hear “no” much more than you hear “yes,” which is difficult. It can really hurt your confidence as an actor and as a person. I’ve learned through the years not to take rejection to heart. There are many reasons why you don’t book the job, and none of it has to do with you as a person.

What’s challenging about bringing a script to life?

The most challenging thing about bringing a script to life is deciding how you want to interpret the script and the character. Sometimes, your idea for the character differs from what the writer or director envisioned, so you have to change your thinking.

What do you do when you’re not filming?

I am a competitive tennis player, so I am training or competing when I’m not filming. I also like to write scripts, practice my piano or guitar, and play video games with my friends.

Photo Credit: Rodin Eckenroth

What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far?

My most memorable experience so far has been working on the set of Fox’s show 9-1-1. It was interesting to see how the different disaster parts were filmed and edited together to make the episodes.

Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?

I have met so many interesting people, from tennis legends such as Jimmy Connors or Andy Roddick to Hollywood legends such as Rich Little, Marion Ross, and Lily Tomlin. I’ve met musicians such as Ceelo Green, Billy Idol, and Julian Lennon. I have been fortunate to meet so many wonderful people. It truly is one of my favorite things about working in the industry.

If someone is going to make your life into a movie, who would play you?

That would be hard to say! I wouldn’t mind Tom Holland playing me in the movie of my life (laughs)!

What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.

I plan to go to college and study screenwriting and sports broadcasting as well as play college tennis. I have also started a production company with my brother, Penny Arcade Pictures, and we are working on producing some projects in 2022.

Photo Credit: Rodin Eckenroth

Meet The Rising Star Behind The Latest Issue Of StarCentral Kids: The Talented Scarlett Bella Song

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Scarlett Bella Song is a 13-year-old dancer, actress, model, social media influencer – and, most recently, a jewelry designer and entrepreneur!

Scarlett is an artistic individual; she likes to create and perform. She goes through life observing things through her own lens, and she takes inspiration from the world around her. She has expressed herself through dancing, acting, and art throughout her life. Recently, she applied her creativity to co-design a 15-piece jewelry collection. She recently discovered that she enjoys translating her ideas, feelings, and values into tangible beauty that she can share with the world.

Scarlett also takes her education very seriously. She’s college-bound and aspires to launch multiple successful businesses and cultivate a personal brand. She recognizes that it takes a combination of business acumen, talent, dedication, and vision to be successful, so she’s committed to growing her skills and realizing her potential in various facets (dance, design, business, etc.).

Ultimately, Scarlett aspires to leave a legacy and sustainable businesses behind for new voices to catapult to the next level. StarCentral Magazine recently caught up with Scarlett to discuss her journey in the industry, and here’s what went down:

When did your entrepreneurial flair first reveal itself?

My entrepreneurial flair vaguely revealed itself when I was five or six years old. Like many of my peers, I wanted to sell lemonade, wash cars, hold garage sales, and sell hand-me-downs on eBay. At the time, my interests were commonplace and probably didn’t really signify a true entrepreneurial spirit. However, once I saw my entertainment idols building personal brands and sustainable businesses (fashion, fragrances, makeup, etc.), it clicked in my mind that I could become both an entertainer and entrepreneur. In my mind, the two were becoming inextricably linked.

How did your life look like before being an entrepreneur?

I’ve been training to realize my full potential as a student and dancer for most of my life. I was always on a path towards a future destination.

A typical day in my life consists of school, followed by hours of training in a dance studio.

My day still consists of these staples – but now my day is longer as I explore new talents, interests, and business ventures.

As an entrepreneur/creative, what is it that motivates and drives you?

I have an inherent need to express myself creatively, and I’m still finding new vehicles to do so. Most recently, I took up photography as an elective at school, and my teacher encouraged me to pursue it more seriously going forward.

While I enjoy sharing my love for fashion and entertainment on social media, my underlying motivation for building my social media platform is to propel my sense of purpose: to spread kindness, empowerment, and collaboration throughout the teen community. The jewelry I helped design reflects these sentiments and physically manifests the energy I wish to send out into the world.

In one word, describe your life as an entrepreneur/creative and explain why.

One word to describe my life is freedom.

I feel like I’m my authentic self when I can create based on my personal story. I’ve always done this through dance and recently started doing this through photography and jewelry design.

My aspiration is for my creations to fuel viable business ventures.

What were your top three motivations for starting your business?

(1) I felt disconnected during quarantine, and I wanted to create a vehicle to connect to others and create a supportive community.

(2) I was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime, and I seized it. I realized I might never get an opportunity like it ever again.

(3) I want to take on projects that demonstrate that we can achieve results in a humanitarian way.

We were in the midst of the pandemic, and I had been on Zoom school at home for over a year. I was feeling disconnected and yearned to connect more closely with my friends. I realized that I was not alone in my feelings, and I wanted to send messages of love and empowerment into the world.

The form these messages took were 15 pieces of jewelry that comprise the Annie X Scarlett teen jewelry collection. I hope that each person who wears a piece from the collection feels like they received a heartfelt hug from us. I want them to feel the love and deep meaning infused into each piece. Hopefully, the jewelry will unite us and help create an inclusive community where we uplift and support each other.

The most authentic way to become an entrepreneur is to find an unmet need in the marketplace and develop products/services to best meet that needs in a meaningful and enduring way. I felt the need to connect to others during the pandemic and set out on my first entrepreneurial venture to meet that need.

Ultimately, all of my future business endeavors will begin with a sense of purpose that reflects my values.

Do you think you can make this business successful?

We just launched our collection, so our success right now is just making it through all the loops we encountered over nine months to bring the collection to market. Now, we reset the bar to measure actual success in terms of sales, recouping our investment, and making a profit.

I hope the collection is a success because I have so many creative ideas flowing in my mind, and I would like to double – down and pursue another entrepreneurial venture.

What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful business?

I am still learning what it takes to operate a successful business, but some essential elements I learned include:

A. You need to both understand your market and find a gap in that space that you can fill.

B. You need to scope out the competition, understand what they are selling, and find a meaningful way to distinguish yourself from them. Otherwise, if your product looks the same as all others without any meaningful distinction (and you can’t make them cheaper and sell them for less than your competitors), you will face a brutal battle for your customer’s share of wallet.

C. You need to do your research and set your price point appropriately.

D. You need to design products or services with strong appeal to your target market to increase your chances of success.

E. Finally, I firmly believe that you need to engender your customer’s trust. Therefore, as a small business owner, I believe it is essential to build your brand because it will set expectations and make promises to your customers.

What are the three biggest challenges you have faced growing the business and how did you overcome them?

Challenge 1: My personal challenge is that my target customers are predominately my peers on social media. My peers and I started at the same place years ago, and it is a challenge to change the relationship into a business-customer relationship. I need to figure out how to overcome the underlying one-sided competitiveness so we can support each other in our endeavors.

Challenge 2: I had to learn everything from scratch. It was rewarding, but it was a truly immersive endeavor while balancing school and dance training.

Challenge 3: It was a struggle to pair down all of our initial ideas to create a clear path forward!

What do you hope to see happen in the near future for small businesses and creatives all over the world?

I hope small businesses band together and harness their collective power to encourage customers to shop from small businesses and creatives. If we are fractured with infighting, we miss out on the opportunities to shift customer mindsets and change their shopping habits to support small businesses.