Known for her starring roles in Disney Channel shows “Good Luck Charlie” and “Wizards of Waverly Place,” 21-year-old singer-actress Bridgit Mendler appeared at the Tanger Outlet Mall over Labor Day weekend for a free back-to-school concert. The University Star spoke with Mendler about her career, balancing growing up with fame and her future as an entertainer.
EM: What inspired you to enter the entertainment industry?
BM: I was, like, nine when we first moved to California, and I took this on-camera acting camp just because my mom wanted to give me something to do in the city. She was working in San Francisco. It was just something to do, and I really enjoyed it. I think I was about 11 when I decided to pursue acting (as a career). San Francisco had a moderate exposure to that sort of thing, so I did, like, voice-overs and commercials, but I had the bug! So I started working down in Los Angeles when I was 13.
EM: How did you handle growing up in the spotlight and making the transition from kid to teenager to an adult?
BM: You know, it felt very natural to me, I guess maybe just because I knew that I was where I wanted to be. My parents were very good with making sure that I stayed up-to-date with my schoolwork and that I didn’t get carried away with things because, if it was my way, I would’ve moved down to L.A. when I was 13 and just, like, all right, here we go! In reality, I didn’t wind up moving (to L.A.) until I got “Good Luck Charlie” when I was 16, so things kind of moved at the pace that they needed to. I’ve had really great teen years. My friends that I’ve made through the T.V. shows have been really wonderful, and I feel like I’ve had a really good genuine experience.
EM: How do you manage to stay away from making negative headlines? Does that add any pressure to your day-to-day life?
BM: (laughs) No, I think I’m just boring! To be honest, I don’t fall into the party scene because, well, I’m boring. I don’t get photographed because I’m boring. Well, you know, it really helps to lead a normal life. There was one time when I was photographed, and it just pointed out to me that I do need to be more conscious of what I wear because it was terrible, so you know, I get away with looking like a schlump most of the time.
EM: Do you ever wonder what it would be like to go to college, live in the dorms and not be part of the entertainment world?
BM: Yeah! Totally! I go to USC part-time right now, and it’s so much fun! So I think seeing that college life and what that would’ve been like, it does make you wonder what sort of lifestyle that would be, but I’m really grateful for what I have, and I think it’s cool that, because my career path is not as formulaic, I can kind of decide when I want to take time off to do certain things. I mean, who knows what’s coming in the future?
EM: What classes are you taking?
BM: I’m majoring in anthropology.
EM: What advice would you give to anyone your age or younger trying to be part of the entertainment world?
BM: I would say be aware that it’s definitely a family commitment if you’re a kid. You got to have people on board, and I would also say that it takes a lot of time and work. It’s a time-intensive hobby. Stay in school, definitely. I’d say if you believe in yourself with it, then go after it. There’s a lot of rejection and a lot of things that are challenging, but if you believe in what you have, then it’s worth pursuing it.
EM: What’s next for you career-wise? Movies? More music?
BM: I’m working on the music right now. We’ve been slaving away on the music, and I’m really excited to have some songs that everybody’s excited about. We’re just going to wrap up the album and release it, hopefully very soon.