"I was not used to being around people that are like me..."
Brandon Arreaga from Dallas (along with fellow AMTC grad, Austin Crute) found himself on the national television show Majors & Minors, only a short time after attending SHINE. It was a whirlwind experience that taught Brandon a lot about himself and his art. It also gave him the courage to step out with his own dance crew. He shared a little of his journey with us.
What was unique about your Majors & Minors experience?
That it was kind of like American Idol but nobody got voted off. That was really fun and a great experience for me and I actually got to be on set with someone else from AMTC. His name is Austin Crute. It was a blast for us to know that we both came through AMTC and the success we’ve had.
So how did it all happen? Did you audition for it? Take me through that process.
I was in LA and I heard about the casting call. I spoke with my manager and at first he was really hesitant and didn’t know if that was something he wanted me to do. But we went ahead, did the open call and just tried it. I ended up getting a callback while in LA, and I had to stay longer for the next callback. That happened for about two or three rounds. I was just praying that if this is what God wanted me to do then I’m just going to do it. My manager was realizing that this could be a great opportunity for me and how it might help my career. Then we came to the final callback which is actually filmed, and from there I ended up making it on the show and meeting some cool people like Adam Lambert, Avril Lavigne, Sean Kingston, Will i Am and a lot more! I had a great time. It was the best!
With your experience on the show did you run into any challenges? Physically, mentally, spiritually?
It was a little bit challenging. I was one of the youngest ones on the show, and I was still kind of new. I hadn’t done anything like that before. I was a little nervous stepping into it but I was also excited.
You’ve done other work on TV. Do you have a favorite or most memorable job?
Other than Majors & Minors, there was a commercial I did: a Nurf Super Soaker commercial. It was so much fun getting to have those water guns, just running around in somebody’s backyard firing away. That was probably my favorite commercial that I’ve done.
How do you stay grounded in an industry like this?
There are a lot of things I could be doing that are on the fence and I try to stay away from those as much as possible. But if there's anything I can do to be a light in the industry and speak wisdom into people, I am always on board for that. Prayer keeps me grounded and knowing that all of my talent comes from God. Because without Him I can’t do anything.
Has your creative energy and passion ever conflicted with doing other things? Have you had to make hard choices?
Yes, last year. Before I started acting, I was a big sports person. I played football, baseball and soccer for about three years. I thought acting and dancing was cool, too. Then I started public school again (I was home schooled my sixth grade year), and I had to choose whether or not I wanted to play football or continue my dance group called Tru Crew, which were two really big things for me. But Tru Crew was my dream. It was my crew and the place I felt was the most safe for me. It was a really tough decision and I hated saying “no” but I couldn’t do both. So last year, I stuck with Tru Crew and luckily this year, an opportunity opened up for me to do both. So now I’m with Tru Crew and playing football.
You spoke about dancing and how you started to do it because you thought “it was cool.” Well now it’s your life! What made you start taking it seriously?
A lot of kids just love to move and I was one of those kids. I loved Michael Jackson when I was little. I always tried to imitate his dancing. But I didn’t really take it seriously until about fourth grade. It was only a couple months before I went to AMTC and I started taking dance classes at a local studio. Then I auditioned for AMTC and kept dancing through that. I began dancing with a new studio and I love it because we compete, and perform at benefits. Recently we did a Cancer benefit for a school. Dancing is my thing.
Tell us more about Tru Crew and how it started?
It was summer when I had the idea that I wanted to build a dance crew. I got with my agent and he had a casting call. As I went through the whole process, I was realizing we could be more than a crew. So that’s when I had the idea that we were going to be something for the community. We are Christian so we pray at every practice, and we honor the Lord. We have to be careful sometimes when we‘re at schools. We can’t always say “Jesus” or “God” but we do put it in somewhere. We say that “you are created for a purpose”, “you’re created the way you’re supposed to be”, “you have a purpose in your life”. We tell them to “dream big, work hard and be true to who they are,” which is basically our slogan.
Now we perform at a lot of schools. We performed at concerts, outreaches and churches. It’s crazy! I love the way God works. We ended up doing a short film and we entered it in the “No Bull” [anti-bullying] contest. We got nominated for “Best Short Film”, and “Best Message”. We got to fly out to LA. I never thought at the beginning of the audition that it would come to this. I’m just so blessed to have the opportunity.
So what else have you been up to since SHINE?
Well… since SHINE, I’ve done a lot of commercials and print work. Actually in a couple of weeks I’ll be in Nashville shooting a music video. I’ll be a background dancer.
How did AMTC help your career? How is that experience for you?
AMTC was nothing that I expected, in a great way! My life totally changed because I was not used to being around people that are like me. People that love the Lord, just like me. It’s truly life changing. It’s something that gives me joy and I know I can feed off other people’s happiness and they can feed off my happiness and together we’re like one big family.
How can young artists make a positive impact for God in this industry?
Never give up, stay true to you and stick to your values and never let anybody say that you can’t, because you can. If you set your mind to it, you can and don’t let anybody get in your way.
(A few questions with Brandon’s mother, Gina) Brandon spoke to me about Tru Crew and you’re heavily involved with it. What exactly is your role?
Gina: From a paperwork standpoint, I’d be the director, because we did get Tru Crew from an idea converted to an outreach extension within a church. I pretty much just try to keep the kids grounded, whether it’s pulling in leadership to make sure they mentor the kids because they (the crew) can’t give all the time and not be able to re-fuel. But at the same time, they need that balance.
I handle a lot of the communications as far as the community and bookings. I even turn down opportunities that sometimes sound good. I check with [The Crew] on the school standpoint. They turn in report cards to me every six weeks and have letters of recommendations from teachers or church members even before they audition for The Crew. They had to write essays and it was a great opportunity for me to learn their hearts and meet their families. That helped me to know where they were at and how to check in. Because we can’t just say we’re one thing, we have to actually walk it out. When I see what impact these kids have, it makes the days I’m tired and worn out worth it.
Ever since Brandon came to AMTC, it’s been a whirlwind. Did you expect all of this? What were your expectations going into AMTC and now how do you feel?
AMTC for us is a family. Realistically we never expected more than just a great opportunity for them to train. We thought they would go to the SHINE conference and that it would be a great experience, and then we would come back and have a normal life and say “Hey, we did this for them. We got to pour into some of their gifts from a spiritual standpoint and give them a little taste of some of the things they were dreaming of.”
We watched them grow and blossom so much in their character, their walk, their confidence on stage and their ability in interview with adults. There were qualities from that that we believed would help them for the rest of their lives—if they never booked a job or did anything after AMTC. We were satisfied with the investment and the opportunities that they had. The flood of doors that opened right away was almost overwhelming.
Brandon received a significant amount of call backs and God was saying “Hey, I’ve got other things in store for you. Are you going to get on board?” That was the first part of the faith walk for us. He’s been leading us to prayer through each door.