In the business of making a star

by Sarah Melton


There’s no guidebook on how to become a star, but one Mount Holly business hopes to put budding performers on the right path.

Dawn Rickus, owner of Extreme Talent Productions, knows the path to stardom can be rocky.

“In this industry, you have to have the proper training on your resume and you have to go through the right doors to get to that right place,” she said. “It just doesn’t happen like they say in the movies. It might be they become famous overnight, but they have been working a long time on their craft.”

Rickus is hoping that her business will give aspiring entertainers the tools they need to become successful.

Extreme Talent offers instruction in all forms of dance, voice, acting, modeling, pageantry and performance for ages two and up. She also offers talent consulting and placement to help clients select headshots and marketing materials, improve their resume and prepare for auditions.

Rickus recently moved the business from Kings Mountain to Mount Holly to cater to a large number of her clients who live in the Lake Norman area. Rickus heard positive comments about Mount Holly, and so far, she has discovered a lot of new talent, proving that not all famous entertainers hail from big cities, such as Los Angeles or New York City.

“You can go and do it,” Rickus said. “You just have to know the steps to get there. It’s more determined by your drive than where you are from, how serious you are and what steps you are willing to take. No famous agent is going to walk right into your high school and find you. You’ve got to know how to put yourself out there and who to contact.”

Casting directors, actors, dancers and other entertainment professionals from New York and California have held workshops for Extreme Talent. Billy Sharpe, an actor and a casting director for several major cruise lines, taught a musical theater workshop and Todd Flannigan and Nico O’Conner, choreographers for musician Pink, hosted a dance workshop. Gail Cook, an actress in Los Angeles, will teach a workshop for parents of child actors in the spring.

“I feel they shouldn’t just train with us,” Rickus said. “People should have the ability to learn from others.”

Future stars practice at Extreme Talent.

Rickus is no stranger to the entertainment business herself. A performer for the past 17 years, Rickus began her professional career with Paramount Productions and has performed in various stage and television productions, commercials and feature films. An award-winning choreographer, she opened Extreme Talent two years ago, but also juggled a position with Evolution Models & Talent. Last month, Rickus left her six-year career at Evolution to commit full-time to Extreme Talent.

“I really wanted to open this (business) to help parents and kids understand what they need,” Rickus said. “There are so many kinds of scams. All I want is to focus more on consulting with parents and kids so they know what is legit and what is not.”

Extreme Talent has already launched the careers of several young faces, including Rickus’ own son, Devin. The 12-year-old has appeared in independent films, commercials, television programs, stage productions and music videos for various companies, including Discovery Place, The Inspiration Network Baby Can Read Video Series and the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.

“He has been acting since he was six and telling stories since he could talk,” Rickus said of her son. “He used to set up his own stage in the house and perform with a hair brush and I had to introduce him. He’s a lot like me. He is a big ham and he has to perform at all times.”

Jaeleigh Clark, Anna Rednour and Madelyn Bolick are a few other young Extreme Talent clients.

“My main passion is for children because I feel those are the ones whose parents get sucked into different, crazy things and don’t really realize what to do,” Rickus said.

Rickus also makes sure the parents don’t hinder their children’s careers.

“That could be the greatest child in the world, but if the parent is pushy, speaks for the child or is over enthusiastic, the agent will not work with the parent,” she said. “A lot of kids lose jobs because the parents are so vocal and that is a big deal in the industry. Here, I work with the parent as much as the child on how they should behave because that is just as important as what the child should do.”

Extreme Talent Productions is at 796 W. Charlotte Ave. inside of the Sports Mill, owned by Rickus, her husband Derek and Ty Racette.

Hours are 1 to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 1 to 6 p.m. Fridays and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. Appointments are available after hours.

For more information, call 704-616-0141 or visit

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