Looking at Alicia Vela-Bailey's life is like reading about three at the same time. Raised in Oahu, Hawaii, Alicia grew up in an artistic household. Her mother, Cecelia, was a ballerina and artist originally from North Carolina. Her late father, Armando, was an artist and top magician originally from El Salvador. He also owned his own landscaping business. She was put into gymnastics and dance at a very young age, and become a competitive level 9 gymnast. Because of an injury, she turned from gymnastics to focus on dance and became a member of a prestigious company in Hawaii.
At 21, she was called in to audition for a stunt double position for Milla Jovovich in the movie Ultraviolet. She booked the gig and traveled to Hong Kong and Shanghai. After her father passed, she decided to pursue her passions full time, and moved to Los Angeles where she became a Pussycat Doll and performed in Vegas. She worked there for nearly a year before getting a call to audition in James Cameron's Avatar. She landed the role as Zoe Saldana's stunt double. Now, she works as a highly sought after stunt double. Her latest project? The (sure to be a hit) Divergent, acting as a stunt double for Shailene Woodley who plays the main character Tris. For the role, Vela-Bailey completed a freefall of around 70 feet! We caught up with the stunt woman to talk about the film, hollywood stars and conquering her fears.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
"I was raised on the island of Oahu, in a town called Kailua. My mom Cecelia was from North Carolina, she was an artist. And my dad Armando was from El Salvador, he was also an artist. He owned his own landscaping company and was also became one of the top magicians on the island. They moved to Hawaii when I was three years old. I have two younger sisters, Nicole and Marissa. I remember my dad always used to tell my sisters and I how lucky we are to grow up in such a beautiful place, and being a kid at the time I didn't fully understand what he meant. But once I started to travel, I began to realize exactly how lucky I was and fully appreciate what my dad was telling us."
How did you get into being a stunt double? What sparked your interest?
“Well, I was put into gymnastics and dance at a very young age. I was a level 9 competitive gymnast, and it wasn't until my sophomore year of high school when I was told I had to quit gymnastics because of an elbow injury, which was devastating for me. But because of that, I switched my focus to dance. And I loved it! Then one day out of the blue, my friend Nito Larioza called me up and said I should fly out to LA and audition to double the lead actress for this movie Ultraviolet. The actress was Milla Jovovich, and he thought I'd make a great double for her. That’s how I booked my first job ever in the stunt industry, and it kind of snowballed from there. It’s funny, I had never thought of ever doing stunts before. Stunts found me I guess. And I feel very happy and lucky it did, cause I’m loving my job!"
You've been a stunt double for many leading actresses in Hollywood. What do you think is a misconception about these big stars?
"One misconception would be that [actors can’t do their own stunts.] As much and as hard as these actors might train for a film or want o do their own stunts, a lot of the time, for safety reasons, they aren't allowed to do so. A lot of them really want and try to do all their own action, but to keep them safe we have to step in and help them out."
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