We have all been there, whether it’s been stood in front of the mirror singing into a hairbrush, or dancing to a favourite iTunes song in the living room of your own home pretending it’s your star performance in front of thousands at the O2 Arena.
It’s fair to say we have all had one or more dreams where our name has appeared in the bright lights of the big city. For many these are dreams, but these are not impossibles, and with hard work and determination dreams can turn into realities.
Stoke-on-Trent’s very own Jonny Wilkes has experienced the bright lights in the big city and is fully aware of how hard it can be to break into show business. But he also knows opportunities do happen and it’s all about trusting your instinct and going for goal.
“You have got to have belief,” said Jonny, fresh from playing Aladdin at The Regent Theatre, in Stoke-on-Trent. “It is all about believing and I believe if someone wants something that bad, then they will achieve it. I don’t see myself as a person who is the most talented in the world but I have a confidence – which you need. You don’t need to be too over confident so you are cocky, but just be confident and believe. It’s about knowing what you have got and playing to your strengths and also not taking yourself seriously and don’t be scared to have a go. It is hard work but don’t be ashamed of what you have got or what your talent is.”
Jonny, who grew up in Baddeley Green, was a keen footballer in his younger years but by the age of 17, a career in the entertainment industry was pursued after winning the prestigious Cameron Mackintosh Young Entertainer of the Year Award. Various roles followed including working in West End musicals, presenting on TV and ten years ago Johnny opened his own performing arts school, The Wilkes Academy, with wife Nikki – a new venture which brought about some of the biggest challenges in his professional career to date.
“Any job you do is testing, but I don’t fear anything, I have never been fearful of anything, that’s one of my strengths of character – never to fear the unknown,” said Jonny. “I think any job you do in this life is a test, anything I have ever done has been a test, but I have never looked at anything and been daunted by anything.”
He added: “The Wilkes Academy was something of an unknown but it came more natural to me than anything else in my life before. The school has been a huge success and that’s been one of the biggest challenges I have had to face professionally. My wife had a real passion and wanted to run a preforming arts school, and I knew I could help others and we wanted to help.”
Jonny was keen to help young aspiring actors, dancers and singers from his home City and The Wilkes Academy holds classes for under-16s at Birches Head High School, Stoke-on-Trent.
“There’s so much talent in this area (Stoke-on-Trent) and I didn’t think it had been nurtured in the right way and knew I wanted to help,” said Jonny. Don’t get me wrong there are some great local dance schools and things here (Stoke), but I just wanted to help. I had help and doors opened for me, and sometimes it isn’t what you know but who you know, and I knew I could help and wanted to by opening the academy.There is so much talent and all you need to do is have that belief.”
Apart from his wife and two sons, Jonny admits he has experienced so much elation by helping others through the Academy. He adds: “The Wilkes Academy has given me some of the most rewarding things in my life. You don’t tend to give yourself much credit but when someone else achieves something and you have watched them grow, it’s great. It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve done apart from marrying my wife and my two boys.”