Katherine McDowell, daughter of Mount Shasta's Richard and Deborah McDowell, describes herself as a woman who wears many hats.
Need a real live princess to visit a little girl's birthday party? How about an actor that portrays specific scenarios to help corporate employees learn new skills? A yoga teacher? A voice-over or audio book performer? What about a film extra? Katherine McDowell, daughter of Mount Shasta's Richard and Deborah McDowell, describes herself as a woman who wears many hats. She's now living in New York City and was recently featured as “Peculiar Person of the Month” in a blog that highlights New Yorkers with especially interesting careers. “I guess my high school yearbook award of 'most unique' continues to hold true,” McDowell joked. After graduating from MSHS in 2000, McDowell was accepted into Tisch School of the Arts for their Bachelors of Fine Arts program. She spent two semesters abroad in Ireland, Italy and Western Europe before obtaining a Masters of Arts at King's College in London in conjunction with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. McDowell said her primary form of paid acting is called “corporate acting,” which she explained as “working with a corporation to help their employees learn a skill set and then offer an immediate practice opportunity through role play.” She said it provides “a safe forum for people to learn new skill sets and have a seemingly real practical application without the risk of making mistakes in a professional setting where there could be lasting effects.” The field is relatively new in the US business world, McDowell said, though it's “very established” in the United Kingdom. “I got into performing because I wanted to touch people's lives,” said McDowell. “This work does exactly that in a very hands-on way. Also, getting a paying gig as an actor is one of the most exciting things ever. Period.” McDowell is also a “professional princess.” As the owner of Fire Pixie NY, she transforms into princesses for birthday parties and other functions. She does one to four parties a weekend, and manages a staff of other actors. McDowell said she started as a princess while working in Berkeley for a few years. “I happened to attend a party one night with some friends and was chatting with a girl there,” McDowell said. “When she found out I was an actress with a boring day job she told me I should be a princess. At the time, I didn't even know that was a possible job description.” She began working for Fire Pixie in California for about a year, and after moving to New York had the opportunity to franchise the Fire Pixie brand. When she is Belle, Rapunzel or Ariel, McDowell said she has to know all about her background. “There is nothing more embarrassing than forgetting your prince's name,” she said. “The hardest thing about being a princess is managing expectations,” McDowell said. “Grown-ups need to be clear on what a princess can and cannot do during the party, and children need to know that Tinkerbell is so tiny when she flies you cannot see her... The hardest thing about being a princess is managing subways and buses in a ball gown. It's so easy for the dresses to get dirty!” McDowell said she misses Mount Shasta most for the water, the nature, and “the ability to be outside in silence so quickly.” When it comes to living in New York, she has a hard time choosing her favorite thing. “Something that really improves my quality of life is the fact I can walk most everywhere,” she said. “The other benefit of walking is that this city constantly changes. Every time I wander around the city I feel like I'm on a grand adventure and bound to discover something new. “I couldn't live in New York if I hadn't grown up in Mount Shasta,” McDowell continued. “No matter where I go, people are delighted by my joyful approach to life and my belief that most anything is possible. I don't think I'd feel that way if I didn't live in a town where people climb a mountain and make a living in a beautiful place. The wonder I feel exiting the subway and seeing the Empire State Building is no different than walking out of Ray's and seeing Mount Shasta at sunset. I feel so lucky that I belong to two very magical places.” McDowell had the following advice for those interested in pursing a career in the dramatic arts: “To have a career in the dramatic arts is a creative endeavor in its own right. To be a successful dramatic artist is not an easy thing. Decide early what success actually means to you and work towards that, but be open to change. “Build strong relationships with others and be a good person. So much work comes from connections. If you go to college for the arts, choose a school that has a great alumni network. “If you aren't going to an arts specific school, consider majoring in business. So much of this career is running your own business that is yourself. Also, learn about the many ways to perform or create, it's not all Hollywood and Broadway.” McDowell said she took a “Writing for Publication” course at College of the Siskiyous that was her first real introduction to the idea of “selling yourself” as an artist. “It was a really useful glimpse into that part of the business,” she said. In addition, performing in plays at Mount Shasta High and COS, taking music courses and going to events were all great experiences for learning the performing aspects of her career path. McDowell said many others from Mount Shasta have lived or currently live in New York, including MSHS grads Tyler Sinclair, Blaire Briody, Tim Fredenburg and Doug Porter. “How amazing that so many people from the tiny town of Mount Shasta have landed in New York!”