photograph by Heather Simmons
At 15, Deidra Shores understands the power, the life force of a dream. She’s a born storyteller with a gift for delivering tales. Her mom remembers her posing as a preschooler beside the air conditioner, her hair whipping around her face announcing, “There’s a big windstorm today.”
"To me, 'no' is not a big deal," says Deidra. "No's push you more toward your yes's. Persistence and consistency are big things for me."
Her grandmother, a local actress and singer, understood Deidra’s need to share stories. So Mildred Shores urged her granddaughter to perform for aunts and uncles at family reunions. The teen later auditioned for roles at local theatres. Through hard work, Deidra has steadily gained a broader audience. She frequently tells real life stories as Action News 5’s Kid Reporter, a position that followed her journalism debut in 2009 when she won NBC’s Today Show Kid Reporter contest. But she’ll tell you, there’s nothing easy about following your dream. When she fails to get big parts on stage, “There are tears,” says her mother Vanessa Conner. But her daughter never gives up.
The Cordova High School freshman has learned to bounce back from the disappointments that come between the victories. “To me, ‘no’ is not a big deal,” says Deidre. “No’s push you more toward your yes’s. Persistence and consistency are big things for me.” She was looking for new ways to further her career when she applied for the 2012 Disney’s Dreamer Academy. “It’s an amazing program for kids who really want to do something with their lives.” Her resume is impressive: a Kid Reporter for Action News 5, a former Today Show Kid Reporter, and a busy actress. Despite her accomplishments, she didn’t make it into the academy. But months later, Deidra’s friend told her that Black Entertainment Television (BET) was looking for a teenage Dream Reporter to cover Disney’s Dreamer Academy. The spot would air on the popular video countdown program 106 and Park. Deidra decided to submit her tape. In a serendipitous twist, she won the assignment. Now her dream just has a different guise. “I tried out for Dreamer Academy, and I didn’t make it. But I ended up being the reporter covering the academy for 106 and Park.” So in March, Deidre and her mom set off for Orlando where Deidre mingled with celebrities and interviewed other talented, ambitious teens. She captured highlights of the four-day event in a two-minute video segment, which airs this month on BET. “I’m sort of wild, crazy, and kooky in the segment,” she says with a winning smile. Deidra gravitates to feature reporting. “It’s just a different form of storytelling than acting,” she says. Only hours after winning the Today Show Kid Reporter contest, she was reporting a story: the christening of a megaship owned by Carnival Cruise Line. With rain streaming down her face, she gripped the microphone and looked around at the crowd of revelers who were ready to sail. She “put on a cute reporter face” and delivered the story without using a teleprompter. Though the show’s producers tossed out that first assignment, they went on to teach her the ropes.
“I learned how much dedication and work television journalism requires. A lot of people think it’s easy. But I have to step up and take responsibility for what I know I need to do to have a successful shoot. I’ve learned to be prepared; what you put in is what you get out.” As a Kid Reporter with Action News 5, she now covers “fun, happy stories” for the 6 a.m. broadcast. “I do youth stories that kids can relate to. I interviewed Shaquille O’Neal and covered the opening of the new Le Bonheur Hospital.” The teen also reports for a CBS affiliate, Channel 1. Her stories feed into middle schools and high schools across the country. In one report, she covered childhood obesity. “I relate to students. As a teen, I know that if you hear something from an adult, it’s not as effective as if you hear it from a kid your age.” Meanwhile, her movie career is taking off. She won the role of Lydia in the new film, Goat Island. Her scenes were shot in the Smoky Mountains. “It’s a small part,” she says, “just to get my feet wet in movies.” Deidre also gained experience with her role as an extra in Stoker, a Nicole Kidman film. Both will be released later this year. “Acting is my first passion,” she says. She hopes to continue as a storyteller, by giving her passion 110 percent.