The Amazing Maiara Walsh

Maiara Walsh knows how to make an impression. On Disney Channel’s Cory in the House, she plays quirky—and confident—Meena Paroom, the adventurous teen from the imaginary country of Bahavia, who has a flair for making fashion statements at school. In “real life,” Maiara (pronounced my-AH-ta) is much less interested in putting on eye-popping outfits. She’d rather devote that energy to making a difference. The talented star opened up to DG about her commitment to a very important cause, how she rose above rejection, why popularity is overrated, and more…

What does your name mean?

Maiara is a pretty common name in Brazil, like Natalie here in the United States. Basically, it means “mother” and “nurse.” I was pretty surprised at how it related to who I really am!

How did you get your start as an actress?

I was always interested in entertaining so when I was 11, we moved from Seattle, Washington, to California, and I started taking acting classes. Then I got my first agent and ended up booking a commercial right away. I thought, Whoa! This is easy! only to find out that’s not really how it works!

So then reality set in?

Exactly! I got that first commercial, months passed, I didn’t get another job, and I thought, Uh-oh…what’s going on?! But if you’re passionate enough about acting, you’re not going to give up. Even when I was dealing with rejection, I never sat around. I kept doing my acting classes. There were times when my friends were having fun and I’d be at class. It was always worth it to me, and that’s why I’m talking to you today!

What are some Cory in the House behinds-the-scenes secrets?

If you don’t find me in my [dressing] room, I’m at craft service. There’s just something about having a table where there’s always food that really excites me. At lunch Madison and Jason are usually at my room and we’ll be playing Guitar Hero. Jason is absolutely ridiculous at Guitar Hero—he’s so good! There’s a good amount of downtime because you have to be there the entire day regardless of whether you’re in a scene. If I’m not in a scene, I’m in my room on the computer or hanging out with Jason or writing fans back.

Do you have any say in Meena’s wardrobe?

Basically, if I don’t like the outfit I don’t have to wear it. An outfit I won’t like is all in one color—like all in pink. That’s actually been a running joke, because pink isn’t my favorite color, and they put me in at least one pink outfit in almost every episode! But I think the wardrobe people do an amazing job.

Describe your style.

Basically, I wear whatever my mood is. If you hung out with me for a week, you’d probably think, She has no style! because I wear sweatpants a lot. But it’s not that I don’t have style—I just want people to see me for me rather than for what I’m wearing.

What is your dressing room like?

I have a really cool room—my friends and I painted a mural on my wall. I bought all the paint and paintbrushes and we went there on a Sunday. I said, “There’s no theme—just go with whatever is in your imagination.” And somehow, it all came together as a beautiful colorful masterpiece. It’s nice having that creative energy in the room!

Are you passionate about an issue?

I think we take the environment for granted, so recycling is very big for me. And I’ve realized what a huge difference it makes. When you throw away one aluminum can, it sits in a landfill for anywhere from 80 to 100 years. If you recycle that can, it saves enough energy to power a TV for at least three hours!

Does your family have any holiday traditions?

When this tradition started two years ago, I wasn’t too happy about it. Our family decided that we would do “gifts from the heart,” which means you either have to make something, or buy a present that’s not more than 10 dollars. The first year we did this, my sister and I were like, “But what about that iPod we wanted?!” Now that we’ve done it for a couple of years, it really is about being with the family and appreciating the time we have together.

Have you learned anything about friendship from being in this business?

You’re always going to run into people who are nice and cheesy to your face, but who will walk away and make up stuff about you. But I don’t worry about the rumors too much. Growing up, I always wanted to please people and to be liked by everyone, so it was hard to accept that there will be people who love me and people who hate me. That’s why I try to surround myself with people who would never do anything to intentionally hurt me.

What advice do you have for girls striving to be popular?

I know that I really wanted to be popular and to fit in. But once I became friends with some of those popular people, I realized that they weren’t any different from anyone else. So I wasted all that time and energy because I thought being popular was perfection. But everyone has their secrets and their problems. And, of course, I would rather be friends with people who like me for who I am rather than for who I’m trying to be.

What tips do you have for girls who worry about what everyone thinks of them?

I’ve been that insecure girl who goes home crying. When you’re in the moment, everything seems like such a huge deal. Just remember that you can control how you react to a situation. If something bad happens, you can cry and say, “I have the worst life ever!” Or you can realize that bad things will happen throughout your life but you can choose how you deal with them. Are you going to let this be a life-ender, or are you going to find some way to be stronger from this? Then the next time this situation comes up, you’re not going to go home and cry because you’ll have the tools to deal with it.

Don’t miss Maiara in Cory in the House, Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on Disney Channel.

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