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Simcoe County actress in Oscar-nominated film 'Women Talking'


Shayla Brown was born to be a performer.

"It was the only thing I really loved. I was never a math kid or a science kid."

Before graduating high school, the 19-year-old Midland woman landed a role in the Apple TV series 'See .'She says that's what kick-started her career.

"It was surreal seeing myself on the screen and hearing my voice because I had never really imagined that for myself," says Brown.

It would be the start of Brown's stardom.

The actress, who was born blind, auditioned for a main role in Canadian director Sarah Polley's movie 'Women Talking.'

"For the first time in my life, I was being asked to audition professionally for a character who wasn't written explicitly as blind," she says.

Although she didn't land the main role, Polley loved her so much that she created a new character for her in the film.

"It blew my mind that someone wanted me so much that they went to the effort to write something for me. I'm so used to people looking at me as a blind actor. Sarah was the first person who looked at me and saw an actor who just so happens to be blind," says Brown.

The movie is inspired by real-life events that occurred in a remote and isolated Mennonite community in Bolivia.

The film was shown at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival and was officially released in Canada last month.

Shayla Brown, 19, of Midland, Ont., walks the red carpet at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2022. (Supplied)

Now it's been nominated for two Oscars: Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.

"Women Talking was the last best picture nomination to be announced, and so I was sitting there like it's not going to happen. And then they said Women Talking, and I screamed so loud I probably woke everyone up," says Brown.

"We've seen it eight times. Still need Kleenex to watch it. I don't know if it's because she's in it or because it's sad. Just totally thrilled that she is doing what she wants to do," says Shayla's mom Tammy Brown.

Shayla says she hopes she can inspire others to follow their dreams and not let anything get in the way.

"I want to represent my community of being blind authentically, but I also don't want that to be the thing that defines me."

The Oscars take place on March 12 in Los Angeles.

Shayla and her mom plan to have a viewing party here at home and hope to get the movie screened at the theatre in Midland.

As for the future, Shayla says she plans to continue auditioning for films and hopes to get accepted into a theatre school. Top Stories

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