Searching for Downtown Prodigies: The Talented Ms. Filsoof

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By Beth Mellow

"Now that I'm doing martial arts, I'm toughening up," 16-year-old Rachel Filsoof joked.

The actress, singer, dancer and Professional Children's School junior has been training in mixed martial arts for the past three months for a film. The yet-to-be-titled picture will be released in theaters in 2013, and Filsoof has a lead role. "I play a girl manufactured by the government to kill a bunch of bad dudes," she explains.

This marks Filsoof's first foray into the action genre, where she will play a character very unlike her young, shy self. Filsoof admits to being teased and found it difficult to confront her tormentors when she was younger.

Although she now lives in Battery Park City, she moved here only three years ago from Atlanta with her family. In Georgia, her fellow students were venomous when it came to her budding career: "Kids were not nice to me. I would miss school for auditions and rehearsals without being penalized, and they resented that. I also dressed in my own style, like wearing pink furry boots, and they would pick on me for looking different. It was rough. Now I go to school where everyone is like me. It's awesome. I've made so many friends."

At the age of 9, Filsoof began performing in local theater productions, including Annie, and modeling in advertisements for companies like Macy's, Escada and Home Depot. The smooth beginning of her career reads like the type of fairy-tale story many young girls secretly dream of: Filsoof was discovered by a scout from Elite Modeling agency while walking her dog. Modeling opportunities led to acting gigs and Filsoof soon found herself traveling during summer breaks to New York and Los Angeles to perform on stage and in television roles.

Eventually, she had booked enough jobs to warrant a permanent move to New York City with her parents in tow. Her father, who works in real estate, still makes regular trips to their old stomping grounds.

"Everyone just left for me and my career. My parents had to completely sacrifice their lives for me. I really appreciate it," Filsoof said.

Tess, Filsoof's mom, added, "We didn't want to prevent her from reaching her potential as a performing artist since it is what she loves and she is so focused, disciplined and determined to make it in the business."

Over the past few years, Filsoof has toured with productions of High School Musical 1 and 2, starred in the Lifetime movie Flying By, with Billy Rae Cyrus and Heather Locklear, and landed a part in the ABC Family film Mean Girls 2.

Filsoof is also simultaneously embarking on a singing career, and recently signed with a record label as part of a new girl group. She will be featured with her vocal coach, Trapper Felides, on a reality show debuting on the Oxygen network in February called The Next Big Thing.

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