As a former Miss Georgia Teen USA, Jena Sims has transitioned herself into one of Hollywood’s hottest commodities.
I recently talked with Jena about her latest film, 3 Headed Shark Attack that will be released theatrically on August 4th and air on Syfy.
We also talked about her charity and more.
You can follow her on twitter at @jenamsims.
And on her website. www.jenasims.com
What made you decide on pageants at first?
“Well I actually started modeling at an early age. I guess one of these like little smaller local pageants got my information and they sent me a pamphlet in the mail. It advertised a scholarship pageant, where if you win you get money for college.
I did that, to try to gain confidence and gain stage presence. I didn’t win my first couple of years actually, I was painfully shy and tragic, but it definitely brought me out of my shell! Modeling started me on this ride.
I did the smaller ones, then I did Miss Teen USA! That was my first world television experience. I think that’s what catapulted me wanting me to pursue acting.”
What was winning Miss Teen Georgia like?
“It was a dream come true for me! For Teen USA, I had a whole year of media training, and bigger modeling opportunities. I did a few local commercials too. It was great networking, and I got to be Miss Teen USA! I still to this day keep in touch with almost half the girls that I competed with at Miss Teen USA. I literally saw two of them this past weekend. [Laughs]. I saw Miss Kentucky and Miss Florida. They’re like my best friends now! It’s a nice little sisterhood.”
That’s really great that you all keep in touch.
“Yeah, we all kind of migrated out to L. A. after Miss Teen USA. I actually lived with one of them for about four years. We’re all out here doing the modeling and acting thing.”
That’s really great! Did you go to school for your acting after you went modeling. Are you studying now?
“Yes, I’m in acting class now. When I was in college I studied marketing. I also run a non-profit organization called Pageant of Hope! I took marketing classes for a couple of years before I decided to pursue acting in L. A. Now, I’m studying with Sherry Shaw and Jeffery Marcus. They are two great coaches. I was working with Jeff one on one this morning on my audition. [Laughs].”
Tell me about 3 Headed Shark Attack, and about your character Professor Lauren Thomas.
“Well I got to see it for the first time last night! I’m very pleased with it. I had no idea how it was going to turn out. It’s the first time that I’ve seen something that I’ve done on TV with everyone else. I had no idea what the finished product was going to look like, but I was very pleased.
I think the graphics on the shark were as believable as they could be.
I had such a good time filming that movie. It’s such a far out concept of this three headed shark attacking the garbage patch. It’s an actual place that is a big pollution landfill.
I learned a lot about the environment and it definitely made me more conscious of being more eco-friendly. Especially, playing the role of professor Lauren Thomas. She devotes her life to studying the planet and preserving it. I learned a lot.”
Where did you shoot the film?
“In Pensacola Florida. It’s like a little island called Pensacola.”
Was the water cold while you were shooting?
“Yeah, it was. We shot in January and it was supposed to be a tropical climate in Florida, but it was not. When we went out at night we would have dinner and we would talk to all the locals in Pensacola. They were like this is such a great thing it’s usually warm in January here. Before I left L. A., everyone was saying how it’s gonna be so nice. The weather is going to be perfect. The water is going to be warm. None of those things were true. [Laughs].
Apparently, it was just a completely out of the blue cold front. We were troopers though, we put up with it. Call times were at 4am everyday, because the sun rose earlier in the winter. We had to be there for all the sun. rises.
The ocean was really cold. They gave us all wet suits, which didn’t help me very much because my arm had to be exposed. We were in the water for such lengthy periods of time that you just kind of went numb after awhile. Our lips were turning purple! Once we got out of the water they had heat lamps, blankets and towels. They made sure they did the best they could to keep us comfortable given the situation.”
Yeah, I couldn’t imagine. That must be so crazy.
“Yeah! I think they had plans for a lot more scenes in the water. They cut a lot of it short because we were freezing.
I think it would have been better. It was definitely better than shooting in L. A.! The water in January in L. A. is still I a good ten degrees colder! They definitely checked on our possibilities.
It WAS still really cold though.”
Did you do any real lab work to prepare for your role?
“No, I didn’t have time. I mean I’ve played nerd though. I was a nerd in Attack of the Fifty Foot Cheerleader. I am a nerd in real life too. In high school I think I graduated with a 3.8 GPA. Science was definitely one of my favorite subjects.
I used to live for the days where we got to go in the lab and actually do experiments! I sort of channeled that experience. But no, when I booked the role I had to fly to Florida within the next 48 hours. There wasn’t a lot of time for prep work.”
Understandable. Since you were working on a shark film, are you scared of sharks? What’s your take on them now?
“No. That’s a good question! I’m not scared of sharks at all. I think I would be scared of a three-headed shark though. I actually had an opportunity to go shark tank diving in the Indian Ocean and in South Africa! I’ve actually gotten to touch a great white that was 8 ft long! I wasn’t scared at all, it was a really amazing experience.”
Wow. Wow. I have to ask you, what is it like working with Danny Trejo?
“Oh my gosh, I actually didn’t get to meet him. We literally just missed each other filming.
Everybody that I talked to said he’s so sweet and so professional. He has tons of assistants walking around with him, but he’s still really humble. He was inviting everybody to his taco shop that he opened. I don’t know the name of it, but he just opened a little taco shop somewhere in L. A.
I think that we’re all going to plan a trip to go there.”
Did you have any favorite stories from that set?
“Oh yeah, well the real three-headed shark that they use is all CGI, but just in case they made a real life mold of a puppet. In Jaws, they also actually used a big shark puppet.
We stayed in condos because there wasn’t really too many hotels in the area. The guys in the cast shared one couple bedroom condo, and the director kept shark puppets in their garage.
I would go hang out with them at their condo when we had our days off and we would take pictures pretending that the shark was devouring us. We have so many pictures on our phones of us popping our heads out of the shark. [Laughs].
We weren’t allowed to touch the puppets technically, so we couldn’t tell the director until way after the fact. [Laughs].
We were being really ridiculous with the shark. We did the classic Jaws pose -where it’s biting you in half. We did all of that.”
Do you have any other projects after this, coming up?
“I did a role on USA Network’s Satisfaction. They haven’t announced when the next season is going to premiere yet, but I shot that. I shot a short film that’s called Bullfrog Bullfrog. I guest starred on AMC ‘s Halt and Catch Fire. I’m also in the Entourage movie.
Other than that I’m just auditioning. I just got home from an audition, actually. I have two tomorrow. It’s been a really busy summer! I hope it only gets busier.”
Tell everybody about Pageants For Hope, your charity.
“Besides acting, I have been running a very successful non-profit organization for the past ten years. The actual name of the organization is HBBQ inc. Which stands for Has Been Beauty Queens. Thanks to my pageant experience, I have this really large network of former pageant winners. We are not scared to call ourselves the has-beens, because we are. [Laughs].
We put on this event, which is called Pageant of Hope. It’s a special pageant for kids facing challenges. It initially started as a pageant for kids with cancer, because at an early age I lost a lot of family member to cancer. I was really passionate about raising money and raising awareness in hope there would be a cure for cancer one day.
The first Pageant of Hope was for kids with cancer. It’s been ten years, so now I’ve branched out. The pageants are all kids facing any challenge.
I did one in Africa at an AIDS orphanage. I just got back from Nassau where I was working with kids, with teenagers actually in low-income areas. I’ve been to Cuba. I’ve been all over the world, I try to hold two or three pageants a year.
The catch is, these pageants are centered around raising self-esteem and building self-confidence. Every single participant leaves a winner. They all have their moments! Every participant gets to create a title, a unique title.
We do their hair, we do their nails, we do their makeup and we interview. We do the entire pageant process! Everyone gets a crown and a sash at the end of the day.
It’s really heart warming because when they come in they’re so shy usually. Actually all the time. They’re really shy. They don’t want to get on stage, but we do their makeup and they love it! They start walking on stage, and as soon as they are finished with their walk, they get crowned! Then they never want to leave the stage. [Laughs]. It’s really cute to see the transformation.
The one we just had in Nassau was on Saturday! I literally just got back to L. A. It was one of the best events we’ve ever had. It was the first time I hadn’t worked with kids who were sick.
It was a really different vibe to see these girls in a summer camp in a village. They were just all cheering for each other and really really supportive of each other. It was so cool.
My website is pageantofhope.org if anyone out there wants to donate. It is a 501 t3 non-profit. I’ve got to put that out there! I think we’re going to start raising money for another one in September now.”