If the name of actress Meghan Aruffo isn’t yet inscribed on the red carpet, it’s because stars aren’t born, they’re built. Aruffo wasn’t hoisted into the spotlight at an early age; instead she was given a modest upbringing of theatre life from her family.
“I’ve always had performing as part of my life,” she says. "I got my first camcorder when I was in 4th grade because I was always making movies and inviting all my friends to be in them for fun."
She recalls the first musical to swipe her off her feet. "I was three years old when I saw Annie. I saw it on Broadway, and I was obsessed. I came home to my grandparents, sat on the dining room table, and started singing ‘The sun will come out tomorrow!’”
Aruffo signed with Diamond Agency, a Florida modeling and talent firm, when she was 17. After her agent moved over to CMG Models & Talent around the time of Aruffo’s Summer 2012 graduation from the University of Central Florida, Aruffo opted to join her. She strapped on her pumps and took a jet to where 2Pac called “The state where you never find a dance floor empty.”
Aruffo and I are seated on the front entrance steps of Los Angeles’s Griffith Observatory. The monument to public astronomy commands a mountainous view; it overlooks city lights that twinkle along the outstretched landscape below, and matches the hue of the illuminated sky above.
As aforementioned, Aruffo studied at UCF, and happens to share alumni status with this journalist. While her heart was set on the stage, her brain prioritized practicality. She forayed temptation to take theater classes and opted for a different challenge: a major in Interpersonal Organizational Communications.
“It’s basically a form of public relations,” she says. “I decided that if I was going to go to college, I was going to work on something that wasn’t acting. I was going to get something stable." It also helped her with acting, she believes, because "Interpersonal communications offer a different outlook on how we interact with each other. More of the psychology of why people behave the way they do in certain situations.”
The tall 24-year-old thespian has bright blonde hair that runs below her shoulders. She sports a pink blazer and beige high heels. Think an alchemy of Kirsten Dunst’s cheerleader chic in Bring It On and the sumptuous street-wear of the Pitch Perfect ensemble.
Aruffo acting credits include independent films and shorts with Full Sail University, a guest star on Investigation Discovery Network’s Dead of Night, as well as small supporting roles in Iron Man 3 and the upcoming Judd Apatow comedy, Neighbors. She continues to hone her craft at the revered Margie Haber Studio.
Acting is often much more than what’s displayed on the silver screen; it’s a confluence of the desire to create great art with hard real life experience. Underneath Aruffo’s bubbly personality are shades of a loss. Her father passed away from surgical complications for an umbilical hernia during her senior year of high school.
She takes a deep breath and lets out a soft sigh. “I didn’t even get to say goodbye. To this day I have a letter he wrote to me in sophomore year, after I got the lead in Footloose. He told me how proud he was, and that he cried every time the duet ‘Almost Paradise’ was sung. ”
Despite her trauma, Aruffo’s optimism when it comes to future projects gleams like the morning Venice sunrise. She’s in the beginning stages of writing a script set to put a humorous spin on the frustrations and glib conversations when dating in LA. Her Soundcloud page features her singing over backing tracks of her favorite tunes. Fortunately, this isn’t the kind of karaoke that would make William Hung sound like Frank Sinatra. Arrufo’s voice blissfully sways in a way as equally suitable for taprooms and trysts, offering an intimate perspective of popular hits.
Despite all the pressure Hollywood’s harsh dominion provides, Aruffo is hardly a damsel in distress. “The thing about this business is that you hear ‘no’ a lot,” she says. But you can’t take it personally, because there are so many factors to why you didn’t get something. So when I'm feeling down, my mom calls me and reminds me that I love doing this.”
If a dogged work ethic and a fully formed identity can lead to opportunities that knock, then Meghan Aruffo might just be the new girl next door.