On a cold October morning in 2004 Emily Williams, 10, got her first taste of life in show business.
Emily was cast in a commercial for a new ad campaign, "Think Kansas," which aims to attract commerce to the state. Emily is shown flying a kite amid rolling hills at the end of a commercial featuring Kansas native Amelia Earhart. The commercial concludes with a new slogan coined to attract people to Kansas: "Kansas. As big as you think."
The advertisement was produced by an advertising agency in Lawrence, where Emily's stepfather Tom Novacky is employed as a print production manager.
Tom said co-workers suggested Emily audition for the part in the commercial, and she was excited to give it a try.
Emily's mother, Bev Novacky, said Emily had always enjoyed being in the spotlight.
"She's always been very dramatic," she said.
Emily was chosen out of several young girls who auditioned because she was able to follow directors' orders well, and she looked a bit like Earhart as a child.
The advertisement was shot on a ranch north of Lawrence. During the shoot, Emily was directed to run up and down a hill slowly for several hours.
"I had to run in a field with buffalo," she said. "I was flying a kite, and I had to run in a certain path."
Bev said Emily was so willing to follow the director's orders that she came home with scratches all over her legs from running through a thorny bush.
"It's 'cause they wanted me to go on that path," Emily said.
It was a long, tiring day, but Emily said it was worth it.
"It's really cool that I am on TV," she said.
She also learned that her job as a commercial actress had some perks. She got to keep all the clothes from the shoot, and the production company paid her $200 for her troubles.
"I think I put it all in the bank," she said.
She also got to miss school to be in the commercial.
"I still had homework, though," she said.
Emily planned to take a video of the commercial to school to show her classmates in Niki Rheuport's fourth-grade class at Eudora West Elementary School.
Emily hoped the "Think Kansas" commercial would not be her only opportunity in front of the camera. She said she wanted to be an actress.
"Maybe in movies or something," she said.
The commercial is running for about another month in the Kansas City, Topeka and Wichita markets. Another advertisement featuring Dwight D. Eisenhower will also run for another month, after which new commercials in the series will be shown.
"The theme is to bring commerce to the state and instill a pride in people," Tom said.
He said Earhart and Eisenhower were chosen because they were inspirational characters from the history of Kansas.
"They had great vision and didn't let anything stand in their way," he said. "And that's what Kansans bring to the table."