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Glendale Heights woman makes waves in Hollywood
By Amy Boerema | Daily Herald Staff

LaQuita Cleare


Courtesy LaQuita Cleare

LaQuita Cleare, top left, in the popular Web series "Secret Fridays."


Courtesy LaQuita Cleare

LaQuita Cleare, left, being interviewed at the American Black Film Festival in Miami.


Courtesy LaQuita Cleare

LaQuita Cleare at a red carpet film premiere in Los Angeles, where the Glendale Heights native moved after college.


Courtesy LaQuita Cleare

LaQuita Cleare moved to L.A. to make it as an actress while going to law school, but found looking for acting work is a full-time job in itself.


Courtesy LaQuita Cleare

Anne-Marie Johnson and LaQuita Cleare, right, on the set of "Suicide Dolls." Cleare, a Glendale Heights native, says she hopes the film raises awareness and helps prevent suicides.


Courtesy LaQuita Cleare

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Published: 7/13/2010 12:00 AM

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After college, LaQuita Cleare had an ambitious plan - move to L.A. and attend law school while working to become a successful actress.

But when the Glendale Heights native arrived in Hollywood in 2004, she discovered finding work was a full-time job in itself. "It was this grand plan I had," she says, "but I found out you can't do acting and also do something else."

Despite the juggling challenges, Cleare is having a blast following her dream. Her newest film, "Suicide Dolls," in which she has her first feature lead, premiered in June at the 14th Annual American Black Film Festival in Miami.

As a child, Cleare was always a performer, dancing and acting in school plays. So it came as no surprise to her family when she headed out West, two suitcases in hand, after graduating from Loyola University in Chicago with a theater degree.

"I told her as long as she finished her college education, I was OK with it," says her mom, Barbara Calep of Glendale Heights.

L.A. was an adjustment. Cleare was surprised at how spread out the city was, and how much time she spent in her car. And she found it a constant struggle to find steady work - even with an agent.

"There's times you're auditioning like crazy," she says, "and other times where literally I've checked my voice mail to make sure my phone is still working."

Still, she earned roles in TV and in indie films. She played a mean sorority girl in one early gig, which led to nothing but similar character offers for awhile after.

"I was like, are these people trying to tell me something?" she says, laughing.

Cleare worked with actor Eric Roberts in "Sister's Keeper" and appeared on "Strong Medicine." She even began her own production company, Salsera Productions, to help develop films with roles for minority women.

As research for "Suicide Dolls," a film about two teen girls who devise a suicide pact, Cleare visited prevention support groups and read online blogs written by people who talked about suicide.

"It was an eye-opening experience," she says. "Building this character was a lot of work. I'd go home with red eyes after crying all day on set. There were days I felt, my gosh, I need to go home and watch 'The Simpsons.'"

Cleare hopes the film helps raise awareness about a topic that's not often discussed.

"We really wanted people to walk away from this with their eyes open," she says.

The film, for which she hopes to get a distribution deal, will play at festivals this year, and possibly even the Chicago International Film Festival in October.

Her mom, for one, couldn't be more proud.

"I'm ecstatic for her," Calep says. "She's ventured into acting, writing and producing. She's really educated herself in all aspects of the business."

Cleare hasn't yet made it to law school but has no regrets so far.

"I wouldn't change it for anything, not even on my darkest day," she says. "I'm so glad to be doing what I'm doing. I'll think to myself, 'Wow, this is pretty cool that I moved to L.A., that I had a dream and followed it."