Disney is looking for the next Selena Gomez -- and it's starting in Southern California.
In an exclusive statement to HuffPost, the company announced that a new talent search is underway to find young actors, singers, and dancers ages 10-17 who will not only star in Disney Channel and Disney XD’s movies and series but also "reflect our diverse world."
Mexican-American star Selena Gomez rocketed into the spotlight after playing the magical and mischievous Alex Russo on Disney Channel’s hit show “Wizards of Waverly Place,” and it seems Disney is hoping to repeat the “Come And Get It” singer's success as it looks for new and diverse talent.
"We are part of a global community and television should be a reflection of our diverse audience," Judy Taylor, senior vice president of Casting and Talent Relations for Disney Channels Worldwide, told HuffPost via e-mail. "Great storytelling comes from all different backgrounds and cultures and it’s important that we have actors and characters representing all of these different voices."
Disney stars like Gomez, Demi Lovato and Coco Jones (“Let It Shine”) were found through casting calls and now -- in advance of the company’s annual nationwide open call audition -- casting directors have begun visiting Southern California schools, after-school programs and dance studios to find new faces.
"While our casting search is for everyone, this ‘grass roots’ search is a great opportunity for us to see many young actors [and] actresses whose talent, by circumstances or geography, hasn’t yet been evaluated by a professional casting director," Taylor continued.
Latinos have shone brightly in roles for Disney movies and series over the years, and the company has taken note of the popularity of these teens and their characters among their viewers.
"Stars including Selena Gomez, Raini Rodriguez, Bella Thorne and Adam Irigoyen are very popular with our overall audience because they’re relatable, proud of their background and appreciative of the support they receive from their respective communities," Taylor added.
Information on Disney’s Southern California talent search can be found online for kids and teens interested in participating.
What do you think of Disney’s search for diverse stars? Let us know what you think in the comments and check out Selena Gomez’s audition for “Wizards of Waverly Place” below.