Jesica Ahlberg ’14 is not your typical… well, she’s not your typical anything.
Making her name known by winning Miss Alabama in 2014, Ahlberg built a career in the acting and modeling industries, culminating with a featured role on the hit TV drama “General Hospital,” but she has done anything but fit into the mold of a stereotypical actor and model.
After 17 episodes with the show, she took a break from acting. Now a few years later, Ahlberg is getting back into the industry. However, acting and modeling were never on her radar as a child.
“I was a huge nerd growing up, and I was not considered ‘pretty’, so I didn’t even think it was a possibility for me,” Ahlberg said.
The Selma, Alabama, native loved video games as a kid and was savvy on the computer, winning awards in computer graphic competitions at the Alabama Independent School Association state technology fair.
“As I started getting older, when I was a junior in high school, that’s when I started filling out and got into my first pageant.”
Winning Miss Emerald Coast Teen USA, Ahlberg loved pageants because she got to travel and meet girls from all over the state, and she continued competing when she attended Auburn. While in college, the former high school drama club member jumped at the opportunity when a friend mentioned working as an extra in Atlanta.
“The extra casting director really liked me and put me in featured roles. When I was on set, assistant directors liked me and would put me in more prominent places. I kept getting a lot of really good feedback from my work, so it got me fired up to do more and more.”
From on screen to behind the camera to the writers’ room, Ahlberg enjoys every aspect of the industry. She landed roles in USA Today’s “Necessary Roughness” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip,” but she wanted to step away from acting to focus on herself as the extended stay on “General Hospital” became overwhelming.
“It’s so funny because you’re stressed when you’re not working, but when you have a gig and are working, it can be stressful, too, in a totally different way. Doing one show nonstop, it kind of takes up all your time, and it’s very emotional with whatever your character is dealing with and whatever you have to bring to life on screen.”
Toward the end of her time on the show, Ahlberg began taking classes at UCLA in interior design and architecture, which was a longtime passion of hers. She was always her friends’ go-to for design and shopping advice, and she landed jobs under celebrity designers Kelly Wearstler and Nicole Gordon.
What most people don’t know about Ahlberg, however, is that she’s an avid E-sports fan and logs a good amount of hours on “League of Legends” herself. She’s become friends with some of the players, coaches and owners in the E-sports community, and she’ll be attending the League of Legends World Championship Series for the fifth year in a row.
“I think it’s kind of the future, and I just got really into it. I’ve always been a big gamer growing up. I played on the computer by myself most days,” she said with a laugh. “I’m really competitive, too. I love any type of game. And my love for computer games just continued to grow from when I was a kid.”
She played around with streaming on Twitch and other popular platforms before, and she’s considering giving it a try again one day.
With more free time away from the screen, Ahlberg became increasingly interested in Korean culture and entertainment. An interest in K-pop led to an interest in Korean TV shows, which led to Ahlberg learning to speak Korean on top of already learning Chinese.
The interest grew so much that she is now in pre-production for a YouTube channel that bridges Americans to Korean entertainment, and it will be released before the end of the summer. Just like E-sports, Ahlberg sees Korean entertainment as the future, even competing with Hollywood in the future.
“The very first show I watched, it was kind of my dream show to act in. I’ve never actually had an audition for a show or movie where I was like, ‘This is exactly the content that I want to create.’ I watched one, and I was like, ‘I’m so jealous. They’re not asking me to take my top off.’ It’s just really good, clean fun. It’s got a touch of fantasy, mystery and drama.”
With an abundance of passions outside of acting, the time away has allowed Ahlberg to rekindle her passion for acting after getting a little burned out.
From acting to computer gaming to Korean entertainment and back again, Ahlberg believes having friend groups in different areas helps her develop as a person. For her, taking a break from acting doesn’t necessarily mean the skills go away.
“I feel way more advanced than I did then. I feel like I’m always growing as a person, and as a character, you can glean that to each of your roles. It’s being more comfortable and accepting of yourself. I’m excited to see what comes of it and what I can bring to my characters now.”