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A spirit that is not afraid

How Kate Higgins, Auburn alumna, found her voice

<p>Voice actress and Auburn alumna Kate Higgins sits in a recording studio.&nbsp;</p>

Voice actress and Auburn alumna Kate Higgins sits in a recording studio. 

After growing up with a magical childhood, there comes a day when every child realizes that there is a voice behind every television and video game character. Many children's childhood heroes could very well have been Auburn alumna, Kate Higgins.

Higgins grew up in Opelika after her family moved there in 1978 when she was in the second grade. Her mother owned a restaurant in Opelika and her father taught at Auburn University. She grew up loving Auburn football and always dreamed of going to Auburn.

After receiving a scholarship for voice recording at Memphis State University, she attended her freshman year. After her favorite professor left, Higgins quickly transferred to Auburn University to major in jazz, as she was a singer and piano player.

She planned to attend Manhattan School of Music after graduation because her mentor was the head of the jazz department. Then, one of her college voice professors told her about vocal coach Seth Riggs.

Seth Riggs, a Los Angeles resident and voice coach of many successful stars like Madonna and Michael Jackson, was offering voice lessons for $200 for each 30-minute session. Higgins had the opportunity to chat with Riggs.

“All he had to say was, ‘I’ll make you a star,’ and that was enough,” Higgins said.

Higgins dropped all her post-graduate plans, packed up and moved to Los Angeles. However, after one lesson, Higgins decided that she just did not love it.

Higgins played piano at the Ritz-Carlton, the Beverly Hills Hotel and other venues in California five days a week to stay afloat after the move. It was at this time in 1999 that an opportunity fell into her lap.

“My first gig was that I did the voice for Disney Channel in 1999 and 2000. When you turn on the TV and it says, ‘Don’t go away! We’ll be right back! Stay tuned, right here on Disney!’ that was the first thing I did, and I didn’t even know that was a career,” Higgins said. 

From this point on, Higgins fell in love with voice acting. 

Some of her most popular roles include Barbie in “Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse,” Anime’s Sakura Haruno from “Naruto” and Sailor Mercury from “Sailor Moon,” Frankie Stein from “Monster High,” Tails from the “Sonic the Hedgehog” video games and many more.

When asked about her favorite character she has had the opportunity to voice, Higgins had a quick answer: Sleeping Beauty. 

“Aurora doesn’t do a whole lot. But she’s the one that said, ‘Flora! Fauna! Merryweather!’ The woman who did her originally in the 30s is no longer with us, so I am an official voice replacement for Sleeping Beauty for Disney,” Higgins said.

Higgins mentioned if she had any goal in the voice acting industry when she started off, it was to be a Disney Princess. Now, she proudly claims this role. Since there is currently no new Sleeping Beauty movie, this includes voicing Aurora in theme parks and in other avenues.

“I fell into voiceover, found my niche. Or, it found me,” Higgins said.

Higgins explained that years ago, she was the kid running around all the time speaking in different accents and silly voices. It seems that her life has now come full circle.

Due to her unforeseen and unique success, she gave some advice to college students or anyone looking for a job.

“Don’t be too sure you know what you want to do. Keep doors open,” Higgins said.

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She admitted that she does not think that she would have been happy in the music business and that she did not love it.

“Looking back on my life, it doesn’t feel like I made anything happen. Life feels, to me, very sort of undivided now. I don’t really have a sense of ‘I made this career happen.' Auburn gave me so much,” Higgins said, referring to her jazz major that allowed her to reach where she is today.

Higgins explained how many actors and actresses do not make it in Los Angeles because they cannot get their footing after the initial move. Higgins’s background in playing piano and singing allowed her to get the start as an actress that she needed. 

Higgins has voiced toys for the Fisher Price’s “Laugh and Learn” toy line for 20 years, and she spent 13 years recording 500 episodes of “Naruto.” However, this is rare. Higgins explained that generally, voice acting is a short-term thing.

The business is a lot of jumping around and people change out roles frequently. For example, one of Higgins’s friends now voices Tails, a role that Higgins used to claim. It is just not as competitive a field as the on-camera acting industry, and Higgins loves the voice acting community.

“We all trade roles. It’s just the nature of the beast,” Higgins said.

Higgins explained that there is some overlap now, as a lot of voice actors are also on-camera actors. This did not used to be the case 20 years ago, but now more celebrities famous for on-camera acting are beginning to take over and enter the field of voice acting.

Higgins tried on-camera acting when she first moved to Los Angeles, but it was not for her. There is a reason that she enjoys being off-camera so much.

“I’m 5’5” and weigh 110 pounds, and I have a certain look, a certain voice, so I am going to be very limited in what I am going to be cast as on camera. But as a voice actor, you can play all the old ladies,” Higgins said.

Higgins loves having the freedom, by changing her voice, to be whoever she wishes to be. In voice acting, there are no limits to any actor’s role.

“You get to be everybody, and it doesn’t matter what you look like, but if you’re going to be cast in a movie they’re not going to cast me to play the old Russian spy, so it just opens up a whole world as far as acting goes because you can be anybody,” Higgins said.

Another aspect that Higgins loves about voice acting is that ever since the pandemic, she gets to work from home. She records shows and any roles she acquires by sitting in her closet with a microphone, headphones and her computer.

There is so much flexibility because every day is different for Higgins. Nonetheless, she can work in pajamas and no makeup but still be Barbie on the screens. Plus, she does all of this without having to even memorize the lines.

“There’s so many jobs in entertainment and in the voice world that you would just never even be aware of,” Higgins said.

In addition to working with characters, Higgins also does a lot of work with Additional Dialogue Replacement for several crime shows such as “FBI: Most Wanted.”

“When you see a scene and there’s people being blown up in a building because a bomb goes off, all those people running and screaming are not really screaming when they film it. They’re all just mouthing it because they don’t want all that sound married to the soundtrack that the lead actors are doing,” Higgins said.

She explained that in order to prevent different sounds and dialogue recordings from bleeding onto each other, the extras in movies and shows are actually silent and mouthing the words. Then, ADR voice actors come in and make the needed noises such as screams, cries, background conversation or even heavy breathing.

Whether it is voicing characters for television shows, video games, children’s toy lines or even film background noises, Higgins has certainly dived headfirst into the world of voice acting.

“I just love that this career has turned out for all the different voices in my head to have a place to live,” Higgins said.

As an Auburn alumna, Auburn University has played a big part in Higgins's success. She has certainly found her voice, or voices, in the world as a growing and flourishing voice actress and Auburn alumna.

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