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Alumna Spotlight: Iris Hill

Published: 07/06/2015

By: Lindsay Miles

Iris Hill is an actress, singer and dancer who has been featured in print ads and commercials for companies such as Apple, Wells Fargo, the NFL, Purina and Virgin America. After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Auburn in pre-veterinary/zoology and master’s degree in conservation biology, she went on to fulfill her dream of working in the entertainment industry. She has trained extensively in Los Angeles and at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and has landed roles in television, film and theatre working alongside stars such as Jane Lynch, Mel B and Joey Fatone. In her spare time, the Tuscaloosa, Ala., native enjoys being around animals, helping out with her favorite philanthropic organizations and cheering on her beloved Auburn Tigers. 

1. What brought you to Auburn and the College of Sciences and Mathematics?

It was fate. My best friend moved from Tuscaloosa to Auburn when we were in 2nd grade. When she would come back to visit, she would tell me about the 'other' university. She would say, ‘Its mascot is your favorite animal, the tiger. We get to roll trees and not get in trouble, and they have a veterinary school.’ I was sold! From then on, we planned to attend Auburn together. From 'Hey Day' as freshmen to surviving cell biology our senior year, the memories we made at Auburn are priceless. I pursued the field of science because I’ve always loved animals. I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t crazy about them. It’s a love passed on to me from my grandfather. He had a natural gift with them – an animal whisperer, so to speak. So, when asked as a child if I was going to be a doctor like my father I would say, ‘Yes, an animal doctor.’

2. How did you make the jump from zoology and conservation biology to acting?

Entering Auburn, my plan was to double major in performing arts and zoology, but I soon realized it would be  impossible for me to put enough time and effort into both without my grades suffering. I decided to solely pursue pre-vet/zoology and take theater and dance classes when my schedule allowed. Upon completing my bachelor’s degree in zoology, I was accepted into Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, but something didn’t feel right. I was still passionate about animals, but no longer believed becoming a veterinarian was the right path. I fully declined acceptance into vet school, one of the most difficult decisions of my life, and spoke with Dr. Overtoun Jenda about my options. I told him I desired to focus on protecting endangered species and their habitats and he suggested getting my degree in conservation biology. I applied to Auburn’s Graduate School and was accepted, but I still could not shake the performing arts 'bug.' In my spare time, I found myself taking acting and dance classes and actually co-founded a student organization for dance, 'AU Rhythm Dance Troupe.' After graduating with my master’s degree, I decided to pursue my passion. I worked a few odd jobs in Auburn before getting an internship in Atlanta working on the reality show, 'Being Bobby Brown,' and the rest is history in the making.

3. Of what, thus far in your career, are you most proud?

I’m most proud of my tenacity, perseverance and for following my heart. The entertainment industry is like none other in the world. There’s no proven formula and there’s no one clear path to success. You must have a whole lot of faith, really tough skin, some pretty good earplugs to drown out noise, and the determination to work hard.

4. Are there any lessons you learned while studying science that correlate with your career as an actress and dancer now?

Studying science taught me to give whatever you are working toward your best effort and your all. Then and only then can you live without regret. I learned that I could achieve anything I put my mind to, and in order to achieve your best you must sacrifice. I had to really discipline myself, study hard and ask questions. I apply that to my acting career; put it first and always give it my all.

5. What are some of your favorite things you’ve been a part of while in the entertainment industry?

My favorites have been the ones with a positive message beyond the product. In a NFL Heads Up commercial, I had the privilege of playing a young mom. The focus was teaching the importance of helmet safety to young football players. In a recent Huggies® commercial, the message was centered around the bond between a mother and child. These types of media messages are the ones that stay with me.

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