Student finds inspiration through Charlie Chaplin

Photo credit: John Michael Simko, Staff Reporter

From an early age, Janelle Goforth knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up, an actress. That didn’t mean she couldn’t also be a Renaissance woman.

Acting, writing, directing, photography, sewing, and volunteering are activities the 23-year-old CTVA senior performs on a regular basis. No wonder Charlie Chaplin hugely influenced her life and “captured her heart.”

“Charlie Chaplin is my favorite person in the world,” Goforth said. “He was so talented and did everything in his films. He was the writer, composer, producer, director and star. That is more than ambitious and he did all those things really well.”

Chaplin achieved something Goforth hopes to accomplish in her lifetime to create something everyone can appreciate. He taught her the lessons of storytelling and of dreaming big.

“Chaplin didn’t even need dialogue to express what he got across in his films,” Goforth said. “Whether tragedy or comedy, his films were often laced with humor and were so effective. When you have a silent film that gets its point and story across, you’ve done something that most people can’t express.”

Goforth has been obsessed with films all her life. She started watching classic films like “Gone with the Wind” in elementary school, fell in love with old Hollywood and became smitten with vintage collectibles.

She collects and sells vintage clothing, a huge hobby for her and the principal way she pays bills. Her fascination with vintage films blossomed into loving retro culture, including cars, music and clothing.

“Standards were higher in the past decades and aesthetically, there is no better look than ‘classic,’” Goforth said. “When something is classic, it’s timeless. Ugg boots are not timeless.”

Goforth primarily purchases vintage clothing at garage sales, thrift stores and anywhere she can locate a bargain. She prefers to collect clothing from the 1920s to 1960s before “the hippie and disco look” appeared.

Goforth sells her vintage clothing at “Shop Around The Corner” in Simi Valley, and online at “Virginal Vintage.”  She repairs and slightly restyles dresses to create them as “virginal” once again. She has also supported her local community and aided charities.

Heavily involved in AIDS charities, Goforth has competed in two cycling events for the AIDS LifeCycle, a charity that benefits the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center.

“I am really into AIDS charities,” Goforth said. “I think it’s a cause a lot of people aren’t really aware of or that AIDS still exists. It’s not just a gay disease. That’s a real major misconception. It’s not about being gay. People think it’s the ‘80s disease or it died or that it’s curable. Everyone can be affected.”

Four years ago, a trip to a PRIDE event with a gay friend changed her life. They visited a booth for AIDS LifeCycle and were intrigued by what they heard. That heavily motivated her to participate in cycling events and marathons to support charitable causes.

“I was riding beside people who have been HIV positive for 10 years,” Goforth said enthusiastically. “If this 50-year-old guy, who has been HIV positive for 10 years, leaves me in the dust, then I should be able to compete with my able body. People around me have lost family to the disease and are not complaining. What do I have to complain about?”

These events presented her with a new perspective on life. Having a gay friend exposed her to a dissimilar lifestyle and opened dialogue to discern the world differently.

She took an extensive break between her acting career from childhood to college. Goforth attributes maturity and experience as major players in her lack of enthusiasm. Ambitious when she found herself in college, she was bitten by the acting bug once more. Waitressing also preoccupied her life.

“The whole stereotypical connection exists between waitressing and acting…I think that’s why I gravitated towards waitressing,” Goforth said. “I knew it was a flexible job and such a cliché that I felt compelled. There’s got to be a reason why this exists. I couldn’t ever do that again. Still, it’s funny to have gone from actress to waitress to actress. Clichés exist for a reason.”

Currently, Goforth studies at the Beverly Hills Playhouse and focuses on her senior thesis film. In the past, she has primarily produced experimental low-budget student and short films.

“The Beverly Hills Playhouse is challenging and they help build up your repertoire,” Goforth stressed. “They strengthen your skills and adjust content to your level. You aren’t growing when you’re bored.”

Stylistic storytellers like Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Tim Burton, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and Christopher Nolan are a great inspiration. Her favorite cinematographer is Bruno Delbonell from acclaimed films “Amelie,” “Across the Universe,” and “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”

“Cinematographers don’t get enough attention and aren’t household names,” Goforth said. “I think directors are given more credit for what the cinematographer did. That’s an unnecessary Hollywood reality. The same can also be said about editors. Editors and cinematographers are the unsung heroes of film.”

Photography has always endured as a passion and she especially enjoys the craft of David LaChapelle and Annie Leibovitz. Goforth points out, “There is so much fun discovering a picture and then discovering it’s by a photographer you appreciate. It’s discovering something backwards.”

Goforth’s cousin, Jonathan Thornton, also a CSUN student and actor, was prominently featured on the soap opera “Days of Our Lives.” Thornton respectfully declined an interview.

“After seeing people on TV, I wanted to do what they were doing,” Goforth said. “I remember asking my dad and he explained it in a simple way. I thought being an actor I could just fill out a piece of paper or an application and I was an entertainer….I still kind of like that idea.”