“Some people may not take me seriously because of my age, but I can't let that stop me.” Renee Olstead
American actress and singer Renee Olstead began acting on TV at age 6 and has since appeared in several movies, TV films and in TV series. She is probably best known for portraying the middle sister, Lauren Miller, in the CBS comedy series “Still Standing” (2002-2006), a role that brought her a Young Artist Award in 2006. She currently plays Madison Cooperstein in the teen drama “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” (2008-2010). Her film credits include “The Insider” (1999), “End of Days” (1999), “Space Cowboys” (2000), “13 Going on 30” (2004) and “Super Sweet 16: The Movie” (2007). Olstead, whose singing style is influenced by great jazz vocalists like Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, has recorded five albums. Her first major label album, “Renee Olstead,” (2004) was a No.2 hit on the Top Jazz Albums. Her sophomore effort, “Skylark,” followed in January 2009. She also worked on soundtracks for “The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement” and “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl.”
Childhood and Family:
An only child, Rebecca Renee Olstead was born on June 18, 1989, in Houston, Texas, to Christopher Eric Olstead and Rebecca Lynn Jeffries. She was interested in music at an early age and honed in on her craft by singing with the radio. She took part in talent contests and performed in musical productions and enrolled at the Centre Stage theatrical school.
Currently, Renee resides in Nashville, Tennessee, and Los Angeles, California. She has a poodle named Michelle.
Renee Olstead made her professional television debut at age 6 when she played Marci Fant in the CBS miniseries “Streets of Laredo” (1995), an adaptation of Larry McMurtry's novel that starred James Garner, Sissy Spacek, Sam Shepard and Ned Beatty. Later that year, she appeared in the TV film “Deadly Family Secrets,” a remake of the 1950 Warner Brothers movie “Storm Warning.”
Following performances in the TV films “Ceftin Wiz Kids” (as Katie) and “Santa, NASA & the Man in the Moon” (both 1996), Olstead portrayed a young Mary Katherine in the independent comedy “Cadillac Ranch” (1996), which was directed by Lisa Gottlieb and written by Jennifer Cecil. Costars of the film included Jim Metzler, Suzy Amis and Robert Fieldsteel. She followed it up with work on the TV film “Out There” and the short film “The Usher” (both 1997).
Olstead made her series TV debut in 1998 when she played Bits in the “Touched by an Angel” episode “Doodlebugs.” Before long, she was hired to play the regular of Amy on “Reunited” (1998), a comedy written by Mark Alton Brown and Dee LaDuke. She later appeared in the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” episode “Where's My Kiss, Then” (1999) and the “Providence” episode “Home for the Holidays” (1999). A subject of the television documentaries “The Making of a Child Star” and “The Journey Continues,” Olstead won roles in 1999’s big budget movies “The Insider” (starred Al Pacino, Russell Crowe and Christopher Plummer and was directed by Michael Mann) and “End of Days” (directed by Peter Hyams and starred Arnold Schwarzenegger).
Entering the new millennium, Olstead landed a bit part in “Space Cowboy” (2000), an adventure movie directed by Clint Eastwood that starred Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, James Garner and James Cromwell. She was also featured in the multiple Emmy nominated family TV film “Geppetto” (2000), a remake of the well known children's book “The Adventures of Pinocchio” starring Drew Carry as the main character. The same year, the musically talented youth released “Stone Country,” a country music CD consisting of 10 tracks, and “Unleashed,” which contained popular and R&B tracks. She later launched “By Request” in 2002.
Back to television, Olstead appeared in the “My Guide to Becoming a Rock Star” episode of “Fame” and the Natasha Henstridge series “She Spies” episode “Poster Girl” (both 2002). In September, she nabbed the regular role of Lauren Barley Miller in the sitcom “Still Standing” (CBS, 2002-2006), opposite Mark Addy, Jami Gertz, Jennifer Irwin and Taylor Ball. For her good acting job, she was nominated for a Young Artist Award for Best Performance in a TV Series (Comedy or Drama) - Leading Young Actress in 2003 and eventually won the award in 2006.
In 2003, Olstead was featured as a Girl Scout in “Scorched,” an independent comedy starring Alicia Silverstone, Rachael Leigh Cook, Woody Harrelson and John Cleese. She went on to play the supporting role of Becky in the popular romantic comedy “13 Going on 30” (2004), which was directed by Gary Winick and starred Jennifer Garner. In between the films, she voiced Lucille in an episode of “Disney's 'Fillmore’” (2003).
Olstead launched her self titled major label debut album, “Renee Olstead,” on May 25, 2004, under Warner Bros. Records. Co-produced by David Foster, the album received positive reviews from critics and rose to No. 2 on the Top Jazz Albums chart. It entered the Billboard 200 at No 95. Also in 2004, Olstead recorded the song “A Love That Will Last” for the “The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement” soundtrack. The following year, she performed at the Live 8 concert in Berlin. Olstead then collaborated with trumpeter Chris Botti on a cover of the popular song “Pennies from Heaven,” which appeared on Botti's 2005 album “To Love Again: The Duets.” She also appeared on the 2006 DVD “Chris Botti Live with Orchestra and Special Guests.”
After “Still Standing” left the airwaves, Olstead was cast as Sky Storm in the MTV movie “Super Sweet 16: The Movie” (2007), which was based on the reality series “My Super Sweet 16.” The film starred teen pop stars Amanda and Alyson Michalka and was directed by Neema Barnette. She next portrayed Melinda in the Lifetime TV film “Point of Entry” (2007), alongside Holly Marie Combs, Max Burkholder, Roark Critchlow, Jennifer Gareis, Nick Hoffa and Ronald Hunter.
In July 2008, Olstead began her role of Madison Cooperstein, one of Amy's best friends, on the ABC Family series “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” created by Brenda Hampton. The series stars Shailene Woodley as Amy Juergens, a teen dealing with an unexpected pregnancy and motherhood. Olstead also contributed to the soundtrack of the motion picture “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl” (2008), a family film starring Abigail Breslin. She performed the song “Ain't We Got Fun” for the film. Having been shelved since 2005, her second major label album, “Skylark,” eventually hit the music stores on January 27, 2009. Released under Reprise Records, the jazz album contains 13 tracks, including Doris Day's “When I Fall In Love,” featuring Chris Botti, and “Lover Man,” a 1940s song made famous by Billie Holiday. The same year, she also took part in “A Tribute to Billie Holiday” (various artists).
“Some kids my age experiment with drugs. I experiment with music.” Renee Olstead
Young Artist: Best Performance in a TV Series (Comedy) - Supporting Young Actress, 2006