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Antje Utgaard: From Star Prairie to Hollywood

Antje Utgaard, a New Richmond High School graduate and former resident of Star Prairie, has goals of someday making the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. (Contributed photograph)1 / 4
Antje Utgaard takes to the water for this photo shoot. (Contributed photograph)2 / 4
Antje Utgaard said she has recently completed a photo shoot for Playboy since the magazine has gone away from nude photos. (Contributed photograph)3 / 4
Antje Utgaard's softer side is evident in this photograph. (Contributed photograph)4 / 4

It’s nearly 2,000 miles and a driving time of about 30 hours between Star Prairie and Hollywood, Calif., but don’t tell Antje Utgaard, the former Star Prairie resident and graduate of New Richmond High School, that the distance is too far for one person.

Though her route to California was circuitous, Utgaard is happy with her decision to move to the Golden State and has no regrets about making the tough decision to leave the upper Midwest.

But why California?

Well, because that’s where folks who want to break into the entertainment business — especially in the areas of modeling and motion pictures — go to find success.

And for the past seven months or so, Utgaard has found an increasing amount of success.

In addition to working social media to help brand her name, Utgaard has been involved in a number of photography shoots for various products, has been working to find proper representation through an agent and has even appeared as the Lady of the Day on Sports Illustrated’s website.

“I am doing a lot more with a lot of TV shows, music videos, etc. I also shot for Playboy now that they are non-nude. I also have been doing a lot of viral videos that are getting on the upwards of 35 million hits each. I have a lot of big deals and campaigns in the works and I’m totaling 700,000 followers now across all my platforms combined. 300,000 alone on Instagram,” she said.

However, she has much larger goals.

“An article came out [recently] and I woke up the next morning and looked at my phone and I thought it was a mistake, honestly,” Utgaard said about how quickly recognition can take hold online.

“I went to bed with like 117,000 followers and within like four hours I had 140,000 … I was wondering what had happened … I checked my accounts and people were saying that I was [featured in] an article about me and then several other articles came out … they were naming me as the next Kate Upton or Charlotte McKinney …,” she added.

And to be compared to those two models was something that Utgaard said was nothing short of a dream come true.

“They have been my idols forever,” she said.

“I told people that I wanted to be the next Kate Upton or Charlotte McKinney … that’s what I wanted to do. For me to wake up one morning and seeing the Internet proclaiming me to be the next [up and coming model] I was extremely honored,” she added.

For someone who had been in the business for such a short while, this was extraordinary and only the tip of the iceberg that Utgaard feels is ahead for her.

The journey

But to get to this point has been a journey — one that has taken her all the way from Star Prairie to the land of stars in California.

“I was born in New Richmond and raised in Star Prairie,” Utgaard said about her formative years.

The daughter of Kimberly and Stuart Utgaard, the now-21-year-old graduated from New Richmond High School in 2012.

“I was in choir and track and field, but most importantly, I was on the dance team for all four years in high school and I was the captain of the team my senior year. I also did studio dance for a while at Short Dance Studios,” Utgaard said about her years in New Richmond.

Her interest in entertaining was also piqued when she participated in the school play “Grease” and also took part in church plays at Bethany Lutheran in Star Prairie.

“After high school … I went to Minnesota State University for two years and then transferred to the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis for one year. I had one year left but decided to leave. I kept on changing my major and just wasn’t happy with anything I was doing. I’ve always felt like I was born to do something else … to entertain … mid-July [of 2015] I decided to move out to California and pursue modeling and acting.

“When I left high school I thought I might want to be a Rockette. I trained with them on Broadway for a summer back in 2011. But then I decided to go to college first. One day someone randomly asked me if I wanted to be a model for a calendar because they needed an extra girl. That was my first [photo] shoot when I was heading into my sophomore year of college. And then after that it was on and off.”

Utgaard began with a major in marketing at Minnesota State; she changed that major to retail merchandising and design — “that’s what I thought I wanted to do was something in fashion design. But then I started taking classes and decided that I really didn’t want to do that either,” she said.

“But then in September [2015] my social media began to blow up and from there, that’s when I started to get into the modeling and acting.”

And with just one year of college, Utgaard decided to venture out into the world and left college behind … a decision that was admittedly tough.

“It was really hard,” she said about that decision. “My parents and family didn’t really agree with it. Obviously they were trying to be supportive with the whole thing.”

Her mind was made up and it was California-bound from that moment on.

“Coming out here [to California] I really didn’t have much experience modeling and hadn’t acted too much, so all I was really moving out here was based on my dreams and based on my following on social media, which is now at a combined 700,000 followers on all social media — mostly Instagram and Snapchat.

“That’s how I make my money…using promotional modeling with [social media] and branding. This past fall things kinda just blew up out here…now I’m getting opportunities in acting and yeah, it’s fun,” she said.

“When I moved to LA…I didn’t know anybody — well, I knew a few people, but nobody really close to me. So that was really scary and a huge risk that I took. But I’m really happy I took that risk. At the end of the day, this was something that I wanted to do and if I didn’t go for it I would have never known if it would work,” she said looking back on the decision.

“It’s a different world…at first I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not, but now I really love it out here…I do miss the snow though. Not the cold weather…just the snow,” she added.

One of the breaks that has helped Utgaard was when she was recognized as the Sports Illustrated “Lovely Lady of the Day.”

“I was checking my email and Sports Illustrated had messaged me and said they wanted to do a thing on me — like their ‘lady of the day.’ So I thought that was really cool and that’s how it all came to be. They emailed me and I sent them some of my new work, then they posted it on their website.”

Through recognition online from such heavy hitters as Sports Illustrated and the success she has had on social media, Utgaard has continued to garner product photo shoots — jobs she would like to eventually parlay into other opportunities in both modeling and acting.

“I’m trying to combine everything,” Utgaard said. “I’m working social media while working on modeling and acting and trying to roll it all into one, along with hosting…people will pay for you to show up places…pay to host parties.”

With more than one-half million followers on social media, Utgaard said that her goals are concrete.

“Ideally I would like to become a brand name. Right now I have more than a half million…but my goal is to hit two million for each [social media] account…to become a brand name. I would love to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated [swimsuit edition] one day…that would be my dream, for sure,” she said.

But she realizes it will take some work, persistence and maybe even a little luck along the way to meet her objectives.

Though there have been others who would like her to change her name, she will have nothing of it. In fact, she feels her name could help her along the way.

“Someone has suggested that I change my name, but I told them absolutely not … people say it’s hard to pronounce and such … but look at all the Victoria Secret models — they all have beautiful, exotic names and people remember them. So I would never change my name — I love my name.”

And for the name recognition and the continued opportunities to come her way, she has been searching for the right representative agency to help her along the way.

Coupled with the social media, she feels that will help her future significantly.

Advice for others

Utgaard also said that being in such a competitive business isn’t easy, and it isn’t for everyone.

However, she does take it seriously and has advice for others who may have designs on pursuing a similar path.

“First, when I was a little girl my dreams were to be a dancer. I actually got asked to be a model when I was younger and I guess I really didn’t like the idea of being a model. But now I love it. You change your mind all the time. I guess you just need to find out what you really want to do, really look into everything and if you have your heart set on something the number one thing is to be confident. If you think you can do it, then that’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter who else says it … a year ago a lot of people didn’t think I could be where I am right now. A lot of people. And now I’m here and there are many who are extremely shocked, actually. As long as you believe in yourself and you’re confident; if you push for it and you really want something, then go for it. I gave up everything and came out here with $2,000 and not knowing anyone and that’s it. It’s insane what has happened.

“At the beginning of everything, especially with my social media, a lot of people weren’t as understanding about what I was trying to do and what my goals were. But now that things are actually happening people are more understanding. For those who might want to try this … at first, it will be hard, but in the end it’s worth it. You just have to push through all the haters and hard times and look at your end goal,” she said.

Utgaard said her goals are pretty specific:

“My ultimate goal in five to 10 years is I will have been on multiple magazine covers, including Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. I will have done a lot of TV shows, hopefully a few movies. Have my name out there … now that I’m up and coming I just want to be me, Antje Utgaard, but “I want to aspire to inspire. I want little girls to say they want to be like Antje Utgaard some day.

I just want to be a brand name, be happy and successful,” she said.

And when she arrives at that point in her life, Utgaard said she won’t forget those who have helped.

“I want to thank my parents and sisters Anika, Alexandra and Aubriana — and for the friends who were there for me and believed in what I was doing … I feel like I’ve learned a lot through dancing and acting and family being there,” she said.

Those who are interested in following Antje Utgaard on social media sites may follow her journey on the accounts listed below:

Facebook Page: Antje Utgaard

Snapchat: antje20

Instagram: AwesomeANTJAY

Twitter: AwesomeANTJAY

Vine: AwesomeANTJAY AwesomeANTJAY