The Woman who Launched a Thousand Dreams

Shark Tank success, video game star, and award-winning filmmaker - Alesia Glidewell 98Ox 00C embraces creativity.

By Michelle Valigursky

Story Photo
Alesia Glidewell’s toy likeness of her Chell persona.

She’s a legend in the video game world, an award-winning filmmaker, a Shark Tank success story, a web show creator, and a voiceover artist. Alesia Glidewell 98Ox 00C, former Emory anthropology student, has undertaken her own personal study of humankind and become a pop culture heroine with a Lego Dimensions character made in her likeness. She laughs. “It’s been a busy decade.” 

After she graduated from Emory, Glidewell traveled. She is fluent in Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. Her journey took her to the Americas, where she  experimented with theater in Brazil, filmmaking, and even taught Italian to young students in Mexico. 

In the first few years of her career, Glidewell realized that achieving success required sacrifice. “I really dove into two things simultaneously – filmmaking and voiceover,” she said. She moved back home to Seattle and took a job as a night auditor, while also operating as an AV tech at Microsoft. At the same time, she was “trying really hard to get into voiceover. I took classes, sent out demo reels, and barraged the entire city of Seattle with old school CDs of my work. I decided everyone in town is going to know that I’m the voiceover girl in Seattle.” The gamble worked, and Glidewell soon booked regular voiceover jobs.

On a parallel path, Glidewell revived her filmmaking dreams. “I saved my money and spent it all on making one crazy science fiction film,” she said. Future Syn was released in 2004 and told the story of a world without human women. “I wrote, directed, and produced it,” she says. “It was my first experience building a team willing to invest time into a crazy project. The experience was amazing and a blast, but the film wasn’t.”

Alesia Glidwell

Alesia Glidewell 98Ox 00C. Photo courtesy of Ryan Artists.

Behind the Scenes of the Digital World

Once she was signed by an agent, Glidewell’s career blossomed. She advises, “You can’t dabble. If you want to work in this world, you have to work very hard at it.” During a successful commercial career, her breakthrough voiceover role came in the video game for raccoon thief Sly Cooper II. She provided the voices for the animated characters Carmelita Fox, Neyla and Clock-La. “After that came Star Fox where I played Krystal, the girl character.”

Glidewell has rarely spoken publicly about her behind-the-scenes work in the digital world, but gamers around the globe would recognize her instantly as the woman behind the character Chell in the uber-popular series Portal. For this role, she modeled and did motion-capture to immortalize herself for future generations on the video screen.  

“Acting in general is a huge part of voiceover – you can hear authenticity and you need to do voices with the right subtext behind them,” she says. “The fun, fun part of voiceover is the action. You’ll get a list of noises to make, like the sound you make when your character is in idle position. You have to give voice to the action. You just got punched in the gut, you are running, or you are skipping. It’s the fun sounds you naturally make as a human being, but for a game you may be doing it as a raccoon.” Her favorite part? “When they say ‘You’re dying, now you’re dying slowly, now you’re falling off a cliff.’ It’s an absolute blast.”

Her video game career culminated in a stunning tribute few can claim. “One of the fun things about Chell in Portal 2 was that they released an action figure,” she says of her toy doppelganger. In September, Lego Dimensions will release another likeness of her for its Portal 2 series based on the Valve game. “It’s kind of amazing to see my cute little Lego character.” Her fame has spread through her family in a good way. “My parents bought a gazillion Chell dolls when they came out and made me sign them. They are very proud of everything I do.”

You Kick Ass and Shark Tank

When her Valve action figure was released, Glidewell was brainstorming business ideas on the beach with good friends Keri Andrews and Douglas Jordan. “Keri is the kind of sexy nerd girl that would always take Halloween characters to the extreme, including favorite superhero costumes,” she says. “We kept talking about how cool it was to turn a real person into a game character followed by an action figure. Doug joked it wasn’t fair that I got to be an action figure and they didn’t.”

Chell Action Figure

Valve created this action figure based on Glidewell’s game character Chell.

One great idea led to the next, and You Kick Ass was founded by the trio to allow individuals to customize action figures with their own faces. The key is proprietary software that turns a 2D image into a 3D model ready for printing. “Keri workshopped the business model through her MBA class to complete consumer research, marketing strategy, and financial plans,” she says of the business that tripled its initial Kickstarter fundraising goal. “Custom action figures for the heroes in your life. It’s brilliant.”

In May, Glidewell and Keri pitched the sharks on ABC’s Shark Tank, negotiated, and walked away with a $100K offer from Mark Cuban. 

Astronauts Wanted and Unicorn Island

With her wide-ranging professional experience, Glidewell’s “biggest goal is and has always been making and directing movies.”

Glidewell ended up running a show for a company called The Collective. “I’m a natural girl who didn’t wear much makeup – so beauty was new to me. I developed and created shows for Bobbi Brown cosmetics and later Estée Lauder that became the number one organically viewed branded beauty channel on You Tube,” she explains. “It was a huge accomplishment that connected me with so many cool You Tubers over the course of the last few years.”

The multi-talented filmmaker directed the feature film Look at Me, a dramedy about single musicians living and working in New York City. Her next feature film as a director is still in the writing phase.

She was recruited by new company, a startup joint venture between Sony Music and former MTV Networks CEO Judy McGrath. “Astronauts Wanted brought me in to executive produce feature film documentary about You Tube sensation Lily Singh, IISuperwomanII.” The sneak peek trailer of the in-progress film titled “A Trip to Unicorn Island” was revealed to the world during Vidcon 2015 in Anaheim, California.

If the cheering of internet fans is any indication, Glidewell is in for another wildly successful ride.

Editor’s Note: Read more about Glidewell’s You Kick Ass experience on the Shark Tank blog. For more information about Glidewell’s work, visit http://www.alesiaglidewell.com/.

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Michelle Valigursky