Texas Voices: From Being a Live Barbie Doll for Mattel and a Tyra Banks Stand-in Actress Shanna Toft Welcomes Entertainment Challenges In Spite of Personal Tragedy

by Bob Valleau on June 15, 2023 in Entertainment,

Shanna Toft is a talented actress known for her captivating performances on both stage and screen. Born and raised in Texas, Shanna began her acting career at a young age and quickly gained recognition for her natural talent and raw emotion. Over the years, Shanna has starred in a variety of productions, ranging from independent films to network shows. Her ability to inhabit her characters and bring them to life has earned her critical acclaim and a loyal following of fans.

In addition to her acting career, Shanna is also passionate about using her voice to bring attention to important causes and issues such as her second oldest son who is struggling with end-stage renal disease. Overall, Shanna Toft is a talented actress with a heart of gold, and her dedication to her craft and her community is truly inspiring. It’s no wonder that she is one of the most sought-after performers in the industry today.

Watch for Shanna Toft in The Senior, which is currently in post production. Photo Michael Chiklis.

Shanna says, “I’ve always been an entertainer. Even as a toddler, I’d dress up and put on little shows at home. My parents never wanted me to be an actor, but they let me do school plays because I needed the fine arts credits. I took a long break from acting after high school to go to college – initially to be a chemical engineer because I excelled in chemistry during high school, but I ended up changing my major to business. I also ended up starting a family with my now ex-husband, so that delayed my acting for a while since we lived far away from any acting hubs. I have done some community theater since then, and I was one of the main characters in an original play based on the Peanuts gang… I was the grown-up Lucy in that play.” 

Risky Roles

Shanna Toft made her modeling debut in college as a live Barbie for Mattel. Courtesy photo.

Accepting unusual roles can be risky, yet fun. “I’ve done tons of side gig work involving entertainment when I’m not filming something. Emceeing concerts was one of the most consistent gigs I had until I got too busy with filming. I was the official emcee for one of the cities that puts on concerts throughout the year. One of the most unusual gigs was when I was hired to be a ghost bride for a wedding shower. I came up out of the water and started walking toward the engagement party guests. One of them even threw a bottle at me, but I stayed in character and kept walking toward them. The bride-to-be was terrified but she loved it when we got to tell everyone I was hired for her party. Working at Cutting Edge Haunted House in Dallas was a blast, too. I had my favorite room to work in – the swamp – and I got to be as creepy as I wanted to be in there. I figured out a way to levitate, and I’d swoop up under people from the floor but appear above them and it was awesome. I got reactively punched in the face a couple of times but mostly I had to hide my chuckles from the guests because it was just awesome. I worked gigs at Six Flags where I was around kids and their parents in the gaming areas, and I had a lot of fun encouraging them. I’ve also done quite a few music videos for various artists, and I always have a great time doing those!”

A Friend’s Advice

Shanna Toft plays a SWAT officer in Texas Kill City. Photo Billie Hara Sharp.

Shanna got her start in show biz through a friend. “I got into film and television due to a friend of mine pushing me to audition when she saw a notice for one of those showcases about five years ago. She knew I had always loved acting but that I was putting my family first and not really focusing on what I wanted to do for my career. I went to the audition, and I was accepted but I knew I wanted to go a different direction than showcases. I started looking for casting notices on my own, and I came across one for a show filming in the area. I didn’t end up getting the part, but I became an extra on that show and I networked with other people to see where they were finding work. I got on that platform and did a ton of extra work while also getting into my acting class and eventually signing with the main agent I have now. I’m repped in other areas as well but the majority of my work comes from my primary agent.” 

Including the Family

Shanna is mother to five children, all of whom have acted with her in various projects. Courtesy photo.

Shanna makes acting a family affair. “All five of my kids have been in projects with me, and some of them have been in projects on their own. My youngest daughter and my two oldest sons were in 1883 (Paramount+) with me. My youngest daughter and I worked on 12 Mighty Orphans (Amazon Prime) together, and she and I have worked on many commercials together – she even worked on a Main Event commercial without me recently. All six of us worked on No Ordinary Love (Crackle) together. My oldest two and I worked on Cruel Summer (Hulu). My oldest three and I worked on My Daughter’s Deadly Roommates (Lifetime Movie Network). My youngest son and my second-oldest son worked on #TextMeWhenYouGetHome (Lifetime Network) together and their episode comes out in June. We’re all cast in an upcoming major motion picture together (I’m one of the main characters and they’re supporting characters) but we can’t give details on that yet. My second-oldest son and my youngest daughter share my love of acting. The others have different pursuits but they enjoy it from time to time. We started working together as extras and things progressed to principal roles. I think that’s how most people get started in our area.”

Born and Bred in Texas

Shanna was born and raised in Texas so it will always be home to her. “I did move away for over a decade, but I’ve been back for over a decade, and I intend to stay in Texas. Summers are brutal here but winters are short and I don’t like the cold. Spring and fall are fabulous here, and there is so much to see and do!”

Tragedy Hits Home

Her life is anything but dull, and having spare time is a luxury for Shanna. “I don’t have a lot of spare time, but I enjoy pretty much anything to do with water when it’s warm enough. I spend the majority of what would be considered free time (actually multi-tasking) on the computer just learning things. 

“Right now I’m learning all I can about kidney disease, as my second oldest son, Dakota, was suddenly diagnosed with end-stage renal disease that caused him to have a heart attack in March. He had no symptoms at all so we never knew he was sick. He was born with scarred kidneys, and right now he has 2% kidney function. The news about his kidney disease hit us like a brick wall. I do his hemodialysis treatments at home, so that allows more flexibility, and he’s much more comfortable.”

(Please visit this website to learn more about her son’s disease or donate to his medical fundraiser.) 

Looking Ahead

Shanna on the set of 12 Mighty Orphans. Photo courtesy Sony Pictures Classics.

In spite of everything, Shanna’s future in show biz looks bright. “I like working on both film and television projects. My next project is a feature film, and the one after that is episodic. I love the continuity of films, but I also enjoy the flexibility of rearranging or re-writing episodics when needed. My niche seems to be period pieces, which is awesome. I really enjoy historical projects and I’d love to do many more of those, whether they are movies or series.”





 Cover photo courtesy Shanna Toft

Bob Valleau is a freelance writer living in McKinney, Texas.