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By Cara Beth Lewis

Alayna Hester tells a story of pain and persistence, battles and endurance, hard work and dedication — and it all leads to dreams-come-true.

Maybe you have seen her in her hometown of Bladenboro, as a cheerleader at East Bladen High School, or as an elite gymnast, or more recently… starring opposite Michael Keaton in the Hulu original series Dopesick as Elizabeth Ann McClung.

Alayna is the daughter of Drs. Mark and Rebecca Hester of Bladenboro. In Alayna’s words, “My parents are the real heroes of the story. They are the prime example of compassion and dedication. It can’t be easy sleeping countless nights in a hospital chair while your child is hooked up to an IV machine. At some points of my recovery, I couldn’t even walk without being carried. They held together all the pieces I couldn’t.”

At the young age of fifteen, Alayna fought a battle against pectus excavatum and a collapsed lung, ending her elite cheer and gymnastics careers. She endured a long recovery but prevailed. At age nineteen, Alayna was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She stated, “After all, I had gone through just a few years prior, this felt personal.”

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Luckily, this is not a story of defeat. Alayna has beat both major obstacles that have been thrown her way. On the day of the Dopesick premiere, she was declared cancer-free.

“My passion for acting honestly developed during my recovery when I was fifteen. After experiencing so much pain, I realized life is too short… you must do what you really want to do,” Alayna explained. And so her acting career began. She added, “This industry is tough. I had to work extremely hard to get where I am; I was always looking for the next workshop, audition, business meeting… anything that was available, I took it, and I gave it my all. Things started picking up quickly, and within a year I was signed by a talent agency in New York.”

Here is how Alayna tells the story of Dopesick:

“I play Elizabeth Ann McClung (starring opposite Michael Keaton) in Hulu’s Dopesick. I will never forget the day I got the call from my agent to tell me I had booked the role. It was a big day for myself and my team. It’s a collaborative effort, they are always working so hard for me behind the scenes. That day was a celebration for all of us.  We filmed Dopesick in Richmond and the mountains of Virginia. The show depicts the opioid crisis and the corruption in the marketing and distribution of OxyContin by the Sackler family. I play an innocent young girl who becomes addicted to OxyContin which eventually leads her to heroin, homelessness, and prostitution. Being part of this high-profile show in such a crucial role was a large task, but one I was honored to take on. Growing up in a small town where addiction is prevalent, I felt a big responsibility to tell this story as truthfully as possible.”

During the production of Dopesick, Alayna signed with a Los Angeles manager whose clients include Emma Roberts, Constance Zimmer, Danny Strong, and more.

Alayna shared, “After the release of the show, I made the cover of Newsweek, TVLine, and many others. Also, one of my scenes was featured in an interview with Michael Keaton on Jimmy Kimmel Live. My life pretty much changed overnight. It’s still hard to wrap my head around it all.”

All eight episodes of Dopesick are available for streaming on Hulu. You can also watch Alayna in Tell Me Your Secrets: an Amazon Prime series.

“The support from my community has been unbelievable. From battles to big screens, hospital rooms to Hollywood, they have cheered me on… and I am forever grateful for that,” Alayna said.

From battles to big screens… Alayna Hester is our small-town star.

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