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Linton native faring well with new business

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

A Linton native is quickly making a name for herself in the entertainment industry.

Ashley Russell, who attended Linton-Stockton School corporation until the age of 16 and graduated from Robinson High School in Illinois, is currently executive director and president of Amax Talent, Inc., one of Nashville's biggest talent and modeling agencies.

Russell, who moved to Nashville in 2000, said that acquiring the agency had to do with her being in the right place at the right time.

While attending Middle Tennessee State University full-time, Russell, a marketing major, worked part-time at Amax Talent.

"The owner called me into her office one day, and I thought 'oh great, I'm getting fired,' " Russell said. "She told me that she had watched me work and really admired me and liked me. She asked me if I would want to take over Amax because she was ready to retire."

Russell, 24, said she had been working at the agency for only six months when she was given the chance to take over the company.

Russell took her parents to dinner and told them about the business proposition. She said her parents had set up a college fund for her and she asked permission to use the remainder of the money to purchase the 22-year-old company.

Russell's parents gave her permission to use what was left of her college fund and fully supported her business venture.

Just one year after starting at Amax as an agent booking talent, Russell owned the company.

"It definitely wasn't what I thought I was destined to do," Russell said. "But, it fits. I feel like I have a good handle on the business, and I learned a lot from the previous owner."

Amax has a good reputation in Nashville as well as across the country.

Amax is the talent agency from which Reese Witherspoon (Sweet Home Alabama, Legally Blonde, American Psycho, Cruel Intentions) and Ashley Judd (Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, True Crimes, Where the Heart Is, A Time to Kill) got their start.

"I walked into a great company."

Russell credits her family for their support of her career. She noted that she's not the only member of her family to be in the entertainment business.

Her mother, Angie, is a songwriter. She also has relatives who are actors, actresses and singers.

Russell's grandparents, Bob and Beverly Burris, own Burris Flower Shop in Dugger.

"I think we all gravitate towards that (entertainment industry)," she said.

In addition to being executive director and president of Amax Talent, Russell also models for the company.

She has appeared in 17 music videos including Alan Jackson's "That'd Be Alright" and Rushlow's "I Can't Be Your Friend Anymore."

Russell recently filmed a pilot with County Music Television (CMT) for an Aaron Tippin reality show.

She also models for the Shop At Home Network, an at home television shopping network.

Some of Russell's photographs along with short video clips have recently been seen on MTV. Although she hasn't been fully named, she is known as "Ashley" on MTV's "The Real World."

MJ Garrett, one of the seven cast members on "The Real World Philadelphia," is a talent at Amax.

Russell's images have appeared on the show because she and Garrett began dating a few months before the show began.

"MJ and I met four years ago, and I made him come into the agency," she said. "I thought he was great looking and sweet."

When Garrett and Russell met, both were dating other people. Eventually, they found themselves single and began dating.

"We were together non-stop," she said.

Amax encouraged Garrett, a former Vanderbilt University football player, to move to Los Angeles to take his career to the next level. While in LA, Garrett was presented with the opportunity to appear on "The Real World."

"He called me from LA for advice," Russell said.

As part of the entertainment industry, Russell works with contracts regularly. She provided Garrett with some professional advice.

Their relationship was relatively new when Garrett left for Philadelphia.

"We were just going to go in (to the show) dating and didn't want to make it serious," she said.

Garrett was in Philadelphia for four months while Russell was still in Nashville. She visited him twice during the four months.

While Russell admits they've had their ups and downs, mainly at the beginning of their relationship, she said things are going great now.

"It works out great. We really have a good little partnership going on."

For more information about Amax, check out its Web site http://www.amaxtalent.com

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