¡Vámanos! (Let’s go!) Since 2000, Nickelodeon’s popular cartoon character Dora the Explorer has encouraged kids to join in on her adventures through an animated forest full of surprises. An eight-year-old bilingual Latina, the courageous youngster travels great distances with her monkey friend, Boots, while teaching little viewers Spanish phrases along the way.
Behind the Dora we all know and love on screen is a girl who pours new life into the vivacious voyager. For the past two years, 11-year-old Queens native Fátima Ptacek has been the source of Dora’s declarations.
“I really look up to Dora. I’ve watched her since I was little,” Fátima explains. “I love the fact that she interacts so well with the children. That’s one thing that I remember…Dora always made me feel like I was her best friend.”
Fátima began her career at just five years old as an actress and model, starring in television commercials and moving into film and modeling for major management company Wilhelmina. But beyond her impressive résumé, Fátima is simply a natural for the part.
A bright, young Latina herself, Fátima is bilingual in English and Spanish, just like her cartoon counterpart. But the two share more than a common ethnicity and a knack for languages—Fátima also loves adventure. And while her own adventures around New York City may not involve dodging a kleptomaniac fox or following the instructions of a talking map, Fátima and her family love to explore local museums, Central Park, and even the forests of Pennsylvania, searching for salamanders and other wildlife. Dora and Fátima also share a spirit of determinism. Fátima prides herself in completing any project she begins and hopes that, with the help of Dora, she can encourage other kids to do the same.
Fátima was actually born the year “Dora the Explorer” became a regular television series, so the young actress grew up watching the show and now brings her admiration and memories of Dora with her each time she enters the sound booth. Fátima readily admits to screaming and crying in happy disbelief upon receiving the news from Nickelodeon that she landed the part.
Personifying an animated character allows Fátima to “put a smile on so many children’s faces all over the world.” As the pre-teen explains, it’s an honor to share in that role, especially considering the show’s commitment to learning and language. Fátima currently studies Mandarin in school—supplementing her knowledge of Spanish and English—and she feels that it is important for both children and adults to explore multilingualism. In addition to the obvious communication advantages, she says, “it can open doors and opportunities.”
But what’s most impressive about the “real” Dora is just how beyond real she truly is. Fátima is a student, an actress, a model, a gymnast (with regular practices at Chelsea Piers), a horse back rider—the list seems endless. And when it comes to juggling all of these activities, Fátima immediately credits her supportive family. Her parents help her “go with the flow” but never pressure her to do anything she doesn’t enjoy. As she casually puts it: “As long as I have fun, I don’t care.” It’s this fun-loving, adventurous attitude that carries Fátima through the demands of her busy life.
This impressive young actress has grand plans for the future, too. She wants to continue acting (hinting at high hopes for her own TV show with Nickelodeon), eventually earn a law degree, and, one day, become the first female president of the United States. “Look out, Hillary Clinton!” she jokes.
Fátima owes this ambitious spirit not only to her family, but also to the role models she’s met along the way. She greatly admires fellow Nickelodeon actress Miranda Cosgrove and First Lady Michelle Obama—whom she had the privilege of meeting on the set of Sesame Street. “I think it was one of the greatest honors in the world,” Fátima says.
Until Fátima Ptacek makes her bold move for the White House, children across the globe can continue to enjoy her charismatic character and inspiring eloquence. Turning twelve this month and with so much more in store for her future, there really is no telling how far this young girl will go.
Tune In This Month!
Premiering on Monday, August 13 on Nickelodeon, “Dora’s Fantastic Gymnastics Adventure” will capture the imaginations of little ones as Dora practices for the Fantastic Gymnastics Show and receives a special delivery: a beautiful rainbow ribbon. This means that Dora gets to start the show with her ribbon dance! But Swiper comes in and steals the ribbon and the show can’t start until Dora gets it back. Can Dora and Boots find the ribbon so she can perform her special routine? Tune in later this month to find out what happens!
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