Amber Schwinn grew up in Santa Clarita loving theater. She was the cheeriest girl in the play, and acting was her passion.
Eventually, people started comparing her to a famous icon, she said.
“I think I was at a July 4 party one year,” she recalled. “And I decided to dress up like a vintage pin-up girl. And my friend stared at me and was like, ‘Have you ever considered auditioning to be Lucy?’”
The Lucy he was referring to was Lucille Ball, the main character in “I Love Lucy,” an iconic sitcom Schwinn also loved. But the honor of portraying actress Lucille Ball’s role as an “impersonator” seemed too weighty for Schwinn at first, she said.
“I didn’t expect it. There are only a handful of Lucy’s — only five — that have ever depicted her. I come from a really important line,” she says with pride.
One day, in 2015, when she auditioned to be Lucy at Universal Studios Hollywood — she was an instant hit.
It was nerve-wracking, she admits. After all, it wasn’t enough for just the people at Universal hiring to like her likeness to Lucy.
“They’re also going to ask Lucille Ball’s children,” she said. “They have the final say in all of this — they have to like you and see if you are Lucy.”
As one of only two actresses on the West Coast are approved by the Lucille Ball estate to portray Lucy, and Schwinn’s appearances vary from standard meet and greets, to performing classic scenes such as “Vitameatavegamin” and special skits.
Growing up, Schwinn loved “I Love Lucy” just as millions of other Americans did.
In the past four years, countless visitors have said Schwinn’s expressions and speech patterns mimic Lucy so much that she sometimes doesn’t even know what’s Lucy and what’s her anymore.
She did do a lot of research on the character before auditioning, and found that they both are high energy, friendly and love what they do, Schwinn said of her similarities to the Lucille Ball character.
All sorts of people, from three generations in a family in a grandmother, mother and daughter, to recent immigrants who learned English through the show, have told Schwinn her “Lucy” has brought a smile to their face.
With the red hair, red lips and outfits, getting into character physically takes quite a bit of a time for Schwinn when she goes to Universal Studios for her job. Unlike other costumes, Schwinn must make sure to carefully put on her her outfit, makeup and hair so the entire look is perfect.
She loves the job as she gets to meet so many different people, she said. And with that pressure also comes a lot of intrigue and appreciation for Ball’s legacy.
“She really was such an iconic, special woman,” Schwinn said of Ball. “She impacted so many people’s lives, and she’s really one of a kind. Lucy is one of a kind, and I’m glad I get to play her.”