With her movie-star looks, warmly ingratiating stage presence and gift for mimicry, Candy Ford hasn’t had much of a problem getting noticed. And yet in the often unforgiving world of standup, she’s relatively green.

Less than two years ago she was a waitress at the trendy L.A. eatery Red when a fellow employee insisted she get up onstage.

“It took him a couple of months to convince me but I finally did it,” she recalls. “I did pretty well but it took me two or three months before I got up again because I was a wreck after that.”

Ford is such a natural that she managed to cop best standup comedy honors at this year’s U.S. Comedy Arts Festival with only 10 months of experience under her belt.

But, she says, she’s been performing in one way or another all her life. Born in Long Beach, Calif., Ford was raised in L.A.’s Compton and attended a mostly white school in nearby Paramount. “I was made fun of because I was a little too white for the black kids and a little too black for the white kids, so I had no choice but to entertain myself.”

Although Ford has managed to stay busy on the comedy circuit, she views acting as her first love, pointing to Whoopi Goldberg as her inspiration. “She took a lot of pain and turned it into something,” Ford says. “She’s very, very funny but her dramatic acting is absolutely incredible.”

In the meantime, the people at ABC apparently think enough of Ford’s potential to sign her to a four-year deal.

“This is a new world for me,” says Ford. “Even if nothing happens from this point on — and I hope this doesn’t sound too cliche — but I’m already successful right now.”

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