When Kristy Sellars told the careers advisor at Warrnambool's Brauer College she planned to carve out a successful career as a dancer, she was told dancing wasn't a real job and she should have a back-up plan.
The then 14-year-old explained that if she had a back-up plan, it would be easier to give up on her dream.
"I just knew what I wanted to do," Sellars said.
She understands why her advisor expressed some trepidation - her journey to the dizzying heights she has achieved at the age of 36 has not been easy.
But Sellars has never been afraid of hard work or thinking outside the box to carve out her own niche.
In year 10 she left school and completed a Diploma of Performing Arts in Melbourne.
She developed a love of pole dancing and decided to set up a pop-up studio in Warrnambool.
"I would set up in the space I had hired on the weekend," Sellars said.
Over time, the number of students attending the classes grew.
"Eventually I had enough students to set up a shed full-time," Sellars said.
"It was a huge thing to have a lease."
Sellars said she had always looked at pole dancing like another form of gymnastics.
"It's just always been an apparatus for me to use and create performances with," she said.
Sellars, always a trailblazer, decided to combine animation with her performances about eight years ago.
She used a projector to help tell a story through dance.
"It was so difficult, but I persisted with it," Sellars said.
Sellars worked with a number of animators before she discovered Jan Zavadil about three years ago.
It was then a partnership that would wow the world's toughest judges was born.
Earlier this month, Sellars earnt herself a spot in the final of America's Got Talent.
The gravity of appearing on the US version of the show she won in Australia was not lost on the humble mum-of-three.
"It was a weird, surreal experience," Sellars said.
"I didn't know how much I could push myself, physically, mentally and creatively but it's been one of the most rewarding things I've ever done," she said.
Sellars said the US version of the talent show was like nothing she had ever experienced.
"The scale was probably the biggest difference," she said.
"It's massive - they have 600 people working on the show full-time and there is so much behind-the-scenes stuff."
For two weeks, Sellars was on set from 9am to 8pm.
"I worked extremely hard before I even got there," she said.
"After I got through the semi-final, I had to do an incredible amount of work in a short time.
"It was about three weeks' work in five days."
Winning a spot in the final was a career pinnacle Sellars never dreamed she would reach.
The next goal - which seemed like a pie-in-the-sky dream - was to place in the top three.
Incredibly, Sellars found herself on stage next to The Mayyas, a group from Lebanon, when it came to announcing the overall winner.
"I was hopeful that I would make the top five," she said.
Sellars said she could hardly believe her ears as the names of acts that had wowed millions of people around the world were read out, ruling them out of contention for the win.
When The Mayyas were announced as the winners, the crowd erupted and Sellars took the chance to soak in the fact she had taken out second place.
Sellars was delighted to be able to celebrate the win with family and friends, including her daughter Rylie, 11, who had travelled to the US for the finale.
However, her night was more low-key than many might imagine.
"I had dinner with my family, had a gin and tonic and went to bed," the exhausted performer admitted.
Sellars said the show had opened up a number of doors for her.
She was lucky to have a chance to talk to judge Simon Cowell, who was interested in her unique act.
Sellars also met with a company responsible for promoting some of the world's most popular live shows.
She said there has been talk of a live show in Las Vegas and an opportunity to perform in Germany.
But Sellars isn't rushing into any decisions.
While she loves to perform, she doesn't want to be "travelling every weekend".
Back in Ballarat, where she lives with partner Sam Preece and their children Riley, Mason, 5, and Ollie, 3, she is kept busy with classes at the city's PhysiPole studio.
The studio that began as a pop-up in Warrnambool is now a successful franchise in 17 locations across Australia.
Sellars has been approached by people looking to open one overseas, but that's not something she is ready to do just yet.
She also runs a number of online businesses - including Enviro Grip - a chalk for performers to grip poles and she has an activewear line.
This week, when Sellars spoke to The Standard, she said she was being kept busy entertaining her kids at home during the school holidays.
Sellars said her next goal was to create a full live show.
She said she was over the moon with her results in America's Got Talent but she was always eyeing her next goal.
"I don't feel like I'll ever stop striving to achieve more," Sellars said.
The other main difference about America's Got Talent and Australia's Got Talent was the amount of press who would line a red-carpet to interview performers after the live shows.
Sellars would conduct up to a dozen interviews in a short span of time with news outlets such as TMZ and People magazine.
One thing that Sellars did by bringing her unique performances to a world stage was to change the views of some people regarding pole dancing.
Howie Mandel, one of the four judges on the show, joked it was the first time he could take his whole family to see a pole dancer.
He was also glowing of Sellars after she finished in second place.
"I don't know if I'm overthinking this, but I do think at this time in our American history, women, more than anybody, need to take back power," he said to reporters after the final.
"And I think that America is seeing women thrive and do things that, you know, (are) against the grain. And we wanna see women win now more than we've ever wanted to see women win before.
"And when you see somebody like Kristy, who shows us strength, just pure strength, in being able to hold her body weight in crazy positions, up in the air.
"But she has the strength of talent, too. She has the ability to create that digital story impeccably and seamlessly along with that."
Sellars is delighted she is able to open the eyes of people to what can be achieved with hard work and creativity.
Judge Heidi Klum was also in awe of Sellars.
"I think she is a mother who, on top being a mum, can put all of this together by herself. She came out with the story, the drawing, all of it, and she's dancing on the pole.
"Other people just come and do the pole-dancing, but (Sellars) built a whole entire story around it. It was pretty incredible, what she did. She has an amazing imagination."
IN OTHER NEWS
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
What are the issues most important to you at November's state election? Have your say and we will then campaign on the issues you choose. Tell us what matters most to you:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.