How did you start dancing?
My entire life I was a singer. My mom was a singer. Since I was four, I had private vocal lessons everyday, and then of course, I had a crazy stage mom because she used to perform. She lived through me. She’d say that I needed to learn to dance as well. She just threw me in theatre dance class once a week, when really I should’ve been taking ballet three times a week [laughs]. I moved out to New York City with a trained voice, got callbacks for singing, but wouldn’t make it past the dance call. I feel like now I am just playing catch up because I have 15 years of training in voice, and I am figuring out where I am going to get an extra 15 years to make my dance as good as my voice. I realized I have to be as just as good as the dancers. I am a singer, and it’s a really difficult thing to do.
When did you move to New York?
I moved in 2007. I graduated high school, and in a week, I was here. I went to AMDA. I did a year in New York and a year in LA. I had never been to LA or did much in TV and film, so my mom convinced me to take advantage of it while I was in school. I am from Philly originally, so New York was easy for me to get to. I got my SAG card out in LA and came right back. I missed New York. I kissed the ground when I moved back. I am not an LA person whatsoever. I missed New York a lot. I am glad I went out there because I got to do more TV and Film, got a SAG card, and brought it back here with me. It was a safer and smarter way to go through school than just flying out to LA.
Was performing something you always wanted to do for life?
I always tell people that all I know is “5,6,7,8.”. I didn’t do anything else. When I was four years old, my mom showed me the movie Gypsy with Ethel Merman and Natalie Wood. I was like, “That’s what I want to do.” I haven’t stopped. I don’t know if it’s narrow-minded, but I never wanted to do anything else. I can’t picture myself doing anything else. And my mom was a singer, so she’s always like “Okay, let’s do your scales.” She just started me right away when I was young, and I haven’t really stopped trying ever since.
Did your mom perform as a professional singer?
She didn’t. I think that’s why she pushed me a lot. Because she was an amazing singer, she got into the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music, but her parents couldn’t ever afford it. She was from a South Philadelphia row home, not wealthy whatsoever, and never got to actually do it. She did it through school, but never actually got to go and actually pursue it. I think that’s why she was always really involved with me doing it--because she never had the chance.
What was the transition like from being a singer to learning how to dance?
The auditions say singers might get called back to move. No. You’re getting called back to dance. Two years in a row now, I’ve been called back for the Radio City show. It’s one of my dreams. I am not a Rockette. I am 5’ 2”. They had singers calls and dancers calls. The stars are the Rockettes, but it’s still a full production. I’ve gotten called back twice, and then I had to dance. It says singers who move, but last year, we were doing legit ballet. Full-on ballet. This year the dancing was easier, but they gave you sheet music to read. They gave you a quick song to learn and then the dance, and you have to put it together within like 30 seconds. Maybe the song was easy, and the dance was easy, but to put it all together within 30 seconds-- and they still had turns in there. It was not movement. It was dance.
It’s been actually really frustrating. I was venting to my teachers the other day about it. I am trying to get that dance training and technique faster, but you just can’t. It’s a process. You just have to keep at it and just not stop. Keep going. It’s also money. No one warns you about it. I moved here, and I was living in weekly rentals. I lived right next to Broadway Dance Center, and the place I stayed at had a communal bathroom. So I decided to sleep there at night, but I showered and went to the bathroom at the Broadway Dance Center. I used their locker room and their facilities. I couldn’t afford to live anywhere else, but I knew I had to take dance consistently to get better. It worked out for a while. I did that for a few years. But it was worth it. If I can’t see myself doing anything else, then I don’t care about what I have to go through.
What have you been up to?
I booked a couple national commercials. When I first moved here, I wasn’t Equity yet. I just had my SAG card. I would go to these Broadway non-equity open calls, and half the time, you’re not getting seen if you are not Equity. I was like, “Oh my god, I am not even getting a shot because I am not even getting seen.” So everyone said that I should get my Equity card but the downside of that is that once you get your card, you don’t really work as much because you can only then do Broadway or random Equity shows outside of New York if you want to stay in the New York area. I was getting really frustrated because you’re missing a day of work to not get seen to then be low on rent to then have to move home. No. I was going to at least get seen or die trying. I worked at Bucks County Playhouse and got my Equity card--at least I was getting seen or getting appointments to actually audition in front of casting directors.
Then, like how everyone says, the work stopped, because then you could really only go to Broadway auditions. If you didn’t have an agent, you’re not getting an appointment to be considered for anything. So I was like, “I gotta get an agent then. How do I get an agent?” That was the question of my life. It took me a year to get signed at Multimedia Management. They’ve been sending me out on a couple Off-Broadway things, so I am happy about that. Sometimes I feel like if you don’t have that appointment, you’re not even getting considered. Sometimes you can audition, and you’re not really singing in front of the casting directors--you’re singing in front of an associate or an intern. But one day, they're probably going to end up being a casting director, so you just have to fight through it. Just gotta have faith, I guess. If you don’t give up, eventually your number will come up.
How long have you been in the city?
I moved here in 2007. My mom had me take the train up in high school and go into Academy Dramatic Arts, which is like AMDA, but not just music. It was straight acting. They have some dance and singing and stuff. I was going there on the weekends. She had me coming up here all the time and just going to auditions to see what it would be like. When I officially moved here, I wasn’t dumbfounded or too new to how it worked. I am glad that she did that. I go into auditions now, and I don’t really think twice about it. I know how it works, and it’s not scary. It’s weird. I’ll go to audition and then run to work and not think twice about it. But for a show like Radio City, the audition comes once a year, and I prepare a whole year for it. I get in touch with Rockettes to help me with the dancer’s call, take numerous vocal lessons, and get in touch with conductors who work in the show and ask what I should sing. I really try to prep for it, and it’s just one of my dreams to be in it. So that one I get nervous. I want it so bad that the nerves kick in.
I noticed that you were Miss Philadelphia 2011. What was that experience like?
It was literally like Miss Congeniality. I am not a pageant girl. I had never done pageants. I had to take out a loan to go to AMDA, which was over $40,000 a year. I got out of school, and my mom and I were like, “How are we going to pay for the school loan?” So my mom asked, “What if you did a pageant?”
Miss America is a nice organization. It’s all for the Children’s Miracle Network. And they have a talent portion. Miss USA is completely different. Miss USA doesn’t have a talent portion, so we decided to do Miss America. We didn’t know how to do a pageant. I am 5’2”. These girls are 5'9” and have been in pageants since they were two; they knew what they were doing. But talent was the highest portion of the overall score, so if you won talent, you were definitely in the top 5, which meant that you won some type of scholarship.
I couldn’t believe I did it, and I don’t know how I won, but I won. It was a really good experience. I’ll never take it back. Miss America really is a good organization that helps women get scholarship and get education. It’s for a good cause and good for charities. It was great. But I felt like it was out of my element. But my mom was right--you had to be on stage. I had the stage presence, and I knew how to sing a song and speak up there. You also had to have a platform, and mine was Save the Music Foundation. At the time, Philadelphia had all these budget cuts in their schools and took out music and art programs. I spent the entire year reinstating the music and art programs in schools in Philadelphia, so I got to keep my music, dance, and singing involved. And I got to pay off my loans, so it worked out. And then I came right back to the city.
I was still living in the weekly rentals then and was participating in the BDC student program where you could have free or discounted dance classes for cleaning the facilities, so there would be moments while I was in Philadelphia where I would be singing in a beautiful gown at some place with the mayor, and that night I was on the train back to New York to clean the toilets at Broadway Dance Center and then going to sleep in weekly rentals, a place where I could open my arms and touch both walls of my cubicle.
Where do you see yourself going from here?
Where I want to go is Broadway. My goals are just to do what I love. Since I was a little girl, I wanted to be on Broadway. That’s not to say I don’t want to do TV and Film. Nowadays, you have to know how to do all of it. But yeah, my goal is to one day get up on that stage--even if I am a prop. I’ll be a prop. I’ll do it for free. I’ll be the tree stump. I can’t stop until I get there.
Tell me more about your TV and Film experience.
I got my SAG card being an FBI agent on the TV show Numb3rs. I did a bunch of music videos as well when I was out there, which was fun. The biggest TV thing I did was two Christmases ago, when I booked a national RadioShack commercial for Black Friday.
Based on your experience, what advice would you give to singers without a dance background?
I know a lot of friends of mine that are amazing dancers, but on the same boat as me where they get past dance calls, and when they get asked to sing, it’s really hard to be really great at both. Unless you have--I feel like--the money. That’s the biggest part I don’t like about New York. Unless you had the money growing up or even when you’re here, it’s hard to do both. If I danced as much as I sang back home, I’d be fine. But it’s impossible. How could anybody afford both to be efficient in both? You need to practice so much. It’s not even money at the end of the day, I guess. You have to practice so much to be that good. I practiced everyday, I remember, growing up with voice lessons. One is always going to get less attention and less practice, so you’re always going to be better at one.
I guess I would tell them that it isn’t just singers who move. I feel like when I was younger, it was okay as long you took a theatre class or jazz class and was able to move and know counts. But it’s not. I would say take ballet. Start coming up to New York way sooner. There’s never enough time. One is always going to be better. You have to put all your time and energy into it. Any of my friends who are great dancers ask me to help them with their songs, and I ask them to help me stretch because my battements need to be higher.
It’s interesting how the concept of specializing in one craft has changed over time. Performers have to be good at everything.
Which is so hard now. It costs so much to learn. My voice lessons are like $115 an hour. My private dance lessons are $150 an hour. I could go to BDC and take class, but I didn’t become a good singer by going to group voice lessons. I was taking privates like two or three times a week. If I want to be that good of a dancer, I need to take a private class and actually have a teacher tell me what I’m doing wrong. Those group classes are great when you need to learn how to pick up combinations, but not every teacher is going to come over to you and fix your body and tell you how it needs to move. How many times can I take a $150 private dance class? And then you wonder why people give up--people just can’t afford the city anymore. It’s impossible to afford it, but if you want it, you’ll find a way.
Anything you want to share?
Never give up. The city and this industry of show business can be the most frustrating, defeating, and discouraging thing ever. Don’t give up on your dreams. You live once. If it’s what you want to do and you can’t see yourself doing anything else, and you love it, and you want it more than anything else, don’t give up. Eventually it’ll all happen. Just keep your faith. Want it? Love it? Don’t give up.