How did you start dancing?
I would always imitate music videos from MTV in my room. I would dance around my room and jump around. My mom just came into my room one day and asked if I wanted to take dance lessons, and I said yes. So I did. I was in third grade.
What music were you dancing to?
It was a lot of Britney Spears, a lot of Spice Girls, Hanson, N’SYNC, a lot of boy bands—when MTV played music videos.
When did you want to pursue performing as a career?
It was all kind of a package deal. I sang from a really young age. In 5th grade, I did The Music Man at what would be my high school. I was Winthrop, so that was a really cool experience. I went into a full depression after the show was done. I just cried for days. I was so upset, because it was so much fun. I went and saw another show there a few months later. After the show, I went back up on the stage and started to cry. Then I knew that there wasn’t much else. Obviously, I was an emotional child [laughs].
What was the next step that you took?
I started to get really intense at my dance studio. You know, worked more at home on things that I would see kids doing at competitions. I really got intense with dancing. Started going to intensives, competing at Dance Masters Nationals for titles and things like that.
I am from a very small town, and I went to school there essentially my whole life—and then when it was time for me to go to high school, I decided it was best for me to go to a different school where there were more arts opportunities. My parents got me into the district, and I drove an hour to school everyday.
But it was worth it. It was a choice I was making to get better in what I wanted to do.
Was that a difficult decision to make?
It was hard, but it was almost a no-brainer. I think that made it really easy. A lot of people in my hometown are so supportive. But a lot of people didn’t get it, especially at that point. A lot of them didn’t understand why I did what I did or why I had to move on. I was lucky to have a lot of amazing teachers and mentors in the business at a young age—they kind of took me under their wing to help me realize that it was the best decision for me. It wasn’t as hard as it could’ve been. I think it was inevitable.
How was your high school experience?
I went to a public school that housed an art school. I technically wasn’t a student at the performing arts school, but I was allowed all the opportunities that the performing arts students had. So I took a lot of the same classes, was in the same shows, and had the same opportunities without having to do all the stuff that I wouldn’t have wanted to do with performing arts high school. I got to pick and choose and not have to do any extra recitals or extra classes I didn’t want to take. It was best for me. I would do shows fall through winter and then I would stop because I had to focus on dance. Come January, I’d stop performing at school and switch gears. It really worked out. It was always about building skill. It was crazy. I feel like I was a robot. That has its pros and cons, but I definitely feel like I built my work ethic really early.
How did you find out about OCU?
My mentor, Lyndy Franklin Smith, went to OCU. So I always knew about it. Even from 6th grade, I knew that it was a place I could potentially see myself ending up. I went in for a visit there when I was a sophomore in high school as well. I also went to a camp there right before my senior year. That was great. It helped me make my mind up between majoring in music theatre or dance. I auditioned for a few other schools, and OCU was the clear choice.
What was it about OCU that made it special for you?
I mean, it felt right right away. When a place feels like home, you can’t replicate that anywhere else. I majored in musical theatre in OCU. I knew what I wanted to work on most was my voice and acting. The music focus of the program was really important to me because I knew that’s what I wanted to spend my money on. I was already a strong dancer, and I knew that the dance program was so strong that I would be able to take great classes and keep it up and also continue to improve, but I feel like I really needed that extra kick in the singing department. So that’s what did it for me. Again, it just kinda fell into place. It was just right to go there.
What are you up to now?
I am on vacation! I just finished my first job a few weeks ago since moving to the city. I am in between sublets, so I am taking a few weeks at home. But I am coming up on my first year in the city.
How does it feel to have been in the city for almost a year?
I mean, it feels really good. I was lucky that I came to the city a lot when I was younger. At least once a year, if not twice, to take class and stuff. And then of course I came up during college a lot. It wasn’t a huge shock. It wasn’t a huge adjustment. It was of course a big change, but I felt pretty adjusted soon. It feels good. My first year I am very happy with. I really got on my feet, got settled, had good auditions, had bad auditions. But I did exactly what I wanted to do in my first year. I can’t complain. I am excited for the next one.
Where do you see yourself going?
I want to be on Broadway. That’s a huge goal. That’s what I am setting my sights on for the next couple years--making that happen. I just like working. I love performing. I want to work towards working on Broadway. In the future, I’d love to break into choreography more. That’s something I really enjoy and do quite a lot of. That’s long term. Right now, I just want to perform and be in the city.
What’s the toughest time you’ve had as a dancer?
I mean, the city sucks. It’s amazing, but it really does tear you down a lot. It can be so big. It can get lonely. It can be overwhelming. And the business is hard. You have great auditions and get your hopes up and really want a job, and then it just doesn’t happen. I think I let myself get too personal with some jobs. I’ve let myself want them a little too much, which I knew would happen. I’d been warned by my wonderful teachers that that would happen--that I would fall in love with a job. Or really want something so much that it would hurt, of course, when it didn’t happen.
I think that’s been the hardest thing--taking a few hours or a day, depending on the job, being sad for a little bit, and then moving on and going to the next audition. That’s the thing that keeps me going. I really have no choice. The city is always going. It’s always moving forward. You can’t just get left behind because everyone is out there doing their thing. It’s silly to sit around and be bummed when you can just go be doing your thing like everyone else. That’s the challenge, but it’s also what makes performers and dancers so awesome. It’s because you surround yourself with people who are experiencing the same thing everyday too. It helps the community because we’re all facing the same dilemmas.
What do you do to get back on your feet from those moments?
I talk to myself a lot on the streets [laughs]. When I am walking places, I mutter to myself. That’s how I hash things out. I watch some Netflix, order take out, text a friend and say, “Hey, let’s go do something.”
It’s a balance between having alone time to hash things out, be bummed, be upset, be angry, but then to just keep going. It’s all about forward momentum. You can’t stop. It’s not healthy. If you stop, you miss awesome things happening somewhere else—in the city or in your life.
I just really love performing. I love dancing. I think there’s not a lot better than just killing an audition and having a room on your side. I am usually really happy performing. There have been really cool moments while I was performing, but my happiest, I don’t know. I feel like I am always happy. I was really happy to get my card. I wanted to join the union by the time I graduated. I did that and that was cool to set a very specific goal in a timeline and achieve it.
How do you feel about being typecast?
I am a very specific type in this industry. I really like it. I like being me. The type that comes along with it is who I am. It’s just a part of what I bring to the table. A lot of times typecasting makes it harder for casting director or someone to see you in a certain show or a certain kind of track. But if they don’t see you in it, you can always fight to be in things that you’re not necessarily perfect for.
I’ve gotten to a point in a year where if I am not right for something, it’s just not my job. There are jobs to go around for every type. It might not be immediately. There are certain types of performers that get huge work right away. There are certain performers who don’t get work for really long time until they are older, and they get tons of work. It’s just kind of how it works. I don’t feel negatively about type at all. It’s just part of what I offer.
What would be your number one advice to performers?
Never forget to be a person first. When I was younger—I am still guilty of it—I would put so much of my energy into skill sets, into things, into the industry. Sometimes you just have to make sure you’re putting enough energy into being a good person. That’s the thing that draws everyone to this industry— the people and the communities we build. It’s always important. I remind myself to be a better person first. Always. It’s easy to forget in the world of kick-your-face, be-fierce, belt-a-really-high-note, but you just have to be a good person. It’s always important to be really focused and work really hard, but the thing that makes your job so great are the people. If it’s a crappy group of people, it could be the best show in the whole world, but if there are sour apples, it’s not going to be a great experience.
Last thing you want to share?
I feel really lucky to be doing what I am doing because you look around in the world and there are some amazing things happening, but there’s also some terrible things going on because people don’t listen to other people’s stories. I am glad to be performing and doing what I am doing—to hopefully let people’s stories to be heard and to just love everyone like to we do in this business. That’s what keeps everyone coming back, I think.