Graduation Date: May 2015
Hometown: Richmond, Virginia
Major: Musical Theatre
Campus Involvement: JMU Overtones Co-ed A Cappella, Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society, National Society of Leadership and Success
What inspired you to become a musical theatre major?
I’ve always loved putting on shows for people. When I was little I would sing and dance in our living room for visiting family members. So I’ve pretty much always known I wanted to be a performer. I feel at home when I’m on a stage. My mom tells me all the time that when I was younger I would come up with the most imaginative situations and stories with my dolls and stuffed animals. What I’m learning more as a student here is that finding such imagination is even more important now. As we get older, we stop playing make-believe. However, as an actor on stage or in film, I get to live in these imaginary circumstances all the time. I can literally be anything I want to be. I love it! As a musical theatre major I can get training in acting, singing, and dancing and thus use it to pursue a career in the entertainment business.
I understand that you have a few pageant titles under your belt. How long have you been involved in pageants? What got you started?
I had no idea what a pageant was until I saw my cousin Nancy Redd compete as Miss Virginia 2003 at the Miss America 2004 pageant. I saw all these little girls with crowns on and wanted one for myself. I thought we could just buy them at the “Miss America” store. I didn’t know these girls actually competed and won titles. So, I decided to enter the National American Miss PreTeen Pageant at 11 years old. My parents loved the mottos of this pageant, which were: “I am a girl with Dreams” and “Growing Confidence.” Girls under the age of 16 aren’t allowed to wear makeup and it’s all about teaching them how to be their best selves. I then started competing in the Miss America organization as an “outstanding teen.” I hope to start competing in the miss division in the near future. I would love to perform my talent on that Miss America stage in Atlantic City!
Here’s a link to the blog post I made about National American Miss: http://courtneyalexandraj.blogspot.com/2013/08/i-am-girl-with-dreams.html
Titles I’ve held:
National American Miss Virginia Preteen 2006 (4th runner up at nationals); Miss Junior Teen America 2008; National American Miss Virginia Jr. Teen 2009 (2nd runner up at nationals); National American Miss Virginia 2013 (Nationals this November); Miss Virginia’s Outstanding Teen 2010 (4th runner up, prelim talent winner, prelim evening wear and onstage question winner at nationals) –This is for the Miss America Organization (http://www.missva.com/?page_id=64)
Does what you learn in musical theatre sometimes cross over to pageantry, or vice versa?
Stage presence is key in both. However, musical theatre is more about stripping down and making yourself vulnerable and honest to your character. Whereas when I’m competing, I need to be as confident in myself as possible and there’s a lot more smiling!
Do you ever get nervous when you take the stage for a show or pageant?
Absolutely! I use the nerves to drive me through the performance or through the talent presentation. The adrenaline starts pumping and it helps me do my best. I wasn’t always like this, though. Nerves used to be a bigger hindrance than they are now. I definitely attribute most of my current confidence on stage to competing.
What shows are you currently rehearsing for?
Musical Theatre Revue, which has two shows in the concert hall on October 19th and 20th and Trojan Women, which opens in the mainstage theatre October 29th and closes on November 2nd!
It seems that your life can be quite demanding with all that you do. How do you balance everything and still make time for yourself?
It’s hard rehearsing two shows at the same time and having A Cappella rehearsals three times a week on top of that! I just remind myself that I love everything that I’m doing and that drives me through the day. It’s very stressful, but I keep a planner and prioritize. I usually try to use the weekends to get ahead on my assignments for the week. I also try to keep a tight schedule and I even schedule times for quick naps! My schedule should be clearing up in November, which should leave me some time to really buckle down and prepare for my competition in California over Thanksgiving break!
What are your post-graduation plans?
I would love to work consistently in the entertainment business as a performer and entrepreneur. I also want to open my own arts schools for children all over the world. Music and performance have changed my life and I want to use it to change the lives of others!