What is your story of strength?
My background… I don’t really want to get into the details. I had a rough upbringing. So when it comes to the dance world, I love the fact that I’m able to express myself. I feel empowered. It gives me the strength to persevere. Dance helped me work through everything I’d been through growing up. My mother did not really support dance, so it wasn’t something that I grew up doing. I grew up very shy and afraid to do a lot of things. I was usually told, sometimes by my mother, that there were things that I couldn’t do. As I got older, I started to realize that I can do certain things. I took my first dance class in college. My mother thought dance was just to exercise. She always said, “you need to lose weight and you need to go to the gym” and things like that. But she didn’t realize I was doing it for fun, for me. Dance gave me strength. It gave me the feeling that I can do something. I can do it, whether she believes it or not. The more I danced, the better I got at it. I’ve made so many friends in the dance community. Everybody is so welcoming and it just makes me feel really good. Dance is my strength.
Can you tell me about a woman in your life that embodies strength?
I’m going to go back a little. One woman that I’ve always, I don’t know whether I should say look up to. It wasn’t so much that I looked up to her, but she gave me strength. She gave me the confidence to believe in myself. She was my English teacher in high school. Her name was Judy Rosenbaum. I remember her as a nice, sweet, old Jewish lady. She was an amazing woman and I always did exceptionally well in her class. She was always there to talk to me about anything. I had my son when I was young, my last year of high school, and she was the first person I actually told that I was pregnant. I didn’t tell my mother. I didn’t tell my friends. She was the first person I told because I trusted her that much. She was always so kind and always encouraging me. And she was the one who encouraged me to participate in a McDonald’s essay contest in which I won second place. It was so amazing–I won a camcorder!– it was just so exciting. She was always there for me and she helped talk to me throughout my pregnancy. I was so scared and nervous. She told me to make sure that I told my mother, but to let her know when I was ready. She’s the woman that gave me strength and gave me confidence to believe in myself.
She also encouraged me to keep writing and become an author one day, which I did. I ended up self publishing my book of poems. I have a book of poems called Places of the Mind that is a compilation of all the poems I’d written. Now I’m working on another one, trying to get more poems together.
Can you tell me about a time you failed or disappointed yourself?
I see things differently now. I hate to use the word fail now. There are a lot of things I’ve done in my life where I wish I could go backwards and start over. But then if that happened, I wouldn’t be where I am today. At this time, I don’t think about – at least I try not to think about – failing at a lot of things. It shouldn’t even be ‘failing.’ It may feel like failing to me, but it may not be failing. I had my son when I was young, but I don’t regret it at this time. I’m glad I had him, and hey, I’m still young enough and now I can go and do my thing and I don’t have to be looking after a little kid. So I feel happy in that.
There are certain things that I try to look at differently. I could look back and say, “I wish I would have waited and wish I would have done things differently,” but it is what it is and I try to look at everything positively now. I used to beat myself up a lot when it came to dancing. The dance world is very competitive. I joke around a lot saying, “oh I’m old, I’m too old for this, I can’t, my knee is always hurting….” And actually there are dancers and there are teachers that are older than me that still dance.
Then I start comparing myself. I didn’t start dancing when I was 2 or 3 years old. I can’t look at someone else that’s been dancing since they were so little and try to be that person. So sometimes I feel like I failed in that aspect when I’m not at their level. I look at them and think “wow, they’re so amazing, I wish I was like them.” I wish I had those opportunities. I wish I was under 30 and was able to audition for So You Think You Can Dance. But when I look back (even this morning), when I was under 30 I wasn’t at the level where I was ready to audition. It’s the kind of things like that where I feel like I wish I would’ve been like that, or ready, or just better at what I’m doing. But at the same time, I realize that I am good at what I’m doing now. It’s just that everything takes time. And I didn’t start when these other people started. It takes longer for me to get where I’m going. And I see a lot of growth from when I started and I look at that. It’s all positive. I look at everything in a positive way right now. I try not to think of anything in terms of failing. It is what it is, and we all live our life and go on our own path.
How can women better support each other?
Women are generally known to talk and gossip. I think it starts with women coming together and not trying to put each other down and not being jealous of one another for what they have accomplished. We need to support each other, with everything. I think we need to have women come together more and be positive around each other. You have shows on television that take away from that. Many women watch and want to be like the women on TV. But we just need to really come together and to be there for one another.