Never Give Up This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   I was a child of four when I began ballet classes. I was a stubborn, defiant child and didn't like to be ordered around. I loved to dance, but I refused to be structured. So I quit, at the ripe old age of nine.

Every year at Christmas, the Nutcracker would be on television. And every year I would watch, in awe of the graceful snowflake ballerinas. I studied the way they moved and looked, but at the same time something inside me would feel sad. One year I realized what it was: I could have been one of those snowflakes ... but I had quit.

When I was 11, I tried out for a summer play for young people. And I got in. I didn't know it, but everyone got in. So, of course it wasn't as good as it could have been, but it was one of the best gifts I've ever received. I would watch the older, more talented teens, and say to myself, "I can do that." And two years later I was.

I was thirteen years old when I went to see a musical at the South Shore's most well-known theatre. And I fell in love. I said to myself, "I just want to step on that stage." In the program were audition announcements for "A Chorus Line." I was determined and I showed up at auditions a month later. And my heart broke. I looked around: everyone was beautiful, tall, thin, confident, and no one was under the age of 20. Suddenly I was in the presence of hundreds of snowflake ballerinas. I wanted to run away. But I didn't - I couldn't. I stayed through all six grueling, humiliating hours. And had nothing to show for it. But I remembered ... I had stepped on that stage. I said to myself, "I just want to perform on that stage."

Frustrated, I began to take acting classes. I loved them. I began to develop confidence, so much confidence that I marched myself back to that theatre the next time auditions came around. "Thank you. Next!"

I devised an alternate scheme: work my way in through the back door. I was the personal dresser to the lead in "Meet Me In St. Louis." I found backstage work even more heartbreaking. I was so close to the action, but was not allowed in. 14, 15, my time was running out.

Then came auditions for "Jesus Christ Superstar." I had almost no energy left. And I dreaded the dance audition. But I was in good with some of the snowflakes, and they tried to help me. First cuts came around. When the dreaded list of keepers was read, I was packing up to leave when I heard my name. I couldn't breathe. I didn't make the final cut, but that day I got back some of the hope that I had lost, and I said to myself, "Never give up."

I knew what I had to do. I had to go back to dance class. "It's too late," everyone said. I couldn't stomach watching the Nutcracker one more year. I went back to dance after all those years. And to make myself feel better, I hung the tiny pink ballet slippers of a nine-year-old on my wall.

I was 16 when they announced auditions for "West Side Story." This was the test. I had the will, I had a way, and nothing was going to stop me. I wanted to be one of the Puerto Rican characters. I decided to die my hair black, permanently. Audition day came. I strolled in, all decked out and ready to work. In fact, I couldn't wait for the dance audition. Well, I did it. I blew everyone away who ever looked down on me. I even surprised myself. 150 people auditioned that day ... 6 girls were cast as Puerto Ricans. I was one of them.

And I stayed. I did every show all season. I've been in every show since. This summer I had the honor of being in the cast of The Who's "Tommy." It was the most challenging and incredible experience of my life. And when one little girl looked up at me and asked me for my autograph, I almost cried. I wanted to say to her, "Never give up." c


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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