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Young Trailblazer Nominee

Olivia Langley

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Nominations

I have been dancing since I was four years old and have studied under Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, Denver School of the Arts, Colorado Youth Dance Theater, and Kim Robard’s Dance Company. My education at The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs has given me the opportunity to perform in student choreographed works and with artists such as Julian Barnett, Dohee Lee, and Elliot Mercer – as well as companies such as David Dorfman Dance Company and Ormao Dance Company. I’ve also begun teaching dance for students of middle and high school ages.

I have been involved with acting since high school.  I decided to pursue acting because I really enjoyed placing myself as a black woman into narratives generally constructed for Euro-Americans – as a way to deconstruct the harm that colonialism has done to the theatrical cannon. I have performed in multiple student and faculty productions such as “Blackademics” and “Hair: The Musical” among others.

I have been involved in cosplaying since high school as well. However, I have been in love with wearing costumes since I was young. Cosplaying is essentially a form of costuming oneself after anime characters. This is a field that is difficult to encounter as a black woman due to the stigma surrounding people of color dressing as primarily European and Asian characters. The notion that black people cannot cosplay is a movement being seen on social media, and one that I have personally had to speak against in order to protect myself and expressions in cosplay. I love to cosplay because it transcends simply liking a character into becoming them and further displaying one’s adoration for the craft. I am also able to work on skills such as sewing, assembly, and editing.

My goals include becoming a dancer, choreographer, actress, director, cosplayer, and seamstress. I hope to meld them all together to create a unique representation of dance, theatre, and cosplay in the future. It is important, especially as a woman of color, to express oneself despite everything. Each of these artistic mediums have been long plagued by the effects of colonization – however, I am confident in the progress we have seen with POC inserting their identities into these spaces.

My Black Colorado Interview

What schools do you attend and what grade are you in?

I attend the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and I am a Senior.

What do you think others would say that they like the most about you?

I think others might say they like my personality. Generally, people say that I am funny, charismatic, and friendly. They say that I am always looking to have a productive and fun time with everyone – never leaving others else out. I think they would say this about me because I like to ensure everyone participates and feels welcome. I also tend to tell jokes, become the loudest or most vibrant person in the room, so others feel comfortable, and I approach new interactions with politeness.

When you are not in a class, what are things you enjoy being involved with?

When I am not in a class, I enjoy dancing, writing, and cosplaying. I’m involved with dance because it is a passion of mine. From a young age, I have always admired dancers and choreographers – which is why I have decided to make it my career. I enjoy writing because I used to write for hours on end and upload my work online. Unfortunately, I hit writer’s block in high school, so now I am trying to make up for that lapse and get back to creating stories. Lastly, I enjoy cosplaying because it allows me to express my creativity in a community where creativity is most important.

What is the best advice someone has given you recently?

The best advice that someone has given me recently is to cherish your family. I took this advice to extend to your friends and others near you. The best advice I’ve recently heard is that in times like these – with Covid-19 outbreaks and U.S. politics, especially – it’s essential to recognize the ties you do have and keep each other lifted.

What is one thing you want to get better at?

One thing I would like to get better at is understanding other people. It’s easy to pretend to know someone or get close but I’d like to be able to help someone if need be – which you can’t do if you don’t take the time to listen and understand. Something our government could try to get better at as well.

What do you think is one piece of advice you think adults need to hear to better connect with the younger generation?

You don’t have to agree, but you should try to understand because you were once in their situation too. I think older generations sometimes forget that they were the younger ones once and that they also had issues with the state of our world.

What accomplishments or awards are you most proud of?

My recognition last semester when I received an award for the most versatile dancer. I am proud of this award because, for once, being recognized before the entire department, and two, because versatility in dance is prized – so to receive recognition as a versatile dancer was beautiful.

What impact have you made in the community that you are most proud of and why?

‘m most proud of the Black and POC repertoire on the stage. The students and professors alike became aware of the lack of Black/POC representation in theatre and dance – an industry that has been saturated by a Euro-American canon. I assisted in reworking this structure by offering my ideas and opinions on the historical cannon. Both theatre and dance classes attempt to include more Black/POC repertoire in style and on stage. I’m very proud of this because it was essential and opened doors for more representation.

What do you think you want to do for a career and why?

I want to become a dancer, choreographer, actress, and director for my career. While it is a lot, I do want to accomplish all of these things. I want to become a dancer and choreographer because I have danced my entire life and it is my passion. This passion extends from merely performing the movement to creating said action and watching it come alive on stage. I want to become an actress and director because my presence as a black woman acting is a form of activism that I enjoy very much. Directing, like choreography, allows me to take a canvas and paint a picture. I have Parry Romberg Syndrome and Morphia, so my face is unique to most – which is another reason I want to place myself in the limelight and alter Hollywood’s perceptions of beauty. Working in the entertainment and art industry has been a dream since I was young, and I am slowly realizing it now that I am in my final semester of school.

What role did your family play in where you are today?

My family played a huge role in where I am today – especially my mom. My family has always been incredibly supportive of my entertainment goals because they would attend all of my dance and theatre shows from elementary through college. In particular, my mother has been my agent, assistant, wing-woman, and coach since I first stepped out onto marley. She had inspired me to go on when I was sure I couldn’t. She has driven me hours upon hours and spent so much of her own money to take me to classes and afford them. If it were not for her, my deep depression in high school might have ended my possible career in the arts – but she refused to let me stop or slow down. Not only that, but she has assured me that the uniqueness of my face is an asset in life and not a detriment. She is the one who inspired me to go to college, get good grades, and follow my dreams. She magnifies the joy in every performance I have.

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