We had the good fortune of connecting with Katrina Spencer and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Katrina, the decisions we make often shape our story in profound ways. What was one of the most difficult decisions you’ve had to make?
The most difficult decision I have ever had to make was to move away from home. I am a small town girl from Pennsylvania, however, being a dancer and actress, I knew Los Angeles was where the industry is and where I would find the most opportunity. Growing up, I was set on going to Point Park University, which is two hours from my hometown. They have one of the top dance programs, and it was close to home where I could still be around a lot of the time. I was accepted into the dance program summer before my junior year, and accepted academically fall of my senior year. Everything in my life was falling into place just how I wanted. My senior year, my dance teacher took me to LA for a dance intensive and insisted I tour this college called Relativity School at the time, a private arts school on a production lot. I said okay, but in my head, going in, I told myself it would not change anything. I was so wrong about that though, I left that college tour sobbing, because I had thought my life was already going according to plan, I never even imagined being across the country from home, I did not even know if financially this was a possibility. I remember flying homeland getting in at one in the morning and my dad picking me up, getting in the car, and I was so silent. If you don’t know me, I will tell you that I am one of the most outgoing people you will ever meet. I never stop talking, and I would describe myself very bubbly. So immediately right off the bat, my dad could already sense that the vibe was off. Eventually I brought myself to just say it after fifteen minutes of being silent and overwhelmed, I said “Dad, can I audition for that school in LA?” my heart cracked a little, and I know in that moment, his heart sank too. I already knew what his answer was going to be which broke me the most. He said “it is $75 to audition for this school, so if you aren’t serious about it, then were not going to spend that money, but if you really want to go to this school, we will support you no matter where you decide to go.” Part of me almost hoped he would have said “we can’t afford for you to go out there.” because that would have made my decision for me, but knowing they would support me either way, made this decision so hard. With my grandma getting old, and never had being away for more than a week or two without my parents, I am very family oriented so that was weighing on my decision tremendously. Soon enough, three weeks went by and I received a letter in the mail saying I had been accepted to what had just been renamed Studio School Los Angeles. Both programs are so different and I knew no matter which one I decided would get me to where I need to be, but that made my decision even harder. After days of weighing the two colleges, my dad said “Kate, we will always be here, you are only ever a flight away, if something ever happens, we will find a way to get you home. If that is what’s keeping your decision, don’t let that be a factor, we could still get you home the same day whether you are two hours by car or a five hour flight.” It took everything in me to commit to being away for months at a time, but I did decide to move out to LA, and I think that is the best decision I have ever made. I never want to live with regrets, and while I think Point Park is wonderful, I think Studio School was the perfect school for me.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Pursuing dance and acting has never been a question for me. That is one thing I was always sure about growing up. There is no plan B for me, and no matter if I have to have a side job, my love for the arts will always be plan A. I think what sets me apart from others is my mindset. As mentioned, my track and cross country coaches instilled such a strong mind, and my teachers instilled a positive mind. Keeping the mind healthy is just as important as your physical health. I am so proud of my growth in the past few years after moving to LA mid 2018. I feel like I have gained so much independence, insight, and self worth. I have grown within the arts and been apart of short films that have won awards for film festivals, been on set for smaller roles, and performed onstage doing what I love. I have branched out and made connections and continued to train. With that mentality, work ethic and lifestyle, opportunities continue to knock on my door that I couldn’t be more excited about. Getting to this point, was not easy. A lot of the struggles, I will say were the mental blocks, which I think are some of the hardest obstacles to overcome. As an artist, one of the biggest challenges is just putting yourself out there, whether on social media, or in a room, or in an email. To allow other people to see you for what you do, and hope they like you is such a common place to end up as a growing artist. However, I have learned that I do not do dance and acting for anyone else but myself. Yes, it is my career, and my job, but it is more than that. The arts help me to find and lose myself all at the same time. If someone does not want to hire me, or does not like my work, then that job is not for me. There are many jobs, many characters, and many roles, and what’s for me, will be for me, even if that means 100 No’s before one yes. I never want to put myself in a box, I will always strive to be open to any role, any challenge, and always continue to use my love for the arts to tell important, compelling stories.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I have had a couple of my best friends visit the area and I have found some really great spots. I really recommend hitting the tourist spots if it is your first time, I think it is great for first timers so that way they can get the full experience. My favorite tourist spots are Santa Monica, The Grove, and The Hollywood Walk of Fame. You always can walk past some artists on the street or boardwalk, some cool little shops, and the big stores too. While you are in Santa Monica, you should check out the Promenade too, my favorite stores are there, some nice restaurants, and yummy food trucks. My favorite place to go shopping is the citadel outlets. It has an outdoor food court and some more amazing places to shop in for some great prices. Cup O Joy is my favorite place to get boba, I recommend the cookies and cream milkshake with regular boba, which is my all time favorite. Dolly Llama has the best waffles. Getting Fro Yo is always a fun option on a night out before going to a show, or movies. My favorite movie theater is Regal. Last but not least, I recommend going to see a hockey game at the Staples center. That is such a fun experience. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I have so many people who are family, friends, mentors, teachers, and coaches that have impacted me and my life’s journey in such a positive way. People who have pushed me out of my comfort zone and continued to help me in my path to different successes. I am really thankful for everyone’s help to get to my biggest successes thus far, however, I am even more thankful for everyone’s help throughout the time in between successes, and throughout the small successes. First, I have to thank the people who have given the most time, love and dedication, which would be my mom, dad, brother, gram, & uncle. Growing up mainly in dance, and some acting is such an investment financially, I never had time to work because I had track and cross country right after school then would go to dance right after practice till eleven at night some nights. Even on weekends, I would either be at a competition all weekend and traveling, or training nine to five rehearsals on the weekend. I rarely had off days, I would even miss school dances, and school trips to train. My parents gave so much money just for me to get the training I need, and not only did they invest their money, they invested time. Two of the studios I trained at were an hour or more away, so dropping me off and going to do their own thing was not much of an option. They would sit in the waiting room of the dance studios for anywhere from three to nine hours depending on the day. In the summers they would take me to dance intensives that were anywhere from a week to six weeks when I was as early as the age of ten years old. I loved going to Point Park University’s six week international intensive. Point Park is two hours away, and at that intensive, I would be training seven to ten hours daily. Driving back and forth was not an option, and at fourteen years old I was not old enough to dorm. I am so grateful for my uncle who lives about an hour and a half from Point Park who let my dad and I stay with him throughout the summer during the intensive. My Gram grew up acting in theatre, so she has always been so supportive of my dance and acting, she loved watching me and always wanted me to pursue the arts. My brother on the other hand is not a very artsy guy, however, he has always come to support me at my shows and sit through my constant dance videos. I also need to thank my friends. Many of my friends in high school and college have always understood my schedule and never would get mad at me for not being able to make things. Every year when Friendsgiving and Friendsmas come around, they work with my entire schedule. Anytime I am struggling, they encourage me to keep going, and any time I am thriving, they are the first to call or text and tell me that they knew I could do it and how proud they are of me. Throughout my dance career, I have made so many connections with incredible professors and teachers in the industry. They have given me advice, told me personal experiences, and believed in me always. At all three dance studios I grew up going to, my dance teachers, Miss Dana, Ms. Joan, Ms. Katy, Ms. April, Ms. Nancy, Mr. Trevor Runco, Miss Ajo, Miss Kelly and Miss Shannon have consistently pushed me to train and to breakthrough to the next level. They always had my best interest and still to this day always wish me well and provide support. Going to Point Park University’s summer intensive, All of the teachers and professors there taught me amazing lessons. Specifically, Kiesha Lalama & Annalee Traylor have touched me on more of a personal level. Both of their classes and chats I have had with them both not only inspired me, but motivated me to push even harder. Both of them made me really think about why I dance and I really aspire to be like both Kiesha and Annalee one day, well respected, phenomenal artists, and have really big hearts. Ever since quarantine began, I also need to thank Trevor Sones. He grew up in the same hometown as me, and I am super grateful to have been assisting him. He is one of the most positive, talented and kindest souls I have ever met, he has mentored me not only as an artist but as a person too. When I go into the studio to work with him, he also cares about my well being, and always gives the best advice both as a person and as an artist. He inspires me and helps me remember that the possibilities are endless, even in a small town. Last, but not least, I have some people from my high school that really helped me. Coming from a small town, it is really uncommon to pursue the arts. People are very close minded and do not think that this career is sustainable. However, my teachers Mrs. Zimmerman, and Mrs. Brownlee helped me to gain confidence throughout high school, which I used to really struggle with. Both of them mentored me in clubs Helping Hands, and FCCLA that both take part in community service and volunteering. Both teachers stood for leading with kindness in everything you do. They always have been supportive in my path and still keep in touch. Last but not least, my track, cross country, and fitness coaches, Coach Jacobs, Coach Winters, and Sam Morgan, have taught me to have mental strength, which has followed through into my career endeavors. They both taught me that it is never about win or lose, it is always about giving your all and doing your best, they all helped me to get out of my head and just push to do what I set out to do. These are only a fraction of the people who have helped me throughout my career. However, all of these people in my life, and in my circle have not only pushed me in career, or in a sport, or class, but as a person too. All of these people have seen me struggle and at my worst but also at my best, and stuck with me in spite of it all. All of these people have taught me that yes, there will be light at the end of the tunnel, but more importantly to find the light through the tunnel.
Ryan Abgoola, Monica Hahn, Jared Trevino, Adrian Gutierrez