I was born in St. Petersburg, Russia and spent the first year
of my life in Dom Rebenka No 7 (Baby Home #7). My mom found her way to me just after my first birthday — and several trips to Russia. I came home to the United States to an incredible group of extended family and friends. They would all play a big part in my life as I grew up on the other side of the ocean from where I started. I am so thankful for the path my life has taken, but I've always been proud of my heritage and I maintain dual citizenship to this day.
I always embraced opportunities to volunteer, and that's allowed me to engage in outreach programs in many countries and communities in need. I have worked at orphanages, schools, and animal refuges in
Costa Rica, Guatemala, Belize, Panama, and Nicaragua. I have painted orphanages, prepared food, built shelters, planted trees, cleaned up beaches, and brought supplies to schools, individuals, and communities in need. I am so grateful for my years of participation in these programs, starting when I was young. It has given me an understanding of the importance of volunteerism and how simple efforts can have great impact on our world.
I came up with the idea for my first children's book, "Max and Mia’s Magic Carpet Adventures" after losing my grandmother, who was an avid traveler like me. I decided to help process my grief by writing about a passion we both shared. I partnered with my uncle, a talented artist, who brought the book to life with his illustrations. The book is designed to get young children intrigued by different countries and cultures and encourage them to learn more about the world and the lives other people live.
The years leading up to being a teenager are fun, interesting, challenging, confusing, and sometimes, even difficult. It's a time of transition when it isn't always easy to navigate the road ahead. I found there were a lot of forums for teens, but there weren't many resources out there for those who were approaching the teenage years.
I created The The Tween Room — a site for 10- to 13-year-olds where they can find helpful information about a lot of the issues they are facing and connect with others who have been through the same things they are going through. thetweenroom.com
Whether it's the people, the food, or the incredible beauty of this world, everything about travel excites me. Having the opportunity to experience different cultures and meet people in all walks of life is such a gift. I spent a lot of time in Latin America when I was growing up and got to see so many wonders of the ancient world like Machu Picchu, Peru; Copan, Honduras; and Tikal, Guatemala. I've been to most of Western Europe, and some amazing parts of Eastern Europe such as Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Romania. I've climbed and snowmobiled glaciers in Iceland, bathed in a beer spa in Czechia, went shark diving in Belize, hiking in the Swiss Alps, and waterfall rappelling in Costa Rica. I think one of life's great lessons is to fill your life with experiences, not things — and there is no better way to do that than hitting the road.
I've always had an intense love of the water. I started swimming competitively at six years old and worked as a lifeguard during the summers. I counted the years until I was old enough to be certified
to scuba dive. A month after my 15th birthday, I spent a week in Belize earning my C-card. These pictures were taken when I earned my
Open Water Diver Certification at age 15.
I am from Saint Petersburg, Russia, so this musical has a very special place in my heart. Anya is a strong, loyal, and fierce character who stops at nothing to find her true identity. Being adopted, I can relate to her feelings of confusion of not knowing her complete life story. The bravery of Anya is evident in "Journey to the Past" and "In My Dreams," where she shares her most personal thoughts. I like how the love story between Anya and Dimitri evolves and changes. Anya doesn't let him forget that she is a tough, independent woman, and he comes to love her for this. I have seen this show on Broadway more times than any other musical and was in awe of how Christy Altomare brought Anya to life.
I love the character of Natasha because she grows and evolves so much throughout War and Peace. In the musical adaption, Natasha longs for her fiancé, Andrei in "No One Else," is swept up in lust for Anatole in "The Ball," then eventually sees Pierre as someone who is much more than a friend in "Pierre and Natasha." There is so much growth in her character from a child to a young woman. The musical is beautiful because it is not traditional by any means. There is only one spoken line and Dave Malloy bridges classical music with EDM and electropop influences. It is truly a masterpiece.
I auditioned for Amneris when I was 16. I got two callbacks that narrowed down to four people and lasted a entire day. Sadly, I didn't earn the role, but I am longing to bring Amneris to the stage. I connected with the character of Amneris immediately as she had so many layers. She creates a front of strength and beauty ("My Strongest Suit"), but it's actually a façade for her own insecurities, revealed in "I Know the Truth." Her character though, is deeply kind at heart. Everyone experiences insecurities; some manifest them through deception and jealousy, while others transcend them with kindness. I love how Amneris does both.
I was introduced to the beautiful vocal talents of Julie Andrews at a young age, when I was starting to realize how much I truly loved to sing. Hearing her delicate, but powerful voice in both Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music have been inspirational to me as I’ve grown in acting and singing. The role of Maria embodies a sense of naivete and playfulness, yet many strengths emerge from the character. Fleeing a nunnery and becoming a governess demonstrates a sense of independence and reveals a feminist far ahead of her time. I feel like Maria would help me to find my inner strengths as an actor and woman.
The Light in the Piazza is a magical show. Clara Johnson is one of my dream ingenues. I think the challenge of playing someone with childlike thoughts juxtaposed with adult emotions makes it a dream role. Everything about Clara is a study in contrasts. While in the land of naked marble boys, she learns that while her thoughts are more simple than the average person, she is also stronger and more willing to fight for what she wants than perhaps others would. She has a dream and is determined to make it her reality. That was an inspiration for me. I connect with Clara in that I have a dream I am determined to make reality despite various obstacles along the way.
Mamma Mia is a classic, feel-good, get-up-and-dance musical. Sophie Sheridan is a dream role of mine because she is optimistic and hopeful, and a free spirit — open to any possibility when searching for her biological father. Optimism is a trait I try to apply to whatever I do. I love that Sophie realizes that it doesn’t matter who her biological father is, she is just grateful that each of them are a part of her and her journey. She has a special relationship with her mother Donna that resonates with me because I have a single-mother who raised me in a similar manner. And as an avid traveler, this show really connects with who I am and I love the free-spirited vibe of the entire production.