Is She Real or Fictional?
When I was just a youngin, I saw my friend, Karly, writing a letter.
“Who is she writing to?” I asked her sister.
“She’s writing to her friend, Boogie.”
I don’t know what it was, maybe because the name was so unique, or maybe I misheard some information, but somehow, I got it in my head that Boogie was only an imaginary friend. It wasn’t until years later, that I was introduced in passing to the lovely human named, Boogie, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that she was, in fact, a real person!
The Beginning of a Legend
At age 18, Boogie moved to Alaska. I had already moved from the state, but wild tales about her would travel to me. They were tales of creativity, and adventure. Local theaters in Alaska cast her in plays. Dance groups invited her talents in. I even heard that she played the harp, clearly the instrument of a mythical creature. Never once did I hear one bad word spoken about this sensational person. She was adored for her friendly and vivacious demeanor. Boogie became somewhat of an Alaskan legend that brought warmth to a very cold state.
‘Who is Boogie Willis?’ I would wonder on occasion. I could tell even from such distance that this was a very special individual, and I was very curious to know some of her backstory.
So, after all these years, I finally had the privilege of getting to know tidbit more this exceptional lady. I was beyond thrilled when Boogie agreed to take precious time out of her day to talk to me. Right from the get-go she was extremely gracious and accommodating to all my questions.
Finding Her Passion
Boogie has found a way to enhance her life by pursuing both acting and dance. In acting, she wants to take her viewers on a journey and evoke emotion. She doesn’t always have the words to express how she feels and so dance has given her a voice for what she cannot say. Dance challenges her in new and exciting ways that brings joy into her life.
To pay her bills, she maintains a day job as a debt collector. It’s a job that seems very unlike her personality, but she needed a job that allowed her to have nights and weekends free for her rehearsals and performances. Diligently she puts in that extra work to be able to support herself while she fills her life with her passions.
Growing up, Boogie did not know that this would be where her heart led her. She was homeschooled until graduation at age 16. She did not care that much for school, so she was quite happy to finish early. However, during her school years, she was in a gymnastics class. While performing at a gymnastics meet, she encountered a kindred spirit named Karly. They quickly became such good friends that they kept in touch even though she lived in Indio, California and Karly lived in Wasilla, Alaska.
Whenever they got the chance, Boogie and Karly would visit each other and eventually Boogie realized that Karly was one of her best friends. During one particular visit, she realized just how much she enjoyed Alaska. Karly’s mom, an incredibly warm and loving woman, welcomed her in and invited her to stay with them as long as she liked. It was all she needed to take the leap and embark on a new adventure of her very own.
A World of Dance
Karly and her sisters were very heavily into the dance world and eventually it peaked Boogie’s interest to attempt. She started taking a class here and there. Some of Karly’s sisters gave her some private lessons in addition with their moral support and empowerment.
Although it was a daunting challenge to start dancing amongst people who had been working at it for years, she accepted that she was a beginner and did not let it deter her from the enjoyment of the art. Step-by-step she learned how to express herself through movement and was able to bring her own charisma to it even if she didn’t have all of the same technicality.
Finding Her People
While working at a café in Wasilla, Alaska, a flyer happened to catch her eye. For some reason she felt drawn to it. When talking to her friends, they all encouraged her to go for it. After much deliberation, she decided to branch into an unknown world and audition for The Wizard of Oz at the local theater, the Valley Performing Arts Center.
It was her first audition, and to her great surprise, she got in! She got an ensemble part where she played multiple characters, including (to her great amusement) a tree. Once she entered the world of theater, she knew this would be more than a one-time experience.
“I found my people!” she lovingly described it to me.
That play opened the doors to a new world. She said yes to anything that came up and one opportunity led her to the next. She soaked up every experience and learned from every role.
Theater eventually led her to film. She got to participate in multiple roles on camera and even learned the behind-the-scenes techniques. Although she appreciates all portions of the artform, at the end of the day, the energy from the live audience captures her fancy the most.
Overcoming the Barriers
Like the rest of us, she has her moments of struggle. There are times when she doesn’t feel good enough. She sees other people who have something else to offer, and the comparison to herself can make her feel inadequate. When this happens, she tries to remind herself of all of her own accomplishments. She focuses on the times that made her feel validated, like how she got the first play she ever auditioned for, or how she was called upon specifically to audition for parts. Most importantly, she does not let her doubts or discouragements stop her from moving forward. She keeps on saying yes to the next thing.
When I asked her what advice she would give to those who are looking to start acting or dancing without hesitancy she had three words for me, “Just do it.” She said it with the tone of, “This is worth anything that might be holding you back.”
Do not worry about failing auditions, because that is part of the process. Don’t worry about being good enough because you will get better the more you do. Take any role and every role, it’s not about getting the lead because there is so much to learn from it all. And when you dance, dance for the joy of it. “Just do it.”
Enjoying the Journey
She doesn’t know where all of it will take her, but she knows that it fills her life with magic. Occasionally, she has been stopped on the street being recognized for some of her work, and it brings nothing short of happiness to her day!
Who is Boogie Willis? Well, I say she is a walking example of the saying, “Life is about the journey, not the destination.” Her determination to say yes to the things that challenge and excite her are an inspiration to keep searching for the joy in our everyday lives.
Come Get to Know Boogie Willis!
Currently, Boogie is preparing for her next exciting role in Guys & Dolls with Juneau’s Perseverance Theater Company. If you happen to be in Juneau, AK in March or Anchorage, AK this May, you will have an opportunity to see all of her hard work!
For those of us who don’t have the opportunity to be in Alaska at that time, we can enjoy this short film that she graciously allowed me to share with you all today. It is from a film competition called the 5-Day Film Royal. I invite you all to come get to know the woman, the whimsy, the Willis: