Photo by Erin Baiano

Catching Up with Cover Model Search Finalist Diego Pasillas

We're thrilled for our Cover Model Search winner, Darriel Johnakin—but we also love our two runners-up, Diego Pasillas and Emma Sutherland! We talked to Diego about how life has changed since his NYC visit for the contest.

Diego performing his solo "Dive in the Water" at Radix Nationals (courtesy the Pasillas family)

Hi, Diego! What've you been up to since your trip to NYC?

Well, I got my driver's license, which was really cool! And I got a car. I spent a lot of time at the studio training for Radix Nationals, which paid off, because I won Teen Male Core Performer! That was obviously really nice. And I attended several intensives—DancerPalooza in Long Beach, and a program at my studio called Transform—and did some assisting with my mentor, Shannon Mather.

Turn sixteen, pass the driving test, get a car: check, check, check! (courtesy the Pasillas family)

You put on a really strong campaign. What strategies did you use?

It was a lot of posting on my Instagram story all day, asking people to vote and keep voting, and then posting pictures on my main social media pages so I stayed on everyone's radar. Lots of reminding people that they could vote every day.

What was your favorite part of the whole Cover Model Search experience?

I definitely loved seeing peoples' reactions to all the photos! I've never really done a dance photo shoot before—or at least not since I was, like, 7. And then to see all my family members and friends voting was really nice. People were super supportive—I really felt the love.

What upcoming projects and events are you excited about?

Mostly I'm excited about touring with Radix all this next season!

Diego with his Teen Male Core Performer award at Radix Nationals (courtesy the Pasillas family)

What are your goals for this upcoming year?

To get into more classes in L.A. and get my name out there, since I'm going to be graduating high school in a couple of years and beginning my professional career. I want to start to vibe with choreographers in the industry.

Do you have any advice for future CMS finalists?

Take in every single moment, because this is very special and such an amazing opportunity!

Photo by Erin Baiano

Dance Spirit family!

First of all, I wanted to thank God for blessing me and surrounding me with all of you wonderful people! And big thanks to everyone who voted for me and supported me on social media during the voting campaign. It was an honor to win Editors' Choice, and then to be a finalist was a dream come true. Photographer Erin Baiano made the shoot super-fun, and the entire
Dance Spirit staff took great care of us. Darriel, Emma, and I hit it off immediately, and we had so much fun in such a short time! Finally, I'd like to give thanks to all the choreographers at Mather Dance Company—especially Shannon Mather and Addison Holmes.


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Hi, dance friends. It is a strange time to be a person in the world, and an especially strange time to be a dancer. As the dance community faces the coronavirus crisis, a lot of you are coping with closed studios, canceled performances and competitions, and a general sense of anxiety about how your world will look going forward.

Yes, dancers are super resilient, and there's been a lot of inspiring community-building happening. #LivingRoomDances and Instagram dance parties and virtual ballet classes with the pros are wonderful. Dance can, and should, be a bright spot in the darkness. But that weird, empty feeling you have? It might be grief. The loss of the certainty of daily class, the loss of the promise of that big end-of-year performance—that's real. The dance studio has always been a safe place; it's especially hard not to have that outlet now, when you need it most.

We're here for you. We—and our friends at Dance Magazine, Pointe, Dance Teacher, The Dance Edit, and Dance Business Weekly—are doing our best to document the hurdles facing the dance industry, and to advocate for dancers in need. We're developing more online content that will help you maintain and improve your technique while you're at home, and process the mental and emotional fallout of all this upheaval. (You can keep up with the latest stories here.) And we're still making our print magazine. We have issues planned and shot, full of great dance stories and beautiful photos. We're not going anywhere.

We want to hear from you. Talk to us. Or dance to us. Or both. We won't stop moving, and you shouldn't, either.


Enter the Cover Model Search