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 Emma about how life has changed since her NYC visit for the contest.
Emma performing in "Blindly On Our Way" at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals in July (courtesy Sutherland)
Hi, Emma! What have you been up to since your trip to NYC?
I finished out senior year, both with the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts and with Dance Industry, my studio. I committed to the University of Southern California Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, which is exciting! At the end of June, I attended the Presidential Scholar national recognition program in D.C. (Yes, I met Trump.) There were so many smart people there; I was intimidated! Then came New York City Dance Alliance Nationals in July, where I performed for probably the last time with my studio. The next day, I attended orientation at USC, where I met lots of people. After a few days at home, I left for a two-week William Forsythe intensive in Moncalvo, Italy. It was so beautiful—we glamped! Then I had just a bit of time off before Welcome Week at USC. I thought I was going to be home a lot this summer, but it turned out to be my busiest summer yet.
Orientation official! (courtesy Sutherland)
How did you campaign during the voting period?
It was difficult, just because of how chaotic my schedule was. I mostly shared posts from other people via Instagram. My family and friends were very supportive and always posted for me, which was very generous of them. My studio was so helpful, too. YoungArts tweeted for me a couple times, and my fellow Presidential Scholar winners were voting for me. I've had people behind me this whole time, which has been really nice, because I've found that it's very difficult to advocate for yourself.
What was your favorite part of the Cover Model Search experience?
Meeting all the staff and Diego and Dari. It was so interesting to learn about everyone's lives and their jobs, and what it's like working in NYC. Getting to know Diego and Dari so well was awesome. We chat frequently now, and it's cool to have such supportive people that I know will be in my life later on.
How do you think you've grown since the trip?
I've had so many opportunities recently to travel, meet new people, and learn how great it is to collaborate with others. From YoungArts to the Cover Model Search to the Presidential Scholar program to college orientation, I've been embracing novel experiences—which was not my forte before this year..
Emma with fellow Presidential Scholar winners at the national recognition program in Washington, D.C. (courtesy Sutherland)
What are your goals for the coming year?
I think it'll be a year of discovery for me. A really, really big thing at USC is just figuring out what kind of artist you want to be, and I know I want to bring more diversity to my movement. My goal is to successfully acclimate to college life while growing as an artist and as an individual. I know it'll be fun and interesting and challenging, all at once. I'm really excited.
What advice do you have for future CMS hopefuls?
I think that when it comes to self-advertising, it's important to think about how you want to present yourself as an artist. You don't need to come off as a certain type of person, or look like a certain type of dancer, to succeed. Your special qualities are what make you fascinating to people. It's important for future CMS finalists to really embrace their uniqueness.
Photo by Erin Baiano
My experience as a Dance Spirit Cover Model Search finalist was truly incredible! I still can't believe that I was lucky enough to be a part of it. I'm so appreciative of my family, friends, teachers, and everyone who voted for and promoted me during the contest—you are all the BEST! I am especially thankful for the amazing staff at Dance Spirit, who made this a very special experience from beginning to end. The photo shoot, classes at Broadway Dance Center, our outing to see King Kong on Broadway—these are amazing memories I will never forget. Also, enormous thanks to my dance family at Dance Industry Performing Arts Center, and to Mark Caserta for giving me the beautiful movement I explored in my submission solo. I would not be who I am today without all of you. To Diego and Dari: I had the best time in NYC, and am truly honored to have been a part of this alongside y'all!