BALTIMORE — If Hope Alexander hadn’t followed her heart, she’d probably be working for some government agency putting her degree in international studies to work. Instead, she tours the world bringing Disney’s Princess Tiana’s character to life on ice. As a figure skater with the infamous Disney On Ice show, the Wilmington, Delaware native has performed before audiences in Japan, China, Macau, Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, among many other destinations, with the Treasure Trove tour. This month, Alexander is set to perform at the Royal Farms Arena in Disney On Ice’s latest production— Follow Your Heart— playing the role of her dreams.
Tiffany: What does the theme of the show “Follow Your Heart” mean to you personally? In what ways have you followed your heart to be who and where you are today?
Tiana: “Follow Your Heart” is a motto that I try to live by everyday. I think it’s important to always go after your goals and try your best to achieve your dreams, and being on Disney on Ice is definitely a dream come true. When I was younger and competing I never imagined that I would someday be a professional figure skater, and now I’m so grateful for where I am in life.
Tiffany: Can you speak to what it was like growing up pursuing your interest in skating? How did it develop?
Tiana: My mom took me skating when I was about two years old. She had fond memories of going skating with her friends when she was younger and she wanted me to have some of the same memories.The second I stepped on the ice I fell in love with it immediately. A little later down the line I started taking groups lessons and eventually private lessons at my local skating rink. I started competing when I was seven years old and stopped when I was 16. Skating takes a lot of sacrifice. Once I got to a higher level I would have to wake up before school to skate and once the school day was over I would head back to the rink for more skating sessions and off-ice training. It was stressful at times but completely worth it.
Tiffany: You mentioned you suffered an injury early in your career and took a break from skating for a while. Did you always know you’d return? What was that experience like? What did you do in the meantime?
Tiana: When I had to stop skating because of my injury I was heartbroken and I honestly didn’t think I would really pick it back up again.I started running track at that point and actual ended up getting a track scholarship for college. Even though I was sad about not being able to skate anymore, I was very grateful that I was able to find something else that I really enjoyed doing.
Tiffany: What brought you back to the ice?
Tiana: Once I graduated from college I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and I decided to audition for a couple smaller ice shows. I really liked being a part of those shows so I decided to apply to Disney and 5 years later, here I am.
Tiffany: How did your studies in college help you in your profession as a figure skater?
Tiana: I double majored in French and International Studies, and I think both helped to open my eyes to different people and cultures. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to so many different countries, since I joined Disney on Ice, and I think my studies in college really helped me to appreciate those experiences even more.
Tiffany: What do you enjoy most about your job and touring with the show?
Tiana: I enjoy so many things about this job. Skating has been my passion since I was a little girl, so to be able to do it as a profession is amazing! I love performing for the audiences. It’s always really fun to watch everyone’s faces light up when they see their favorite characters come to life on the ice. I also really enjoy the travel aspect of the job. When we’re on a domestic tour we go to a different city every week, and it’s nice to be able to visit cities I’ve never been to before. I’ve also been able to tour overseas and I love that because I’ve been able to go to so many countries that I probably would have never gone to otherwise.
Tiffany: Until Tiana, African American princesses didn’t have a place in Disney’s movies. How does feel to represent for girls of color in that way?
Tiana: I feel really honored to be able to portray such an important character. I think it’s important for little girls to see themselves represented on the ice and I’m so excited to show them what they are capable of achieving.
Tiffany: What do you and Princess Tiana have in common?
Tiana: Princess Tiana is a very hard worker. She sets a goal and even though she faces challenges and obstacles she perseveres and eventually realizes her dream of owning her own restaurant. I like to think I possess the same hard-working qualities. Growing up I had to work very hard at skating and learning how to manage my time between skating and school. And once I decided to pick skating back up again I had to really focus and relearn skills that were once second nature to me. It’s really exciting to be able to portray a character that really resonates with me!
Disney on Ice Presents: Follow Your Heart is coming to Royal Farms Arena October 27-30, 2016.