A Life on Stage

2019 Pacific Palisades Teen Talent Contest Winner Hunter Barnett is a Voice to be Reckoned With

Hunter Barnett, winner of the 2019 Pacific Palisades Teen Talent Contest, is at home on stage. The young singer, dancer and all-around performer grew up with a microphone in her hand and an uncanny ability to sway her audience, taking ballet lessons at the age of 2 and entering the world of musical theater by the age of 5.

“I’ve always been interested in performing,” Barnett told the Palisadian-Post. “It’s in my blood.”

Barnett began by performing shows for her church and her family at the age of 4.

“We’re Armenian so there are a lot of us,” Barnett said with a laugh. “I really started getting serious about it in the sixth grade and figured out it’s what I wanted to pursue.”

Between singing with the Palisades Charter High School choir on tour and dancing as part of both Fancy Feet Dance Studio and the Pali High Dance Team, Barnett has racked up over 100 performances in just three years, 50 this year alone.

“It’s my entire life,” Barnett said. “I take the three advanced performance classes at my school so I get to sing, dance and act … I am so lucky that I have the opportunity to get to do what I love every single day, all day long. I’m always working on something, researching, figuring out the next step.”

For Barnett, that next step is usually part of her next dance routine. With Fancy Feet Dance Studio, Barnett performed at the local Community Expo, Yeehaw Day and at the Palisades Village grand opening ceremony, actively choreographing her own routines in her own time, including the routine that won her first place at the 2019 Teen Talent Contest.

“I like to structuralize ideas for shows,” Barnett explained. “I like to put all the components together.”

Barnett’s favorite class at Pali High is Advanced Drama with Nancy Fracciola, which provides an in-depth study of drama, acting theory and theater history, and educates students on the technical aspects of writing, directing and producing.

Utilizing what she’s learned, Barnett has already begun to produce her own shows. Her debut project, “The Power of Art,” which she began producing this year, is an exploration of the way art shapes our world politically, socially and spiritually. The proceeds from the show will be donated to the Pali High Performing Arts Department.

“Art is the best way to help people understand those that seem different because it evokes empathy, changes minds, encourages people and supports others, and that is what inspires me the most,” Barnett explained. “The power of art is a concept I’ve been trying to grasp; it speaks for the things that are too powerful or significant to comprehend through words. This piece, in the form of a showcase, is essentially a compilation of art that reflects the stories and journeys of the artists.”

In addition to her silky voice and dexterous dance moves, Barnett also exhibits clear theatrical talent, equally able to tackle the stage for a grand ballad or an intimate monologue. Her Advanced Drama class collectively wrote a show called “The Special: Burt and Bibi’s Bicentennial Bash,” in which Barnett developed and played the character of Bibi McClain, a talented television star who sacrifices love for success.

“It was one of the coolest things I have ever gotten to do,” Barnett shared.

For Pali High’s recent performance of “Chicago,” Barnett also played the complex character of Hunyak, an innocent Hungarian prisoner who is wrongly executed by the state of Illinois.

In college, Barnett hopes to further hone her acting skills by majoring in theater.

Photos by Rich Schmitt, Staff Photographer

“I think that’s a good foundation for me,” Barnett said. “I’d like to go somewhere that offers dance and singing classes as well. I’d love to attend NYU, Pratt, UCLA or USD.”

Wherever she chooses to go, Barnett deserves the spotlight. Her performance at the 2019 Teen Talent Contest had the crowd roaring their approval.

Moving lithely across the stage in a dance routine of twists and twirls, Barnett was able to sing Ariana Grande’s “Give It Away” without a hint of pause or exhaustion. Her ambidexterity singing and dancing simultaneously appeared so natural from the audience that one would never believe it was her first time doing both at the same time on stage.

“I’d never sang and danced before—it was tough but interesting,” Barnett said with a laugh. “I wanted to showcase that I’m not just a singer.”

Despite her abilities, Barnett remains humble about her win.

“It was very shocking,” Barnett said. “I definitely knew I had some competition and really wanted it. I was very extra. I made that a point for me. I wanted to be more competitive so I had worked really hard and put a lot of thought into what I wanted to do. It was easy for me to put it all together once I got it on its feet.”

And once on her own feet, Barnett dazzled her audience—something she is likely to do for many years to come.

“For the future, I am hoping to pursue any and every aspect of the arts—film acting, writing, directing. I would love to make an album, choreograph a show, maybe even be on Broadway someday. I could do any of it and be the happiest girl in the world.”

Barnett attributed her success to her mentors and teachers, but especially to her mother, father and sister.

“From drying my eyes after not getting the part to driving me hours to take me to rehearsals, I would be nowhere without them,” Barnett said.

Whatever is next for Barnett, it’s sure to be under the heat of the spotlight, with an audience rapt at attention eagerly awaiting her performance.

“I never tell people I’m an actress, or singer or dancer—I tell people I’m a performer,” Barnett said. “My gift shines the brightest the moment I am hit with the light and energy of being on stage. It’s an escape. The second I step on stage I am in a completely different world. I love performing because of its power and ability to make other people feel something. I can’t think of anything else with the same capability. Art is a superpower.”

Follow Barnett on Instagram @hunterrhope.