By CHRISTIAN MONTERROSA | Reporter
Standing front and center in Palisades Charter High School’s Mercer Hall on April 25 wasn’t the first time Juliet Burks, 16, saw the spotlight. In fact, it wasn’t even the largest crowd she had performed for.
The Pali High student has long been the center of attention, drawing loud roars of applause with her inimitable stage presence and unmistakable singing voice.
Born in New York, and raised in Miami, Florida, the arts have played a big part in molding the creative mind that Burks is now gracing the stage with.
But the artistic genetics came from Juliet’s mother, Lucy, whose parents were strict on making sure she pursued a straightforward career.
“Both of my parents came to the United States when my mom was pregnant with me,” said Lucy Burks. “I always had a more creative passion but I couldn’t pursue it, so I guess I’m living somewhat vicariously through [Juliet],” she said.
Her daughter has not disappointed her. Since leaving Miami, where Juliet first stood on stage as little Cosette from Les Miserables at the Miami Children’s Theatre, she landed in Brentwood feet first, enrolling and performing at the Yuri Grigoriev School of Ballet.
Having a rare sense for knowing what works and what doesn’t from a young age, Juliet decided to invest her time solely on singing and theater.
“I decided to quit [ballet] because it wasn’t something I was going to pursue professionally,” Juliet said. “It was very time consuming and girls usually start at a really young age.”
During her time dancing, Juliet kept up with her singing, finding inspiration from performers like Laura Benanti, a Tony Award winning actress, and Eva Noblezatta, lead singer on the musical “Hadestown.”
Like her idols, Juliet wanted to take her career to the next level and contracted the help of an agent.
“She began going on a lot of auditions, and I think she learned then not to be afraid of rejections,” said Lucy Burks.
But Juliet’s persistence, as she treated “every audition as a performance,” became an obstacle when her auditions began interfering with her school work, and affecting her grades.
Juliet went back to the drawing board and reassessed where she could improve and putting her priority back into her school work.
Since then, she has figured it out, and has gone on to win the YoungArts for Theater national singing competition, where she was selected as one of fifteen students in the country to attend master classes in Miami, followed by a performance in front of a live audience.
She has made vocal appearances on soundtracks with the children’s choir for “A Wrinkle in Time” and “Nerve.”
Most recently, she was crowned one of two winners of The 2019 Pacific Palisades Teen Talent Contest, where her performance of “Someone Like You” from Jekyll and Hyde left the crowd glancing back at their programs to make sure they hadn’t accidentally walked into a professional Broadway show where Juliet was the main act.
Behind the scenes, Juliet still gets nervous and has personal goals on the stage that she is constantly working on to not just be a performer, but an artist.
But Juliet’s accomplishments and eventual rise to stardom is rippling far beyond the stage as a rare Asian-American performer, inspiring the young actresses and singers of tomorrow that look like her, something she didn’t see very often growing up.
“I want them to know you don’t have to have blonde hair and blue eyes to play the beautiful, ingenue character,” Juliet said, when asked what message she had for the future generation of performers. “You should embrace who you are.”
When the stage lights go off, and the school work she’ll use to keep her straight A record going is finished, Juliet stays busy volunteering at an educational facility for the disabled, using improvisational exercises as therapy.
“When I first went I was a bit nervous, but once I got there I realized that acting is so universal and that you can use theater to connect with different people,” she said.
Furthermore, she has started her own foundation, Knit for the Needy, where she knits baby sweaters and donates them to St. John’s Hospital.
After her knockout performance at the Teen Talent contest, she was approached by Dollies Making a Difference, a Palisadian organization that sends dolls and teddy bears all over the world, and was asked to collaborate and knit blankets for all of the dolls.
With Juliet Burks still in the early stages of her career, the future of theatre is brightly illuminated by the stage lights that continue to bring Palisadian stars to the forefront.