Despite how fast everything happened, Best felt comfortable and confident with her new life in a new city. Growing up in Philadelphia had prepared her for life in a major metro area, and a few fellow alumni of DeSales were already living in New York. Coupled with the fact that she moved to the city with friends, it was a smooth transition. This all helped give Best a foundation to focus on her rapidly escalating career. “It was a little crazy because I was only 21,” says Best of her first experiences performing on Broadway in The Color Purple. “There were a lot of high-level celebrities and theater performers who were very seasoned, and it was the first major thing I had done.”
On Stage with Stars
One of her first moments of realizing where she was and what she was doing came when she shared the stage with Oscar and Grammy award-winner Jennifer Hudson. “She's absolutely phenomenal and amazing and she's still to this day one of my biggest inspirations and role models,” says Best. A casual visit to the rehearsal studio by Oprah Winfrey was a similar moment of realization. “I remember thinking 'oh my gosh, that's Oprah Winfrey. I’m in the same room as Oprah.’ It’s moments like that that I was like 'this is crazy, how am I even here?'” Along with Hudson and Winfrey, Best also cites Audra McDonald and Heather Headley as major influences, although she’s careful about not trying to imitate them. “I'm not trying to be any of those women because those women already exist. I can just be the best me I can be.”
Defining your own style and sense of identity is one of the most important pieces of advice Best offers to any other young, aspiring performer. “Learn as much as you can and trust the talent that you have,” says Best. “The hardest thing is putting yourself out there for auditions and possibly getting 'no's.' I don't like to think of them as 'no,' because making a show or casting a musical is a puzzle. Sometimes you may just not be the right puzzle piece. That doesn't mean you're not talented or you're not good enough. Be yourself, work hard, know your advantages and disadvantages and keep working as hard as you can.” Looking ahead, Best wants to branch out into acting and releasing her own original music, while still maintaining her musical theater career. “I'd love to do something that's never been done before so that I can be the Heather Headley to someone else.”
Don't Miss Les Misérables in Springfield, MO
The support of her family, experience honed through Shakespeare and musical theater, inspiration from seasoned performers and her own passion for the arts is clear in the confidence and poise that Best exudes—whether in a casual conversation about her career or in her earnest, soulful performance as Éponine on the stage. You can see a short preview of Best’s vocal talents here, along with some extra insight into her personal experience in this video. To get the full experience, order your tickets for Les Misérables at Juanita K. Hammons Hall now.