Alysia Hansen #empoweredWritten

Every summer growing up, my mom, sister and I would spend a couple weeks in Boulder, CO visiting family. I looked forward to this trip all year; apart from a day hike or two up into the Rockies, every day was spent playing in my grandparents’ pool with our cousins, and most nights we’d all pile onto a huge cozy sectional and rewatch family favorites like Young Frankenstein or That Thing You Do. Whatever we were doing, I spent most waking hours inseparable from my cousin Alysia.

Every summer we’d buy new best friend necklaces, to replace the ones we had inevitably lost the year before. We were voracious readers, spending blissful hours reading in lounge chairs while the younger cousins splashed around. We could play for hours with our moms’ old Barbies, inventing fantastical stories of adventure for the dolls. We both loved ballet, and once I even got to see the last 10 minutes of her class — and that’s when I realized that we weren’t as similar as I thought. I loved ballet, but I was mediocre at best. Alysia had a gift.

Not only was Alysia a talented dancer, but she was dedicated. Before long, she was taking multiple classes a week, and she was dancing en pointe before I was — even though she’s 2 years younger. Then, one spring, I got a letter on her signature Hello Kitty stationery, with a newspaper clipping about a local Mexican folk dancing event — there was a stunning photograph of Alysia, captured in print, looking like the model for the dancing lady emoji.

Ballet was no longer her passion — instead, Alysia was spending her weekends traveling around Colorado with a Mexican folk dancing troupe. Then, on trips to visit her dad’s family in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, she started working with a dance school down there. I received all this news with admiration, but had no idea it was anything more than a passionate hobby. And then she graduated high school a year early, and moved to Zihuatanejo at 17 to enroll in an intensive Mexican folk dancing program, involving tours around Mexico, a year-long thesis, and teaching dance classes.

This was it. This was the moment she boldly leapt onto a new path, to pursue an audacious goal -- and started running like hell to make it happen.

Over the years, she’s done incredible things in her career. While still a teenager, Alysia wrote a 500-page thesis about the history of dance in Mexico. She had the “Dirty Dancing” job of entertaining and dancing with resort guests. She was accepted to The Ailey School in NYC — only to be injured within weeks of beginning the program. She then became a backup dancer, and toured with huge Latin stars like Twor Amigos and Marc Anthony. She even spent a month dancing in Japan!

Apart from being one of my oldest, most treasured friends, and my absolute favorite person to follow on Snapchat (the costumes!!), Alysia is a massive inspiration to me. Yes, she has incredible natural talent. But talent alone did not get her on stage with Marc Anthony.

It has been so inspiring seeing Alysia repeatedly take bold leaps of faith — but what I truly admire is the hard work and determination that it has taken for her to land gracefully, every time.