Hi everyone, it’s Zainab! Welcome or welcome back to Zainab Chats! I am super excited for this post today as it’s been in the works for a long time and I’m so excited to finally be able to share it!
I’ve been privileged enough to interview Alexandra Chaves! You may know her as Piper from the popular TV show: The Next Step! It’s going to be a long post so get comfortable.
We’re talking The Next Step, activism, spreading positivity and more, so let’s jump into it!
1) Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed Alex! Just for anybody who doesn’t know you already maybe share a little bit about who you are and what you do!
Hello and thank you for having me, Zainab! I am a nineteen year old actor and dancer, with a passion for performing and storytelling. Readers may know me as ‘Piper’ from the television show, ‘The Next Step’, which airs on CBBC, CBC, Family Channel and other networks around the world. I am grateful for the opportunity the show has given me to explore my passion for acting and dancing. I look forward to continuing to explore my interests in advocacy and girls’ rights, film, health and mindset, which I share on my social media platforms (@alexandrachaves).
2) You’ve talked a lot previously about how your character Piper on The Next Step relates a lot to yourself! Especially in terms of both of you being able to take initiative and standing up for what’s right! How did your interest spark in social justice and activism?
Yes! Piper and I share a lot of similarities and, since I first joined the cast in 2015, I have been inspired by Piper’s initiative and drive to speak out about her passions and her feelings. However, before the role, I already knew that social justice and advocacy were important to me. In elementary school, I was involved in our social justice group, where we held regular meetings to discuss social justice issues and how we could make a difference in our community. My natural progression was to continue to find ways to explore advocacy in my career!
3) Throughout all of your social media platforms (especially Instagram) you talk a lot about staying positive and happy during these times which isn’t easy. What makes you want to be almost sort of a ‘big sister’ figure for your followers and help with wellbeing and mental health?
Thank you for your kind words! I think it’s important to recognise that with positivity, I am not trying to suppress or invalidate the wide range of emotions we all experience. Instead, I acknowledge my feelings and make efforts to be kind and gentle to myself, especially during these times! ‘Hustle culture’ and the idea of ‘perfectionism’ is so overrated and will leave you feeling burnt out (trust me!). I wish I had more role models when I was younger that helped to give me confidence and make me realise that I don’t have to fit into society’s unrealistic expectations of being ‘perfect’ or living the ideal life. After letting go of this myself, my voice on Instagram has changed, too! For example, I have naturally started sharing quotes, stories and wellness habits that have helped me let go of perfectionism and enjoy the present moment. It is forever a work in progress, but I am grateful for the community I have online and how so many like minded individuals are on this journey with me!
4) Another thing I’ve seen you do during the lockdown is that you’ve become a Youth Ambassador for Plan Canada which helps campaign for equality rights, you’ve done a lot of campaigns such as preventing girls getting bullied on social media, what made you decide to start working with the organisation and do you have any other campaigns with them coming soon?
As a member of my social justice group in elementary school, I was able to learn about issues that are important to me and how to take action. My interest in these issues only grew as I entered high school. However, with my acting career, I had to do online classes for most of my high school years. I missed out on having a community to share my passion for social justice and gender equality. As my Instagram platform grew, I wanted to find and create that community in my online presence. Consequently, I did research to find an organization I could work with that mirrored my values. This led me to contact Plan International Canada, which is a non-profit organization focussing on gender equality and girls’ rights. I am very grateful to be a Youth Ambassador and to help spread the word about important issues facing girls’ and womens’ rights, and to help amplify the important work they are doing to help girls reach their full potential. I regularly attend Plan Canada’s ‘Speaker’s Bureau’ meetings, where like-minded and driven youth meet virtually to discuss barriers facing gender equality. My passion for social justice and activism has just scratched the surface! There is so much more for me to learn and so much work that must be done, but it excites me! I am very grateful for the community I have with Plan Canada and on social media. These voices give me hope for the future and inspire me to pursue activism throughout my career.
5) You’re currently in Canada right now, what is the situation in terms of the pandemic like there? What have you been doing to keep yourself busy as well as productive, I’ve noticed from social media you’ve been doing things like working out!
Where I currently live, we are in a lockdown with stay-at-home orders. It has been difficult, but I am fortunate to be living with my family and I am able to audition and work from home. I haven’t spoken much about this, but I am currently doing some extra school courses like calculus and chemistry, that I did not have time to commit to in the past. I am a lifetime learner and I am really enjoying the structure and knowledge that those classes provide! Virtual acting and dance classes have also been so therapeutic for me. My Mom is my inspiration, and has been motivating me during our at-home workouts, which include Pilates, strength training, yoga and daily walks. The pandemic has really allowed me to really listen to my body, so I am enjoying finding workouts that I enjoy and finding new recipes that fuel me!
6) Now I want to talk a little bit about your acting career. You play Piper on The Next Step, how did you manage to book such a huge role and get into acting?
I have been dancing since I was three years old, so being on stage and performing was second nature! It was only when I was unable to dance due to a heart condition diagnosis, did I find acting as another outlet to explore storytelling and creativity. I had been acting for a few years prior to ‘The Next Step’ and the training and audition experiences helped me when I received an audition from my agent for the show. The audition process included dancing freestyle and choreography, as well as improvised acting. I remember being stunned that I had gotten past the first cut of the audition. There were so many incredibly talented artists in that room! After the final callbacks, I hadn’t heard anything from my agent for a few weeks, so I assumed I did not book the role. However, I later received a vague email saying I would have a few days on set. It was only at the first rehearsal did I learn that I would be on A-Troupe! That was one of the best days of my life! I am so grateful for all that I have learned from The Next Step and its incredible cast and crew.
7) After you booked the role, how did your life change, and for anybody who wants to go into acting, what advice would you give them to prepare for the changes such as rejection, balancing school and more?
After booking ‘The Next Step’ and working on that set, it made me realize that I want to pursue a career in acting and it has given me the experience and confidence to continue to explore my creativity in this industry. The support and comfort from The Next Step crew allowed me to grow as an actor, as well as a person. For anyone who wants to get into acting, I think it’s important to challenge yourself in new ways that help you to grow. For example, deciding to take an acting class that originally intimidated me, ended up being an experience full of growth and inspiration. Often, it is when you go outside of your comfort zone and challenge yourself in new ways, that you grow as a performer and open yourself up to even greater opportunities! I also encourage young artists to explore their creativity, whether that be learning new aspects of the film industry, taking up different hobbies, learning something new, etc. All of those skills and experiences can be so useful as an actor and help us to expand our view of the world!
Regarding rejection, it is something with which I still struggle. However, I have found ways to constructively work through these thoughts. Unfortunately, rejection is a regular part of the industry. However, what I have learned is that staying true to yourself and trusting your unique personality, interpretations and skills is so valuable and will eventually guide you toward the opportunities that are meant for you. I think it is also important to pursue acting for the right reasons. I have fallen in love with the process and I am thoroughly enjoying diving into characters and script analysis. Having become passionate about the craft and its mechanics, I can more easily accept the challenging parts of the career… like rejection.
I grew up balancing my academics with competitive dancing; building time management skills in the process. For those that may be in a similar situation, I encourage you to be diligent with keeping track of your calendar and to-do’s. I practice prioritisation by keeping a colour-coded to-do list to rank the prioritisation of each task. For example, homework, script analysis and preparation for auditions, along with dance training and fitness are the greatest priority. But often, among those, I have to delegate which must be prioritised for the given time I have. On the contrary, I also encourage those balancing school and extracurricular to enjoy the freedom and creativity that dancing, acting, etc provides. Despite my organised schedule, once I am in the dance studio or in front of the camera, it all fades away and I am able to enjoy the present moment. Remember to remind yourself why you started in the first place and why you are doing what you are doing! This helps me stay motivated and in the present moment.
8) My final question for you is anybody who is struggling emotionally or mentally during these difficult times, what advice could you give to them to ease back into a positive mindset and become a bit more happy?
A habit that has really helped me during these times is to journal nightly. I reflect back on what I did that day, no matter how big or small. I note the little things that made me smile throughout the day, or something I did that made me proud. It is also nice to look back on my entries to realize and appreciate what I have accomplished (even the small things are wins!) and all the moments of happiness I have experienced during this time.
I also am very grateful for my friends, who have made me feel less lonely during these isolated times. Booking regular calls with them creates something to look forward to during the week, and help me stay connected. I encourage those struggling to check in on friends and family. They probably need someone to talk to just as much as you do!
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