Stevie Heptig, dancer and world explorer

(Credit: Sarah Banch)

Editor’s Note: They are leaders. They are inspirational. They are mentors. They are visionaries. They are, quite frankly, badasses. They are our 2020 REEL WOMEN. During Women’s History Month, you will be able to meet these incredible personalities in Advertising, Entertainment, Media and Production. Get ready, they are making “Herstory”

This Reel Woman has a pretty cool name. Stevie. Like Wonder. But this Wonder Woman’s last name is Heptig. Stevie Heptig is a talented dancer/singer/actress from a small farm town in Kansas. At 19, she left University to move to Las Vegas and attend the brand new Theatre Arts Preparatory School.

After Vegas, Stevie booked her first contract in an A Cappella Rock Show in the Dominican Republic. Eight months later, she made the decision to move to New York with 1 suitcase, and crashed on her friends couch for 2 months while auditioning every day.

Since then, Stevie has danced, sang and acted her way through cruise ships, New York City, in Germany, and Miami. Stevie’s jobs have ranged from a dancer in a production, to actress in a web Series and short films. Al the while, demonstrating the character and passion that’s needed to make it in the industry.

Let’s meet the woman who is dancing her way around the world – Stevie Heptig. 

What Did You Originally Want to be When You Grow Up? I have always wanted to dance, ever since I was 2-years-old and watching my brother in his dance class. It holds a special place in my heart.  But I was also really good in school, and I was set on getting a college degree. I loved learning, about everything. In junior year of high school, I decided I wanted to become a Veterinarian.

So, I signed up for Work Study senior year, at the Winfield Veterinary Hospital. I worked there for a year and a half, and then applied to two schools for the pre-vet program; I was accepted to both and deciding on roommates, looking at where I could keep dancing while at either college…..until I visited NYC in June…a month after graduation. After this trip, I completely changed my entire course of action for my future…

How Did You Get into Dance? Sixteen years of dance competitions, classes, costume fees, recitals, picture days, long hours after school, and lots and lots of money! I’m thankful for them every single day.

My intro into the professional artist world didn’t come until I was 19; just having moved away from Kansas, to Sin City Las Vegas, and had been accepted into the brand new Theatre Arts Preparatory School. I believe I learned who I was at that school, who I wanted to be, the type of performer and worker I strived to be, and so much about the industry itself.

Not just dancing, but singing and acting, as well as the marketing side and behind the scenes of the Performing Arts Industry.

Who Were Your Mentors? My mentors have changed throughout my life; the mentors I have now, I didn’t have when I was younger. I’ll talk about two of my main ones.

First, Don Mirault. The legend himself. I met him through dance competitions, and then he opened TAPS (the school I attended in Las Vegas). Without him and his vision for the school, as well as what he saw in me, I don’t believe I’d be where I am today. He pushed me to my limits, helped me set goals and dreams so high and bright, and then gave me the necessary tools I’d need to reach those goals, as well as believing in me and helping me to believe I can do it as well.

Another amazing mentor is Maria Kent. My Showgirl Mama. I met her in Las Vegas right before my very first gig ever. This woman has taught me too many things to count: How to do Showgirl Makeup and wear a backpack and headdress, How to make costumes, How to run a business, I could go on and on. But most importantly, she has opened so many doors for me. She is the type of person that helps others, regardless of if it benefits her or not. If she sees something you might be fit for, she sends it your way immediately.

The number of jobs I’ve ended up booking, that have then led to bigger jobs, just because she sent them my way and opened the door for me, is astonishing! She has her own entertainment company. She’s one of the hardest workers I know. And most of all, even in the hardest of times in this grueling industry, she’s still the most genuine human I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing.

Name Your Biggest Achievement Making the decision to dropout of college and move to Las Vegas at 19, to attend a school that had just opened. Best decision I have ever made.

As you can probably guess, many people doubted that decision, even myself. I was finishing up my freshman year at Friends University. I had a major in dance with the Friends University Ballet Program, and a minor in Philosophy, and I had enough scholarships/financial aid that I could go to school the next year for only about $200 a semester.

I had made some really close friends, set up a life there, and loved college, even if it was a private school that I had decided to go to last minute, because I changed my mind so late in the summer from “I want to be a Veterinarian at KSU” to “Oh hey, I think I want to dance. Where can I at least dance every day.”

I moved to Las Vegas in September, of what would have been my sophomore year of college, and 6 months later I had completed the conservatory style program at TAPS. In 6 months, I learned how to navigate the business, my dance skills improved exponentially, my singing skills and repertoire grew, I learned I loved acting and being behind a camera just as much as I loved being on stage, and I learned how to navigate dancing for six hours, then going to work a retail job for five hours, and working out in the gym all in one day. I lived in a city full of art and craziness and hustle.

I believe that’s where my career really started, all because of one decision.

ALSO READ: Cloé Bailly, Writer and Director

Biggest Disappointment My biggest disappointment was also my biggest learning moment. I jumped into a job before knowing enough about it, or about the person(s) in it. I ended up getting myself into a very sticky situation just because I was so hungry for work, and for the possibility of seeing a new place.

I let the excitement get in the way of the red flags, and the details in the fine print. Two months, a ton of money lost, about six flights, and three friends’ couches later, I realized this was not a good situation. Luckily, I had great help from my parents, my mentors, and other necessary professionals.  I got out of the situation, but not without some backlash, and a lot of stress.

Lesson Learned: Don’t jump into anything too quickly. Take your time, read through the contract, have a mentor read it too if you’re unsure. At the end of the day, everyone will be happier because of that.

Name Your Biggest Pet Peeves The ones who only want the shortcuts to success, who don’t want to put in as much work but still want that job. The hard grueling work is what makes booking the job so worth it!

People who only help others, if it benefits them somehow. This industry is tough already. Let’s stick together and help each other whenever we can!

People who try to belittle you, or make you feel small. You are not small. You are fantastic.

And gum smacking. Oh man.

Predictions for Dance over the Next Decade I actually believe we are headed in a great direction for not only the dance industry, but for performers. I feel like dancers are getting more and more exposure and praise.

The rest of the world is finally starting to realize how much work goes into being a professional dancer, and how little we have been paid or recognized for that work, sadly.

Things are changing slowly, and the future looks bright! I hope the rest of the industry continues to thrive as well. I believe as long as we stick together, as a performer family, then we can fight the road bumps and the struggles ahead.

Name a Job You Had that Would Surprise People Probably the very first contract I ever booked. I was 20, just finished TAPS a few months prior, and barely scraping by in Las Vegas. I have grown up dancing, but have sung in choir and in my school’s A Cappella and Viking Voices select singing groups.

I’ve always loved singing, but I considered myself a dancer who could sing. Not a singer/dancer.

Especially for a 20-year-old dancer from Kansas who’d never left the U.S.A. That contract introduced me to some amazing humans, who then introduced me to friends I’d later on have as roommates and family. It pushed me both in my craft, as well as my patience. And it dipped my toe into the world of overseas contracts, which lit a fire that has been burning so strong ever since.

My first contract was a singing contract – an A Cappella Rock Show that toured resorts in the Dominican Republic for 6 months. I was one of 5 singers (3 boys, 2 girls) each holding their own in a 5 part harmony. I had 2 solos and I helped with choreography. It was a DREAM!

Which Marvel or DC Superhero Would You Play? I would LOVE to be the Black Widow. A badass woman who can hold her own, take on eight men at a time and whoop all of them, has great hair and a rockin’ outfit always, and who is so intelligent with a strong head on her shoulders; and obviously gets to be played by Scarlett Johansson. Goals.

Do You Talk to Yourself? Yeah, all the time. In the mirror, when I’m cleaning, when I’m making lists, when I’m choreographing something, when I’m practicing something, when I’m mad at myself, when I’m encouraging myself. 

No shame. I talk to myself a whole lot. Part of me thinks it’s because I have so many thoughts circling around in my head, sometimes I just need to hear them out loud. Is it weird? Maybe… Does it help? Absolutely.

What do You Wish You had More Time for? I wish I had more time to see my family… to fly home for a week and be with my parents and my brothers, and to hang out with my nephews. That’s one really hard thing about this gypsy traveling performer life… it tends to get lonely sometimes, and the cities where all the work is, are usually not where your family is.

But, you go where the work goes. Whether it be New York, LA, Las Vegas, France, Germany, Morocco… The hardest part is that if I want to go home, I have to say “no” to working for that amount of time. I wish there were an easier way, but you just find ways to make it work somehow.

What Inspires You to be Creative? People inspire me. Creative people inspire and emit creativity onto others. I’m very blessed to have an abundance of beautifully wonderful and creative people around me. Some of the  people I have met in this industry are the hardest working, most talented, yet most humble people.

They inspire me to never stop working hard, always be humble, to help others whenever I can because someone helped me, and to create whenever possible.

Whether that’s perfecting my craft, exploring a new creative outlet like paint nights and social dancing at a salsa club, or even exploring new crafts and expanding my skills. I believe we as performers are addicted to creating and exploring, and we as dancers are addicted to moving and making art through that.

Follow Stevie:

YouTube: @stevieheptig

Instagram: @stevieheptig