Paducah Tilghman High School senior Gabrielle Copeland has found another home in performing on stage — whether it’s playing an Oompa Loompa in elementary school, or playing Little Red Riding Hood in “Into the Woods.”
“Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved to sing and when I was little — all I would tell people was ‘I’m going to be superstar. I’m going to be a pop star. I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that.’ I feel like with musical theatre — it’s perfect. I can get on a stage and sing. I can act. I can move around and express my feelings,” she said.
“Like, on a stage, it’s where I feel at home honestly.”
The 18-year-old student wants to study musical theatre or film in the future, but she’s currently still weighing her options on which college to attend. In regard to film, Copeland expressed a particular interest in screenwriting or casting, citing the importance of representation in media.
“Representation is so important to me because, as an African American girl, I sometimes feel that I’m not represented as well in the media or in film, as ... I should be,” she said. “So, I want to work in film — as in screenwriting or in casting to represent other people and people like myself who aren’t represented as much as (they) should be.”
Over the years, Copeland has taken part in productions through Market House Theatre and Paducah Tilghman, including “Willy Wonka Jr.,” “West Side Story” and “Into the Woods.” As a sophomore, she played Rosalia from “West Side Story,” which is Copeland’s favorite role so far.
Copeland, daughter of Angela and Tony Copeland of Paducah, is the Paducah Bank Teen of the Week.
Every Tuesday, The Sun publishes articles on area high school seniors who were chosen from a group of nominees for Teen of the Week recognition. Around the end of the school year, a selection committee will name one of these students as Teen of the Year, which carries a $5,000 scholarship. Another student will receive the Inspiration Award and a $1,000 scholarship.
At Paducah Tilghman, Copeland has earned a cumulative weighted GPA above 3.6. She also attended the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts program last summer at the University of Kentucky.
She’s involved with several activities and clubs in school, including the speech and debate team, student council, African American leadership club, drama club, sustainability club, Beta Club, and the Concordia and Another Shade of Blue a cappella groups.
Copeland said her passion for singing led her to different experiences, such as performing the national anthem live at a Cincinnati Reds baseball game in 2021.
“I love to perform and be in front of people but this was the first time I was in front of that many people and I was terrified,” she said.
“I was like ‘What if my voice goes out? What if it sounds bad?’ It was like ‘oh my goodness,’ and then to add onto that, my entire family was there. My mom, my dad, my brother, my grandmothers, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins — everybody came and everyone was there. After I did it, I was like ‘Oh my god, I just sang at a Major League Baseball game.”
With senior year halfway over, Copeland said it’s been “so fun,” and expressed excitement for senior traditions, such as Project Graduation.
“I’m excited because I’m ready to go out into the world and see what I can do and what I’m ready for, but at the same time, it’s like, ‘This is terrifying, like scary,’ ” she said, on graduation.
By: Kelly Farrell