ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Marija Abney, Dance Class of 2003
Marija Juliette Abney, a Columbia, South Carolina native, is a 2003 graduate of the S.C. Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities Dance program. Most recently, Abney was seen as a member of the Dora Milaje, Wakanda’s all female elite military force, in Black Panther and will soon reprise her role in Avengers: Infinity War and the final installment of Avengers to be released in 2019.
- Where were you born? Columbia, South Carolina. I grew up in Irmo.
- What one thing really makes your day? Bubbles. I love bubbles, especially the giant ones!
- What is your most marked characteristic? My drive.
- Do people ever say you look like a celebrity? Which one? Yes, one that’s not worth mentioning. It’s just because of my bald head.
- Are you an introvert or an extrovert? I’m a bit in between. It takes me a while to warm up to new people. But with my tribe, definitely an extrovert.
- What is your favorite movie? Up. The Incredibles. Wall-E.
- Is your desk messy or neat? Messy. My dorm room was a disaster in high school.
- What was your first job? Taught baby ballet to 3-year-olds in middle school.
- What is your pet peeve? Men telling me what to do. I’m a grown woman...SIT DOWN SIR.
- What is your favorite thing about Greenville? Memories of my grandmother. We used to have Sunday picnics at Reedy River Falls Park after church—mac and cheese, cornbread and all.
- What was your first car? “Little Blue.” Electric blue Honda Civic that I bought when I was 21.
- What book is on your nightstand? Tarell McCraney’s Brother/Sister Plays.
- What is your favorite comfort food? Grits done right.
- What is your idea of a dream vacation? Tour of Southeast Asia. The landscape, the food, contrast of rural versus urban.
- What is your most extravagant indulgence? Not into brands, I like what I like. Maybe a pair of $200 shoes for a premiere. They’re AMAZING and I wear them all the time!
- What store would you choose to max out your credit card? I’m afraid of credit cards, never had one. The idea of maxing one out terrifies me.
- What is the “coolest” Govie experience you have ever had? End of the semester food fight with my roommates and RA. There was ketchup and mustard everywhere!
- What is your favorite thing to cook? Sunday morning breakfast. Blueberry pancakes and cheese eggs.
- What is one thing people would never guess about you? I lacked confidence as a freshman at SCGSAH, to the point where I wouldn’t look anyone in the eyes.
- How did you meet your spouse/partner? Aren’t we being a bit presumptuous in assuming I have one? LOL, I met my partner at work.
- What advice would you give to a current Govie? Don’t let anyone’s expectations define you as a person or an artist. Be fearless.
- What type of music do you most enjoy? Marvin. Aretha. Al. Oooo and Tina.
- Are you a good dancer? I hope so because I do it professionally. And I do love a night spent getting sweaty on the dance floor.
- Do you prefer the mountains or the beach? Both but I’m not fond of the cold. So it’s gotta be tropical or desert mountains.
- What are your hobbies? I sometimes like to garden, but my green thumb is brown...
- Have you ever met a famous person? Who? Yeah, been fortunate enough to work with and perform for a few. Oprah is really nice.
- What was your last vacation? New Orleans. I loved that city!!!
- If you could invite five people, living or dead, to dinner, who would it be? Eartha Kitt, my grandfather, my partner, Dominique Morisseau, and Malcolm X.
- What do you miss most about SCGSAH? I had amazing friends and roommates senior year. I’ll always be grateful for Mrs. McKnight, Mr. Butler, and Ms. Schantz!
- What #hashtag best describes you? #strongissexy.
- On what television show would you most like to be a character/ contestant? A political drama that challenges the perception of black women in this country.
- If you could have any superpower which would it be? The power to morph into anything or anyone at anytime throughout history.
- How did your Governor’s School experience and education impact you? My academic experience at SCGSAH introduced me to critical thinking. It let me know that the world was far more than I’d seen or experienced growing up in South Carolina. I was this shapely, black, classically trained dancer who didn’t really have a place in the dance program then and didn’t really have a place in the world I knew. I began to rebel against tradition a bit. I began to find my voice.
Marija Juliette Abney received her BFA from The Ailey School/Fordham University, her MA from NYU’s TISCH in performance studies and is an alumni of The William Esper Studio’s Two Year Meisner Training Program. She was featured as “The Cheetah” in Disney’s The Lion King, performed in FOX Searchlight’s Black Nativity, and Broadway’s After Midnight, which won a TONY award for best choreography. Additional theater credits include: New York City Opera’s final production of Anna Nicole, Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You, and In Your Arms at San Diego’s Old Globe Theater. Film/tv credits include: Luke Cage, Isn’t It Romantic, The TONY Awards, Dancing with the Stars, The Tick, The Latin Grammy Awards, and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. She recently joined the Marvel Comic Universe as a member of the Dora Milaje, Wakanda’s all female elite military force, in Black Panther and will reprise her role in Avengers: Infinity War and the final installment of Avengers to be released in 2019.