Marley Upp - Kansas Nomination & Photography by Jennifer Welker Photography Issue 58 of Inspiring Teens Magazine
Nomination: Marley loves butterflies, which is no coincidence as they show many similarities. From the safety of a cocoon, a butterfly emerges to discover its talents, and show its beauty. Marley grew up being quiet and cautious, as she has struggled with anxiety. Eventually, she discovered art to help ground herself and find peace. Art provides an outlet to help break through her cocoon and inspire many of those around her through drawing, painting, and even fighting fears to dance competitively on stage. Butterflies have become a symbol of Marley’s journey, even inspiring her to pursue her dream career in design.
Artwork by Marley
Tell us about your artwork. What do you like to draw and paint? I enjoy doing all types of art! Most of my inspiration is from nature, but my favorite things to draw are butterflies, flowers, and eyes. In addition, my mood affects my artwork because I channel my emotions into my pieces. It is usually detailed but simplistic because I find comfort in perfecting each line.
Tell us about a favorite piece you created. We'd love to see a picture of it too! My favorite piece I’ve created is a large butterfly painting. It was my first time attempting to paint on a larger canvas, so it took significantly longer than most other pieces. But it was so fun to create, and I love that it includes my favorite thing in nature! I was newer to painting at the time, so this painting also helped me to learn new techniques.
What do you listen to while you create? My mood usually determines what I listen to while I create, but I typically listen to a playlist of my favorite calm songs to relax, enjoy, and get out of my head. Occasionally, I will also play my favorite show (Gilmore Girls) at low volume in the background as a form of comfort or inspiration.
Photography by Jennifer Welker Photography
What inspiring things about you does your nomination not cover? Along with overcoming anxiety through art, I’ve learned to love working with kids. Four years ago, I started teaching younger dancers at my studio. At the time, I did this to gain job experience and learn leadership. Over time, it showed me how many people I could inspire and how good it felt to do so. Teaching is challenging, especially for someone who is naturally shy, but being able to share my knowledge and passion for dance makes it worthwhile. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to be a role model for these young girls and to continue inspiring them.
What is your favorite part about working with kids? One of my goals has always been to impact another person’s life. After years of working with kids, my favorite part has become making an impact on their lives - even if it’s small. I love when a student at my dance studio comes in and is excited to tell me something new about their life because it means that they know I’ll listen and care. I feel connected with them. I also love when the kids tell me the most random and funny things. I never fail to have a good laugh with them.
What have you learned about your leadership style through this? I have learned that I prefer leading by understanding and relating. When I get to know people personally, it helps me relate to any struggles they have. They can recognize me as both a leader and a friend, which I think gains more respect. I like being an approachable leader but also one that teaches and gives advice when needed.
What is your strongest leadership quality? My strongest leadership qualities are kindness and patience. Both qualities are essential for any leader to embody and even more for leaders of children. Treating all people with kindness is a priority because you never know when someone is having a bad day, and everyone makes mistakes. Along with this comes patience, which I have taught myself to gain more of through my years of leadership positions.
Photography by Jennifer Welker Photography
Tell us more about your dance career. I started dancing at two years old to see if I would like it. In the beginning, I loved dancing, but the performance was rough because I was scared. During my first recital routine, I even refused to dance on stage! However, as time went on, I grew to love performing and eventually joined the competition team. I am starting my sixth and last year on the competition team this year. Being at the same studio for fifteen years, I have had a long journey, so I am trying to cherish my last year and make it my best!
What types of dances do you study and which is your favorite? Numerous styles of dance are taught at our studio; some are required, while others are encouraged to explore. I mainly practice ballet, jazz, tap, and contemporary, but I enjoy learning new styles when possible. I have two favorite styles; I like to study one and perform the other. I love studying ballet because of the intricate details and how the dancer must master the art of being graceful while in difficult body positions. My favorite style to perform is contemporary because I can put my emotions behind it and release myself into the dance.
What has dance taught you? Dance is a unique art form because it expresses emotions or a story using no words. It has taught me the values of hard work and determination, and it has given me the ability to hold myself accountable at a very young age. A dance teacher not only instructs students but teaches them to be successful adults later in life. I truly believe I would be a completely different person if not for the education I received from years of dance.
How did you find and why did you choose Jennifer Welker Photography as your photographer? We have many common friends with Jennifer Welker that had also used her as their photographer. We were impressed with her work after looking at her Instagram and her website examples of other senior shoots, so we decided to book my senior session with her.
What was your experience like? What did you love most about it? My experience was very good. Everything went super smoothly and my expectations for the outfits and locations achieved even better results than I expected. Jennifer was also very helpful with inspirational poses throughout the session that she had pre-planned. My favorite part was getting to see the pretty fields and hills come to life in the pictures!
What are you looking forward to most for your senior year? I am most looking forward to making lots of memories in school and in my activities. I have had some of the same friends all throughout my school years, so I am excited to have one last year with them and pass another milestone together. Lastly, I’m looking forward to spending time with my family and making every moment count.
What will you miss most about high school? I will miss having the support system that I was provided with in high school. While living at home and attending high school, I have my parents and many adults and teachers that can support and help me. It will be difficult for me to have less of that support system in college. I will also miss my friends very much, but I am excited to meet new people and form new friendships in the future.
What are your plans for after graduation? I plan to attend college and major in either architecture or graphic design. I will further my artistic knowledge and use it in my future career. I would also love to study abroad at some point to see a little bit more of the world and learn from different people. Although I am not completely decided on a major, I plan on pursuing the path that is the most rewarding and makes me happiest.
If you were to present a topic to a group of your peers, what would it be? A topic I’m passionate about is the importance of kindness to all. Currently, mental illness is a common issue. Many teens suffer from some sort of mental health issue whether that be anxiety, depression, or any other challenge. Considering this, I make it my daily goal to spread kindness and support. I always try to show kindness to anyone I meet because I want to leave a positive impact on my community. Although I may not be able to cure someone’s mental illness, the best thing I can do is make them feel understood and bring joy to their day.
Look for Marley in issue 58 of Inspiring Teens Magazine!