Today we’d like to introduce you to Brett Karabinos.
Brett, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I am 23 years old and I currently live in Los Angeles, California. I was born and raised on the east coast in Westampton, New Jersey. It’s been quite the wild ride- and if I’m being completely honest, I never imagined myself living in LA. So, how did I get here?
Well, it all started when my parents noticed my left leg turning black and blue a few days after I was born. After getting my leg checked out, the doctors told my parents that I had something called “vascular malformation.” That essentially veins in my knee had collapsed and would transpire into a more severe case of varicose veins as I got older. Thankfully, this was not life-threatening at the time and after a few procedures and a good up-keep, I was and am currently able to live a normal life. However, the doctors from a young age advised my parents to not enroll me into any “contact” sports until I was a little older. Instead, they enrolled me in gymnastics at just three years old to keep me active. Neither one of them expected it to stick in the way it did, but I trained as a gymnast and competed in meets for about 8 or 9 years until wanting to move on to something else.
One of my best friends in school was an All-star cheerleader and asked me to come to one of her practices because she knew I could tumble. Long story short, I ended up on her team that very same night. Cheerleading just clicked. I competed as an All-Star cheerleader for about nine years in New Jersey until coming across a life-changing opportunity.
Oddly enough, I had always envisioned my life being on the East Coast and eventually ending up in New York City after high school, but the universe had a different plan. At 17 years old, two weeks after the start of my senior year, a coach from The California All-Stars (world-renowned cheerleading program) had reached out to me about a spot on the Cali Coed. They gave me about two weeks to decide whether or not I wanted to leave my family and friends to move across the country (to a place I had never been before) for this once in a lifetime opportunity. It was one of the hardest decisions I had ever made, but I knew I had to do it and; oh, how extremely grateful I am that I did. I lived with a host family for my duration of this journey, placed 3rd in the entire world twice and got to train beside some of the most talented athletes I had ever met, and then even got picked up by my dream choreography company shortly aging out of the senior age division.
After graduating high-school in San Diego, I knew that California would be my home forever. Once I started training to become Cheerleading choreographer, I also enrolled myself into the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising with dreams of pursuing Fashion Styling.
I completed my first year of FIDM in San Diego and then moved to Los Angeles in 2017 to complete my degree. During my time at FIDM, I began working for a Fashion Photographer and even got published in a few magazines as a wardrobe stylist.
Although I enjoyed my time at FIDM and loved Choreographing Cheerleading, the burning desire to dance and perform would not leave my body. Being in LA, I knew I had the resources to fulfill a childhood dream of mine to become a “back-up dancer,” except the fact that I had absolutely no training besides Cheerleading. I tried to take a class at Millennium but was discouraged by how hard my first class was. I knew that I would have to immerse myself entirely into dance training in order to transition from Cheerleader to dancer. A friend of mine told me about the Debbie Reynolds Scholarship Program (a ten months intensive commercial dance training program here in LA) and so I decided to audition. It was by far one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my life. I was thrown into a group of mostly trained dancers and was pushed to train styles of dance that were foreign to my body just about everyday. I am proud to say that despite the trials and tribulations, I persevered and completed the program. A few weeks after our final performance, I got signed by The Movement Talent Agency and have worked a few smaller jobs since then.
Today, I am focusing on immersing myself in my dance training after traveling on a three months tour doing Cheerleading Choreography. I style photoshoots as a side gig and more of a hobby and am in the process of buying a home here in the valley. I am extremely grateful for the way that my life has turned out so far. I am so blessed for the opportunities that have come my way and I plan to continue working towards my dreams one day at a time.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Smooth road? I’m not too sure there is such a thing as a completely “smooth road.” Sometimes I’ve felt like there’s been nothing but bumps in mine. Leaving home to move 3,000 miles across the country by myself at such a young age was a HUGE struggle in itself. Not only did I have to sacrifice my senior year with all of the people I had grown up with, I had to leave my family a whole year sooner than I had imagined. I felt very lonely at first and second-guessed whether or not I had made the wrong decision. I missed my family and friends tremendously and was forced to grow up a little bit sooner. However, now I can see that this was a MAJOR stepping stone in my growth.
Beyond that, I’ve come across financial hardship (as LA is one of the most expensive places in the world to live), falling in love & experiencing heartbreak (which can be crippling), constant anxiety, the fear of not being worthy enough, and all of the normal emotions that we as humans (especially throughout your 20’s) experience. Los Angeles is definitely not the easiest place to live. There is so much comparison because everyone is SO talented. I’ve struggled with self-confidence and finding groove especially in the dance industry because it is so competitive. The entertainment industry can be very superficial and that in itself can cause a lot of self-doubts.
Not to mention the pandemic that we are currently experiencing. There is a bump in the road everywhere you look! Throughout this journey, I’ve learned that nothing worth having comes easy. Life is not easy and it just keeps going. There will always be another obstacle. I believe that it is how we chose to overcome them that is so important.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I am currently a Cheerleading choreographer as well as professional commercial dancer. As a choreographer, I travel around the world giving cheerleading programs their competition routines from start to finish. I choreograph tumbling, stunts, jumps, pyramids, creative transitions and dance sections. It is my goal to leave all of my clients feeling excited and confident about the routine they are competing. I am extremely professional and never leave a job unfinished. I also offer continuous feedback and cleanups throughout the season. Because I have dance training, I believe that my choreography definitely stands out from other cheerleading choreographers. I am constantly pushing myself creatively and set out to include pieces of dance throughout each cheerleading routine.
As a dancer, I believe that my performance quality is my biggest strength. I can emote very well and always want the audience to feel whatever it is that I’m feeling in that moment. Every performance is a story, and I believe that my dancing makes it very understandable for the viewers.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
There have been a few major breakthroughs in my career thus far. One of them getting to be working with two of the biggest Cheerleading programs in the industry. Another being just about fully booked for three months traveling the world and getting paid to do what I love straight this past summer.
Getting published in magazines for fashion styling was also a very exciting moment for me. To have my name under an editorial shoot in a magazine as the Wardrobe Stylist was a huge pay off!
As a dancer, just completing the Debbie Reynolds Scholarship program was a huge accomplishment for me and then to be signed to an agency just a few weeks later was surreal. These are the moments that inspire me to continue pushing towards my goals!
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @brettkarabinos
Headshots: Lindsay Rosenberg Photography