NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Desi Oakley may not be a household name yet, but she is very well known within the tight-knit Broadway community as a beautiful singer, but she is also a gifted teacher with a special ability to bring out each student's unique qualities while giving them the full benefits of her experience.
Oakley made her Broadway debut in "Wicked" shortly after her college graduation, and she has worked steadily ever since. She played Roxie in "Chicago" on Broadway and a "Waitress" on stage in London. She likes to say she is, "just a Kansas girl with a dream that came true."
She credits her mentors with setting her up for success in a very tough profession, and now she is determined to give back what she was given.
"Mentoring is so important to me," she said. "Because I, I wouldn't be where I am unless someone mentored me. I had a handful of people, important people, mentors in my life saying 'don't give up!'"
Oakley was selected to mentor the best high school performers who come to New York City for The Jimmy Awards each June. Eyewitness News Entertainment Reporter Sandy Kenyon caught up with her at a Broadway Plus workshop.
"So much of where I come from, from a mentor standpoint is encouragement," Oakley said.
Something that is so important in an industry where rejection is the norm. One of her students, Margo Grom, said the business is often stressful.
"It's often intimidating, and Desi makes everybody feel like they're welcome, and like they belong there," Grom said.
Oakley urges her students to play to their strengths.
"Sharing with people what I wish I'd learned," Oakley said. "What I wish I'd been told, what I wish I could've believed."
She tells them to work hard because they're worth it, and then she showed them how to work a crowd.
"It's all about connection," she said. "If you're not connected there's no point."
Students praise her energy and her respect for those she teaches.
"It is so fulfilling for me and so life-giving for me," Oakley told Kenyon. "And I think the way that I was mentored has so much to do with that."
Every young person in any field of interest can benefit from having a mentor. The late Priscilla Morgan opened the world of show business and the arts to me.
CNN Chief Washington Anchor Bernard Shaw, who passed away last month, showed what it meant to be a great journalist.
I feel blessed to have had their wisdom and remain forever grateful for their insight and inspiration.
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