Grad's Next Chapter Could Be a Cinderella Story

Kiana Vazquetelles with acceptance notice from Disney
Thursday, May 2, 2024
Kiana Vazquetelles heads to the Disney College Program as a character performer.

You could say that Kiana Vazquetelles owes her very existence to UNC Charlotte. Years before she entered the University as a freshman theatre major, her parents were themselves Niners. Vazquetelles’s father, Darren, played shortstop for the baseball team; her mother, Dee-Dee, cheered on the dance team. Both were psychology majors.

After graduating they married and remained in the Charlotte area, where Vazquetelles grew up a theatre kid, participating in drama clubs, school plays, and Children’s Theatre of Charlotte programs.

Photo from 1980s of Kiana's parents in cheerleader and baseball uniforms
Kiana Vazquetelles's parents are both UNC Charlotte graduates.

“I’ve always done theatre, ever since I was little,” she said, describing the productions she and her cousins would put on at family gatherings. “We would shoot them on a flip camera and make little movies.”

Vazquetelles graduates this month with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and a Minor in Communications Studies. While at UNC Charlotte she has performed in four Department of Theatre productions – most recently in Legally Blonde: The Musical in April. But she credits her work with Associate Professor of Physical Theatre Carlos Cruz as the most impactful of her education.

Kiana on a trapeze in circus arts class“He is my mentor. I have had five classes with him! Circus and acrobatics with him has been a huge thing (pictured right). Physical theatre– being able to tell a story without using your words. We did a lot of mask work. All you have are big hand movements, big body movements, your levels.”

In August, Vazquetelles will enter the Disney College Program and become a character performer. Her physical theatre training came in handy last March when she traveled to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando for auditions.

“There were about 250 who showed up just for that audition,” she said, noting that there were other auditions around the country. The first assignment was to march as in a parade.

“It went from 250 to 85 in the first cut. Next, they said, ‘We want to see you act out a day on a picnic, but something happens.’ It could be anything – a rainstorm, a dog stole your sandwich. They wanted to see us act out something really big without saying anything.”

After six hours of auditions and three weeks of waiting, Vazquetelles finally got her acceptance notice.

“I really wanted to be in entertainment at Disney, and to be a character performer was the goal.”

As she awaits her departure for Orlando, Vazquetelles will spend the summer at Charlotte’s local theme park, Carowinds, where she has performed regularly since she was 16. She’ll do five shows a day, five days a week.

Kiana V. performing in costume at Carowinds

“I always wanted to be involved in live entertainment. I just love, love theatre and live performance – getting the audience feedback.”

The Disney College Program lasts six months, with a possible extension of another six months, after which she will audition for Florida theme parks. But she sees a broad horizon of possibilities.

“In this department you get such a well-rounded education, there are just so many things you can do. I love being a writer. I love directing, too. There are so many things!”