As a student, LaTarika Pierce ’15 would spend afternoon and nights on the second floor of Sprague Library. It was her favorite spot. From there, she had the perfect view of New York City, where she one day hoped to work. After graduating from Montclair State with a degree in Business Administration and a minor in Dance, LaTarika was able to take on job opportunities in her dream location.
A professional performer, LaTarika landed roles in musicals such as Beauty and the Beast, performed as a backup dancer for an up and coming pop artist, performed for the Saks Fifth Avenue Theater of Dreams window unveiling and is now taking on her biggest role yet. She is currently a Rockette in the 2019 The Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
“I consider becoming a Rockette to be my greatest professional accomplishment,” she says. “I spent years auditioning and training, and my persistence has paid off.” Having auditioned for the role since 2014, this achievement was a dream come true.
Since a young age, LaTarika always knew that she wanted to be a performer. She initially began her college career at Montclair State as a Dance major, but switched to Business Administration in her sophomore year. With a passion for performing, it wasn’t an easy decision.
Like many other Red Hawks, she recalls one particular professor who left an impact on her academic and professional life. “Once I switched my major from dance to business, Professor Karen Gayle was curious as to why,” she says. “She didn’t judge but continued to push me to be my best.” LaTarika is grateful for Professors Gayle’s guidance. As she puts it, “she always believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.”
It was after an experience as an intern for a fragrance company during her junior year that she realized that she didn’t want to pursue a career in business. She was determined to follow her heart and return to her performing roots.
LaTarika threw herself into her love of dance, participating in a work-study program at Steps on Broadway, a dance studio in New York, in order to take dance classes at a discounted rate. Luckily, she knew three professors that worked for the company and helped her land the position.
“My experiences at Montclair State have helped me make numerous connections that lead me to performance opportunities and jobs,” she says. After graduation, LaTarika was offered a part-time position with the same company which allowed her to pursue performing while working at the same time.
Reflecting on her experience, she wishes to give students one simple but important piece of advice. “Be brave! You can do anything you put your mind and heart to,” she advises.