Tayler Harris ’18 was born in Portland, Oregon, to a musical family. Being immersed in music production, songwriting, instrumental expertise and singing sparked her passion for the arts at an early age and through the years, that spark transformed into a flame. Harris carried her love of music with her to college and received her degree in musical theatre with a minor in dance at Western Carolina University.
She attributes her growth as an artist to several faculty members, including George Brown, dean of the David Orr Belcher College of Fine and Performing Arts, Ashlee Wasmund, Claire Eye, Kristen Hedberg, Colin Wasmund, Brenda Lily and former faculty member Terrence Mann (the first “Rum Tum Tugger” from the original Broadway production of “Cats”). “I was so grateful to work with these people during my time at Western,” Harris said, “and I’m a better artist because of them.”
She hit her stride post-college, starring in several Off-Broadway productions such
as “Much Ado About Nothing” at Shakespeare in the Park, “50in50: Letter to Our Sons”
at the Billie Holliday Theatre and “Godspell”
at the Prima Theatre. When COVID-19 hit, it crushed the musical world and Harris felt the impact. But she didn’t lose hope.
“I wasn’t auditioning a lot. It was hard because I felt like I was losing time. I thought I would be here by 25, there by 26, but I knew at the end of the day what was truly meant for me wouldn’t slip through my fingers,” Harris said.
And then, she got her big break.
In 2021, Harris earned the opportunity to tour in one of Broadway’s biggest shows, “Cats,” starring as Grizabella who sings the iconic number, “Memory.”
“Memory” is a show-stopping song, one that requires powerful vocals and stage presence. Harris is the fifth African American woman to play Grizabella and has worked hard for this big moment in the spotlight.
When asked how it feels to play Grizabella, Harris said, “It truly feels amazing. I’ve been doing this for almost a year now and sometimes it doesn’t feel real. I am so grateful for the opportunity.”
With her influence as a Broadway star, Harris hopes to encourage little girls, especially African American girls who want to pursue a career on the stage. Harris’ future involves continuing to inspire others, growing even more as an artist and human being, and working with other big creatives and artists that she looks up to. Her advice?
“Don’t be afraid to take up space,” Harris said. “Take your time and trust in your skill set. At the end of the day, what is meant for you will find you. Don’t ever be afraid to be your unapologetically Black self. ... Anyone that tells you that you aren’t worthy of success is wrong.”