Olivia Napolitano’s never-say-die attitude has enabled her to overcome injury and build a promising dance career
As a standout gymnast, dancer and student, Olivia Napolitano has racked up more than her share of awards and honors over the past decade.
Meanwhile, she’s been collecting some other, not-so-enviable souvenirs of her life’s journey.
“I have four pairs of crutches at home from all the different ages I was injured,” Olivia says with a chuckle.
Starting at 3, when she first took up gymnastics, Olivia has had to persevere through plenty of pain to pursue her passions. She has overcome everything from a torn Achilles to a shattered heel to a sprained wrist to “at least five” sprained ankles. Her injuries forced her to miss some big moments in her dance career, including a highly-anticipated production of “The Nutcracker” during the last winter before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“I’ve been through a lot,” says Olivia, a high school freshman from Springfield, NJ, who has modeled for Costume Gallery since she was in fifth grade. “It stinks when you can’t dance, especially when you’re someone like me who likes to be included in everything, and knowing that I couldn’t was absolutely crushing. But I just had this mindset of, ‘I’m not going to let this stop me. I’m just going to keep going,’ and I worked my way back.”
That tireless inner drive and never-say-die attitude has kept Olivia moving forward, despite every setback.
She says her past experience as a gymnast, drilling and drilling to master every movement, made her resilient and strengthened her resolve. Now, she is able to see hard times as opportunities to learn and grow.
“I’m definitely very competitive with myself because of gymnastics,” she says. “I’m always striving to get it better, because in gymnastics, they drill you until you get it right. So I kind of have that mindset with dance, which definitely separates me from other people, because I will not stop until I get it perfectly.
“I believe that working hard will get me where I need to be, so I’m going to continue to do that until it pays off, and when it pays off, it’s that much better.”
Channeling that dogged determination, Olivia found ways to work around all her injuries. She still attended dance rehearsals while she was recovering, and although she had to keep weight off her leg, she still “marked” the choreography with her arms while she observed her instructors and supported her friends. Then, once she was fully healed, she was able to hit the ground running.
“No matter what how severe your injury is, it can get better, and whether it takes two weeks or two months or six months, you’re not losing as much as you think you are,” she says. “You have so much time to grow, and I just feel like you can’t let setbacks discourage you, because there’s so much more that you can still accomplish.”
Olivia’s history of battling through adversity hasn’t just motivated her in the studio; it’s inspired her in the classroom. She is currently studying physical therapy at a vocational school, learning about anatomy and how the body functions and heals itself. She’s getting straight A’s while devoting an estimated 25 hours a week to dance rehearsals, competitions and conventions.
Olivia wants to pursue dance as long as she can, but her ultimate goal is to enter law school and become a practicing attorney.
When she’s not doing homework, Olivia spends her free time modeling costumes and promoting Costume Gallery on the web and social media as one of the CG Dazzlers, our team of brand ambassadors.
“Dance has created huge opportunities for me,” Olivia says. “I spend so much time dancing that I can’t do a high school sport, and that was sad for me at first, but I definitely feel grateful that dance is my life. I love it.”
Fortunately, Olivia has been able to stay injury-free over the past few years, and her success in dance continues to reflect her fierce work ethic. Her most recent achievement came at the Nuvo Dance Convention in Boston, where she was chosen as a Breakout Artist semifinalist, and her team was awarded first place for its group dance.
While other young dancers might consider her a role model because of the recognition she receives or the pretty pictures she posts, Olivia believes that an “influencer” sets an example with how they handle real life.
For Olivia, that means facing challenges with a positive attitude and refusing to give up.
“I believe it’s showing the true you and trying to help others,” Olivia says. “I don't like thinking of an influencer as, like, a perfect person that everyone tries to be. I think of it like being someone that I can relate to or aspire to be, but they’re not perfect. It's showing your imperfections to help others get through their imperfections, knowing that it's OK to have them, and knowing that you can overcome your struggles. Watching other people overcome their struggles is helpful, like, ‘If she can do it, I can do it. We can all power through.’”
Costume Gallery would like to thank Olivia and all the CG Dazzlers for devoting their time and talents to promoting our brand. Stay tuned to our blog for more inspiring stories from the world of dance, and while you’re here, browse through our incredible selection of costumes for dance recitals, dance competitions, and spring and summer parades.