Changed for the Better

Changed for the Better, episode 38

Bria Manning

Bria Manning is from the movers and the shakers. She sees it, she wants it, she gets it. Back in high school, she poured her energy into the Spring Valley community as a class officer, cheerleader, and active Thespian.

She took pride in her personality plus character and thrived on engaging with people, being creative, and dancing.

Bria was perfectly at home in the dance studio, in classes, rehearsals, and performances on stage, enjoying her time as dance captain with Denishah Desroches and Emily Dowd for Footloose and The Wiz.

Lucky for me, Bria brought an extensive dance background to the studio and I was fortunate to work with her for three years before her parents moved to a neighboring school district for her senior year, where she graduated in 2014.

After high school graduation, Bria stayed local and attended St. Thomas Aquinas College, where she studied communication arts, education and art therapy for her Bachelors degree, and continued on there to get an MBA in marketing. In college, she continued her community engagement and leadership roles with a plethora of societies, including the dance team, the campus theater group, the Alpha Phi Omega sorority. She enjoys being at the forefront of wherever she is, helping to steer things in the right direction. While in college, she combined her love of dance and leadership, taking the position as coach of Clarkstown South’s Varsity Dance Team.

Her pursuit of the things that interest her has extended well into her adult life. Today, she has found her niche as a growth marketing manager for Urban Skin Rx, an inclusive skincare brand, where she combines her talents for creative digital development, building relationships and strategically building marketing campaigns. She is a lover of life and wherever she goes, she brings her signature flair of fabulous: to the workplace, to the dance studio and to the world at large.

Growing into herself

Bria hasn’t changed much since high school, save perhaps for a bit more maturity. She still has the dry sense of humor, quick wit, love a good chat and surrounds herself with good people to do so. She has also maintained her love of dance, which has also gone through a bit of a transition.

High school Bria was gung-ho about dancing on Broadway. She had big dreams and big plans about moving to New York City and pursuing the life of a performing artist.

Tasting the humble pie

When you have such a strong self-image and have decided on a specific life plan, seeing yourself in any other way doesn’t seem necessary. Unfortunately, her big dreams took a detour when she applied to colleges as a dance major and she experienced the harsh reality of rejection from those programs. In an instant, she had to shift her mental picture of what her future plans would look like.

Evaluating her other strengths—leadership, management, organization, people skills—she started to see other prospects for her future. After her studies in arts and humanities in college, she decided to continue her studies and pursue an MBA. This way, she would leave the possibility of dancing open but put herself in the position of perhaps owning her own business someday. As she examined what else she could do, she took on the high school dance team coaching position, where she was able to dance and choreograph while honing her leadership skills. It was a difficult mental shift, from performer to choreographer, but it unlocked a new set of future options.

If she could go back, look her adolescent self in the eye, and talk to her from her more mature perspective, she would say this:

Humble yourself. It’s not about you. The boy that you loved, the girl you thought was your best friend, they’re not going to stick around and you have to realize that. Look at them as a person and stick to who you are as a person.

Being accountable

In the dance studio, she learned some important lessons that helped to ground her. Time management was one (I was never on time for anything – you know that) and back then, she was quite the chatterbox. Through the daily work we did together, she realized that she needed to take accountability for herself and correct the otherwise less-than-acceptable behaviors that were counter-productive to progress.

Being an active part of the Thespians and dance community was very important to Bria, and her mom knew it. One way she was able to keep Bria organized and consistent in keeping her grades up was leveraging the activities that were so meaningful to her. If her grades slipped, she was out, no questions asked. As she was navigating her early experiences, Bria also benefitted by learning how to persevere when things didn’t go her way and work harder to develop the skills she needed to be cast in shows.

I remember crying my freshman year because I didn’t get a role and my mom was like, ‘what are you going to do about it? You’ve got to just keep trying.’ I think I would have cried and never tried out again if the seniors [didn’t say] ‘you don’t get something right away, you have to work at it, keep coming.’

Climbing out of her shell

Shockingly, Bria was painfully shy as a child.

In pre-school, I had a concert and I had to wear sunglasses because I was afraid of seeing people and them seeing me.

That shyness flipped in high school: the indignity of having your mother marching into the school to fight your battles was the catalyst for finding her own voice. Thespians was also a big part of that awakening; in order to do the thing she was so passionate about, she had to break out of her protective shell. In her sophomore year, we were doing Footloose. Bria and Denishah Desroches both had their sights set on Dance Captain, which had been assigned to Tendrina Alexandre. But during that show, Tendrina was also responsible for the lead role of Ariel. Knowing this, Bria and Denishah happily offered to sub in whenever she needed an assist.

Before she found her voice, Bria would never have been so forward in pursuing that kind of visibility. But once she found her comfort zone in Thespians, all bets were off. If she wanted it, and she had the tools to achieve it, she went after it; and she wanted to share that coveted dance captain with her friends. Bria’s tenacity paid off; her wish came true for The Wiz.

“You have to be nice”

Another important lesson she learned was the need to be good to the people around you. When she switched schools in her senior year, she joined the drama club and noted a marked difference in the tone of the community there.

Not the same at all. Everyone is a family at Thespians, always helping one another, crew and cast holding hands. When I went there, cast is not as nice to crew, looks down at them, very clique-y. I don’t think it has to be that way. Just be nice to people, be supportive of everyone.

What Bria carried with her was the maturity to understand her power, even in a new school with brand new people around her. She had developed a strength of character and self-confidence to be able to lead, calling out behaviors that she deemed inappropriate in a theater setting and teaching others that there are better, more supportive ways to relate to one another.

Valuing community

Once she found her voice, she never stopped using it. She developed a close bond with many of the kids from the classes of 2014 and 2015, and somehow, that bond has stayed tight, even though they have all gone in their own direction and matured in their own ways.

I try to take credit for this group, because I made the group chat junior year to ask what everybody was wearing to the [Thespian] final show after party. We still have this group chat, to this day.

Ten years later, they’re still chatting it up, checking in with each other and planning the next big get-together.

The family feeling that Bria experienced in Thespians stuck with her. So much so, that community is an important part of everything she does, especially in the workplace.

Even now, when I interview for different places, I’ll be like, ‘what is your community like?’ Because I’m not joining this job if you don’t talk to one another.

Life at the quarter century mark

What is Bria grappling with now?


The mid-twenties are an interesting place for young people. Technically, they are living the “adulting” life, but they are relatively new at it. They are often in a position of transition in their careers or their personal lives, and the “quarter-century crisis” is a reality for most.

Bria is employed in a flexible job that she enjoys, living on her own with her significant other. Together, they are trying to figure out what their next big move will be. This looming “next phase” is what she grapples with most: do they go for the house or remain apartment dwellers; do they stay up north (which he wants) or move down south (which she wants); how and when will family become part of the picture. Since she works remotely for Urban Skin Rx, work can happen from anywhere, but deciding where that will ultimately be in the future is up in the air.

Her remote job helps her save in commuting time and expense, but it presents another challenge: for a social butterfly like Bria, working remotely is quite lonely. There’s no water-cooler chat in between tasks or drinks after work to connect to her colleagues face to face. The connections she valued most in high school and college are less accessible now, and making new friends as an adult isn’t as fluid and welcoming a process.

What’s gotten better as an adult?


With the advent of the texting generation, quick (or non-existent) communications reigned. Grammar and punctuation were left in a ditch and Bria’s skillset of returning messages or formulating emails left something to be desired. It wasn’t until a manager from her first job out of college sat her down and gave her a crash course boot camp in how to send a proper business email. While there were growing pains, and maybe some tears in the process, but now, people consult with Bria for her email-sending expertise. Thankfully, she now values the art of responding to messages in a more timely manner.

Bria’s self-care strategies
  • Dancing. Bria lives near the same adult-dance studio as Kristen Santos-Latrenta and as they were walking home from class one day, they realized that they were both Spring Valley Thespians (such a small world!!). Bria had seen Kristen in Fame in 2009, which made her want to join our drama family. Now, they dance together all these years later. Now that Bria is dancing again, she has more energy, and she craves going outside to get away from her virtual work space. Going to the dance studio gets her the movement and social connection she craves three nights a week.
  • Drawing and Coloring. Those adult coloring books with the mandalas are very useful. She’ll take a few minutes to get away from the screen and they help her to clear her mind and focus on something simple and artistic.
  • Skin care routine. She is developing more consistency with this daily practice. Of course, working for a skin care company, she receives all sorts of products to try, so she can follow through with a morning and afternoon routine.

Sage advice for the younger set

Take your time. Really be in the moment because it goes so fast. Make time for yourself: I was always on the go, running around and I used to get sick all the time. You can't commit to everything, even if you want to. Make sure your time is valued.

Follow Bria @briathefabulous Instagram, YouTube and TikTok for her thrifting fashion inspo, travel adventures, hair journey and dance videos!

Watch the full interview – subscribe to Changed for the Better for updates when new episodes drop!

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