Kayla Pecchioni graduated from the Youth Performing Arts School in Louisville in 2010 and learned to believe in her dreams from an early age.
She is a music theater performer best known for her groundbreaking roles in ‘The Book of Mormon’, ‘The Donna Summer Musical’ and ‘Dreamgirls’. Today Pecchioni performs on Broadway in the musical “Paradise Square”.
It’s a dream come true not only for Pecchioni but also for her mother, Deedee Cummings.
“We are so proud of her,” Cummings told The Courier Journal. “Following her dream and landing on Broadway is very much like a local high school football player who dreams of going to the NFL. It just doesn’t happen to everyone.”
The permission to dream big seems to be part of Pecchioni’s DNA or at least something her mother started to encourage at a very young age. Cummings, a mother of three, has big dreams of her own. She is a practicing therapist, a lawyer, and the founder of two nonprofit organizations that help children. She is also an award-winning author of 15 children’s books.
Her latest book series beautifully transforms the lessons and coping skills she has taught her own children and the patients she works with.
“Kayla: A Modern-Day Princess” is a series of five illustrated children’s books loosely based on her daughter’s life. Following the journey of a young black girl, they struggle like a modern-day princess trying to learn lessons in friendships, prejudice and self-confidence.
“The series is about a mother who sees how special her child is before her child can see it,” Cummings said. “And the mother never stops reminding her child how special she is.”
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It’s an important message in a world where Cummings says children — and adults — are repeatedly told that their dreams are foolish and not important.
“I remember coming home from high school without making it to the dance team and I was so disappointed and really lacked confidence,” Pecchioni recalls. “My mom worked with me all summer and encouraged me and the following year I made the team. In hindsight she saw something in me and guided me and helped me so that I wouldn’t give up and now it has become my career.”
In a similar fashion, “Kayla: A Modern-Day Princess” shows children of all races and socioeconomic levels see themselves reflected in Kayla’s life as she learns life skills. After all, Kayla is a girl with a plan and her mother taught her from an early age to always start the day with a plan because a plan gives you hope.
“It’s about a young Broadway star who won’t let anything get in the way of her dreams, the trials she’s been through, not only as a Broadway performer and as an artist, however difficult that can be, but also as a black performer,” he said. Cummings.”That comes with its own set of unique challenges.”
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In real life, while Pecchioni’s star is on the rise on Broadway, her mother also has a crush on the stage. She is working on turning the “Kayla: A Modern-Day Princess” book series into a Broadway musical.
“I have no doubt that she will achieve this. She is a powerhouse who is putting into practice what she taught us growing up,” Pecchioni told the Courier Journal. “Right now we live a parallel life. We don’t get in each other’s way, but we are certainly very proud of each other for what we pursue. My mother is an incredible source of inspiration.”
It’s a two-way feeling for this mother-daughter duo who seem to be fueled by supporting each other’s dreams.
“Our dreams are important,” Cummings said. “Our dreams make us who we are.”
Find “Kayla: A Modern Day Princess” at deedeecummings.com and Amazon.
Reach Kirby Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kirbylouisville.