Much of Tetona Jackson’s life has evolved around dancing, singing and skating.
It’s therefore natural that her career goal would include at least one of these performing arts.
“I believe that I was meant to perform,” Jackson, Disney’s first Black Princess, told Share last week. “To be honest, I don’t know what I am going to do when this tour ends. But I want to go back to school and do something that will incorporate what I have done most of my life.”
The California-born artist plays Princess Tiana in the Disney on Ice production, Let’s Celebrate, which will be in Toronto from March 7-10. The eight-performance production features more than 50 characters from 16 Disney stories live on ice.
“I am looking forward to coming back to Toronto,” said Jackson who visited the city for the first time in December 2007 when she skated the role of Taylor McKessie in Disney’s High School Musical, The Ice Tour at the Rogers Centre. “I enjoyed everything about the city which is quite different from where I am from in West Los Angeles.”
The 20-year-old Jackson, whose favourite Disney characters while growing up were The Lion King and Pocahontas, said she was excited to be cast in the role of Tiana.
“Tiana is a fun character and I enjoy playing her,” she said. “She’s an outgoing, strong and independent woman and our personalities are similar. On the other hand, I put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect in playing the character because I wanted it to be believable. I watched bits and pieces of the movie to get to know her.
The Princess and the Frog, featuring Tiana as the main character, opened in American theatres last November.
Tiana juggles three jobs to save money to buy a restaurant in New Orleans. Her life however changes when she meets a talking frog. Prince Naveen has been transformed by dastardly fortune teller/magician Dr. Facilier who hopes to rule New Orleans through his wicked trickery. Naveen is convinced that Tiana, dressed in a ball gown and tiara is a real princess and that if she kisses him, he will be restored to his proper form. Instead, the waitress becomes a frog and the two amphibians embark on a desperate journey through the Louisiana bayous to escape Dr. Facilier and regain their proper forms.
Jackson started skating at age five and won a bronze medal four years ago at the United States Figure Skating Association’s theatrical skating competition.
She said her parents – father Fred Jackson Jr. who plays the saxophone, flute and clarinet and mother Sue – provided her with critical support.
“My mom supported me in everything that I wanted to do,” said Jackson who spent six months at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. “We struggled for money at the time and she worked twice as hard to provide funds for me to train and compete. She woke up at 3 a.m. to take me skating. I would not be here had it not being for her support.
“When I was much younger, dad took me to some of his gigs and I got the opportunity to meet the Four Tops; Earth, Wind and Fire and The Temptations. That was an amazing experience. Without him, I would not have been able to make the transition to being an artistic performer.”
Jackson has not seen much of her family since she started her Disney rehearsals last July.
“I miss them especially when the holidays come around or birthdays,” said Jackson who was able to reunite with her family in Los Angeles last week during a short break. “However, I am with an amazing cast and we have become sort of like a family.”
Tickets for the Disney On Ice presentation at the Rogers Centre are available at all Ticketmaster locations.