Person to Watch: Tyrah Skye Odoms
Broadway’s newest orphan
By Maeve Kelly

She’s only 7, but Maple Shade’s Tyrah Skye Odoms is living the life many entertainers only dream of having. Odoms is about to open on Broadway in the revival of “Annie.” She’ll play the next-to-littlest orphan, Kate.

“I cried when I found out,” says the young performer. “I had to run to the bathroom to get a tissue.”

dad-Paul-odoms-train-to-NYCHer first audition for “Annie” was in June 2011, and it took almost a full year to land the part. “I felt nervous at first,” she says, “because I had never been to a Broadway audition before.”

“We went to that first audition on a whim,” says mom Shante Sykes, who first heard about the Broadway casting call from friends. “Everyone we knew thought Tyrah was made for the part. She has the personality for it. She’s always been theatrical. I’ve always thought she was born to do something big.”

Despite not having any formal acting classes, the energetic youngster was comfortable performing for Broadway directors on the world’s biggest stage. “I was confident she would do well,” says Sykes, “but there were still so many well-trained girls there. Over 5,000 girls auditioned for the show worldwide.

“She made it through immediate callbacks, and about a month later she was called in again. The callbacks were back-to-back after that.”

At callbacks, Odoms danced, sang and acted alongside 1,200 fellow Broadway hopefuls, many of whom she befriended throughout the many rounds of auditions.

Odoms short ride to Broadway began in local beauty pageants, which she first entered when she was 4 months old.

“We don’t do glitz pageants, though,” says Sykes. “We compete in all-natural pageants. There’s no make-up, no fake hair or teeth, no tanning. It’s not ‘Toddlers and Tiaras.’ That show has given pageants such a bad name. In the pageants we enter, you are the beautiful child that you are, not a porcelain doll.”

Odoms big break came unexpectedly when she tagged along with her older brother Tyree – then a budding model – to a Kmart photo shoot. “During the shoot, I was asked if Tyrah modeled, because she was being so playful and was full of smiles,” says Sykes. “They then asked if she could fit into an outfit they needed modeled. She fit it, shot the ad and has been modeling ever since.”

That first photo shoot helped the youngster get an agent, and she almost immediately booked a Luvs Diaper commercial. Her career has been non-stop since; she’s appeared in print campaigns for babyGAP, Toys “R” Us and Ralph Lauren, and currently stars in a Ziploc television commercial. She continues to compete in pageants, and has even walked the runway for a swimsuit designer during New York Fashion Week – opening the show as the first model to walk.

“I make a lot of friends when I model,” says Odoms. “We get to pose and be silly together. I love making faces, smiling and posing like a diva.”

On stage, Odoms earned her first role in community theater at age 3. This past spring, she played Molly in her town’s production of “Annie,” and Shanti in Moorestown Theater Company’s production of “The Jungle Book.” She also played Chip in a Maple Shade production of “Beauty and the Beast.”

wbrotherOutside the spotlight, however, Odoms is a typical second grader. Her music idols are Beyoncé and Alicia Keys, and her favorite color is blue. She says nothing is more fun than singing duets with her best friend.

But unlike most second graders, Odoms has been commuting to New York City six days a week for rehearsals since mid-summer. “It takes about an hour and 40 minutes each way,” says Sykes. “We are commuting while she is in rehearsal, but we will have to stay up there once the show starts.

The daily rehearsals are closed – no moms allowed – so when Sykes drops off Odoms for rehearsal at 10 each morning, she sometimes makes the trip back home or she fills her time in New York. “Rehearsals end at 6, and there is an hour lunch break,” says Sykes. “There are eight girls in the show, so there are eight moms. The moms take turns staying with the girls at lunch, so the other moms can go home. Sometimes I’ll just stay and read a book. It’s definitely a sacrifice, but I’m happy to do it for Tyrah.”

Odoms is tutored for three hours every day at the rehearsal location, and Sykes says the school district worked with them to provide a curriculum for the tutor. “This has taken such a huge support team – school, the community, family and friends. It’s just been wonderful how many people have helped.

“People are just so happy when they hear Tyrah is going to be on Broadway,” adds Sykes. “It’s incredible. It’s just amazing. I mean, she’s 7.”

October 2012
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