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Local teen ‘on fire’

Highlands Today
Published:   |   Updated: June 17, 2013 at 08:58 AM

SEBRING When 14-year-old Nala Aleya Price walks out on stage, whether it is at Highlands Little Theatre, the Heartland Idol competition or auditioning for “America’s Got Talent,” expectations are high.

The Sebring teenager, who has her eyes set on a career as a singer and actress, has already amassed a resume that any seasoned performer would envy.

In the past seven years, Price has become a recognizable part of productions at HLT, with credits in more than 10 plays and musicals. Her heartwarming portrayal of orphan Mary Lennox in Marsha Norman’s musical version of “The Secret Garden” earned her the 2011 Best Actress Zenon Award.

“Nala is a very talented and delightful young lady,” said Little Theatre’s Executive Director Vanessa Logsdon. Price also is the youngest ever to win the coveted Zenon, a Lucite pyramid that has been given out for the past 27 years in honor of Little Theatre benefactors Marilyn and Zenon Hansen.

“It was a big thing,” said Price softly of her accomplishment. Her quiet demeanor off-stage doesn’t reflect the powerful vocals and vibrant energy that fires up audiences when she begins to sing.

Her rendition of Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” at the March 2013 Heartland Idol talent show brought cheers from the crowd and praise from the judges. Her efforts earned her $500 and the title of Teen Heartland Idol. This was a second win for Price, who also was the 2010 Junior Heartland Idol champion.

“She amazes me with the way she challenges herself,” said Diana Lynn Walker, who founded the local singing competition in 2004. “I’ve grown very fond of her.”

Born one of Alan and Karen Price’s four children, Nala Price was given her unique name in honor of her father.

“Nala is Alan spelled backward,” explained her mom, who owns ABC Appliances.

Nala Price performed “Girl on Fire” again, along with “Gold,” by Brett Nicole, April 30 in front of 900 fifth graders at the D.A.R.E. Celebration at South Florida State College Theatre for the Performing Arts.

“This is my third year doing it. It is a lot of fun,” said Nala Price of the anti-drug program that includes entertainment, law-enforcement representatives, speakers and school-aged role models.

The National Junior Honor Society member is a straight-A student who will be starting Sebring High School in August. Her active lifestyle includes chorus at school, soccer at the YMCA, dance classes at Dance Unlimited of Highlands County three or four times a week, performances, auditions and theater camp at HLT for six weeks this summer.

“It is good to keep them very busy, it keeps them out of trouble,” noted her supportive, yet protective, mother.

Nala Price’s resume includes a Ron Jon Surf Shop commercial, a Bealls Outlet print ad, YMCA Christian concerts, an appearance on a recent Fox 13 Hometown segment, a pageant win as Little Miss Highlands County in 2009 and singing with Earthbeat Band and at The Adventure Group events in Old Town in Kissimmee.

She also placed in the 2010 Colgate Country Showdown in Arcadia and the 2013 Rotary Club of Avon Park’s Highlands County’s Got Talent.

“Sometimes it’s a little hard, but I have a dream,” admitted Nala Price, who has had to cut some of her hobbies. After four years, she did give up her karate classes with Master Val Henry, of Martial Arts America, just shy of attaining her black belt.

“She is an awesome, remarkable young lady … and was a gifted martial artist,” said Henry.

“She sings the national anthem every year at the Tae Kwon Do championship (hosted by Henry) at SFSC,” he said. “‘Nala’ is a name that will be associated with music in the near future. I think we will be seeing her on TV.”

Over the past five years, Nala Price has tried out for “America’s Got Talent” and “The X Factor” but hasn’t been able to secure a spot on the national televised shows. She said she enjoyed meeting Nick Cannon and is determined to audition again.

“When she turns 15 in January, we will be going to the ‘American Idol’ tryouts. Hopefully, they’ll be in Tampa, but if we have to go to Georgia we will,” Karen Price said.

While Nala Price has worked through D.K. Talent and Modeling in Oldsmar, her family is venturing to New York this summer so she can look for an agent and make her second demo tape.

In the meantime, Nala Price dreams of singing in front of thousands at a Los Angeles concert or acting on Broadway.

“I really enjoy performing in front of people,” Nala Price said, and it shows.

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