Expecting typical service and a bland greeting at best, students are surprised to find that today they are not just a customer – they are each a “glam goddess.”
Behind the cash register, stands Phil Young, a Penn State junior, who believes the small things, like smiles and compliments can rewrite an individual’s entire day. During the busy day, Phil says, people need to be reminded of just how far human compassion and kindness can go.
“Remember this is your fiesta,” Phil tells customers as they order a cup of Irving’s steaming hot coffee at the register. “Everyone else is just lucky to be on the guest list.”
Phil, who juggles jobs at Irving’s and Urban Outfitters on top of taking classes as a musical theatre major, lives by a different mantra than most. He likes to see the beauty in every individual and he celebrates that. Distinguishing oneself from the thousands of other students at Penn State can be a challenge, Phil says.
“You may come here and you’re this 5-foot-4 blonde girl – thin, pretty cute but you look around and there are 20 other girls who look like you,” Phil says.
But it’s not all about surface appearance.
“The way you view the world, the way you walk in and take up space, the way you flirt with a boy – all of that is special to you,” Phil says. “And just because your surface may be similar to someone else it’s the core that matters – that should be celebrated.”
Rebekah Mitchell, a co-worker of Phil’s, who has known him since August, says his charismatic and genuine personality shines when he’s working.
“You could be standing in line probably not happy, but you leave with a smile on your face,” Mitchell said. “Anyone who meets Phil, learns to love him within five seconds.”
Growing up in Houston, TX., Phil’s family acted as a foundation for him. His family is full of large personalities, describing his household as “the Cosby’s meets Animal House.”
His mother, in particular, is the individual who shaped Phil’s personality. She is always full of light and positivity, inspiring Phil to chase after his dreams.
“My mother has been such a powerful presence in my life – she literally is sunshine plus cocaine equals a good time,” Phil says laughing. “Well, maybe I shouldn’t have described my mother quite like that.”
When Phil was growing up his mother always told him, “Dreams come true, not free.” He still lives by these words, working endlessly in order to reach his goals.
Phil spends not only 10 to 12 hours a week working two jobs, but he also spends hours in voice lessons and rehearsal. A typical Tuesday for Phil includes going to class from 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. straight. Then, he has a little over an hour break until he has to run to rehearsal from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
“It can get a little intense, but I feel so privileged to be doing the work of what I love more than anything in the world,” Phil says.
Phil first learned about his passion for musical theatre when he was just three years old – he went to his local grocery store and tried out for an Oscar Mayer Weiner commercial. He had been practicing for weeks, but when he went up on stage, he just completely froze.
“God, I got so scared and I vowed right then and there that whenever I was ever on a stage again I would be damned if I let fear get in the way of fame,” Phil said. “Well, I’m sure I didn’t say it like that I was three.”
He certainly did not let fear get in his way – he went on to do an 18 month Barney tour when he was just ten years old, performing in Radio City Music Hall and performing where the Bulls play in Chicago.
He fell in love with performing, deciding at a young age that he would put his all into mastering the craft. Now, as a junior, considering his future, Phil says he sees his career taking off in Chicago.
For Phil, Chicago will give him the opportunity to be versatile in his career. While New York is a city full of all kinds of possibilities, he feels it is not the place for him.
“In New York anyone can be a pair of legs and a smile and a size two and make it – I’m not enchanted by that,” Phil says. “That’s not why I started [performing]. It would make me fall out of love.”
While obtaining a profession in musical theatre will take a lot of grit and drive and the pay may be minimal at first, Phil says these are all sacrifices he is willing to take.
“Anything worth having is worth sacrificing something,” Phil says. “If making a dream come true was easy everyone would just go to Disneyworld and buy it.”
Photo by Siru Wen