Emma Buford ’16 is a delightful bundle of contradictions. A singer who rows, a theater girl who is passionate about film, and a self-proclaimed extrovert who just can’t get enough of those secluded Allbritton nooks, our latest WesCeleb doesn’t settle for just one identity. Buford sat down with The Argus to talk about playing a caveperson, bridging the great Usdan divide, and spinning the bottle.
The Argus: Why are you a WesCeleb?
Emma Buford: I guess because I run in different circles. A lot of times, I’m usually in workout clothes in rehearsal. Or, like, I guess I’m always running around. I do a lot different things on campus, I guess. I’m sort of bad at being free. I like to put a lot on my plate.
A: What are you involved in?
EB: I row. I was recruited to row here, so I’ve been doing it for four years. It’s bizarre that it’s been that long—eight years total, I guess. I do that, and that takes up a lot of my time. I’m also in Quasimodal, which is an a cappella group on campus. And I went to a performing arts high school. I knew I wanted to sing in college, but I never thought I’d do a cappella. It’s just an awesome community, and Quasi is just my everything.
I try to do a show or something musical, in front of a crowd. This year I’m doing Terp for the first time, which is just awesome. It’s such an inclusive environment. I did “Spring Awakening” my freshman year, I was in another Second Stage comedy show my sophomore year, and I was in a student-written musical [called “Me, Prometheus”], which was [Simon Riker’s] senior thesis, and that was really cool. That was about cavepeople discovering fire for the first time, so that was definitely a little quirky. But it’s being performed at other schools now, so that’s sort of cool that it started here, and I got to be involved with that.
And I’m a senior interviewer, too. So I get to interview kids that want to come here, which is fun and sort of hit-or-miss. Some kids are great, and some kids maybe shouldn’t have come for an interview. But it’s really cool to give back to Wes in a way. I had an awesome interview experience when I was applying, so it’s sort of nice to try to give back.
A: It’s so interesting that you’re an athlete but also an artist. How do you bridge the gap between the two sides of Usdan?
EB: Yeah! Hipster or athlete? I find that I usually do jock side after practice, and then, like, for lunch I get to be a normal person. But I think that once everyone’s seen you in spandex [she pauses to say “Hi!” to a friend, who kisses her on the cheek] it sort of just, like, I’ll just go wherever makes sense. I don’t know.
A: Do you feel more connected to either theater people or athletes, or are you equally engaged in each community?
EB: I think it’s equal. It’s funny, because when I was rowing in high school, I didn’t go to school with them; it was like a club team, so I’d never actually gone to school with people I was rowing with. And here I get to have the academic and the athletic side together, and I know rowers in certain contexts outside of practice, which is really fun. But I don’t really find that there’s a divide. I love that Wes a place where I’m allowed to do different types of things, and that’s a lot of the reason that I wanted to come here. But I think sometimes being so busy, I’m trying to go to bed early and waking up early and things like that. So maybe I try to be as productive in rehearsal time as I am when I’m at practice, and stuff like that—so giving my best at every different thing that I do.
A: Tell me about your middle and high school experience. Did you have an awkward phase?
EB: I mean, like, I think everyone has an awkward phase. I look back at photos, and I think, “This is not real.” I think in middle school—I have an older brother, and he’s 13 months older than me, so we were always in the same life stage, and in the same middle school—I thought I was really cool because I had this cool brother, and I knew his friends, so it sort of helped me bridge the gap. But in middle school, everyone should be home-schooled for three years. I look back at my old TimeHop and my old Facebook statuses, and I’m just, like, “What?” It’s obviously me, but it’s just a bizarre thing. I definitely had an awkward phase, but I couldn’t pinpoint anything, and I definitely didn’t think I was awkward. But looking back, I was.
And high school was really cool. I went to LaGuardia, and it’s sort of similar to Wes. A lot of people are just passionate about things. I studied music when I was there. So it was just really fun. Academics come first, but you’d equally weigh your artistic class—you’d have three artistic classes a day with your major, and I was a vocal major—so that was really fun. In that sort of sense, I was able to do everything that I’m doing at Wes there, too. It’s just a lot of passion and [a lot of] people dancing and singing in the stairwells.
A: Are you more of an extrovert or an introvert?
EB: I would say I’m pretty extroverted. I think I’m pretty outgoing. My mom was an actress, so I have a lot of that from her. We’re the type of family where we’ll hug you if we don’t know you—if we meet you for the first time, it’s very overwhelming, probably. I have a really big family. My mom was one of nine, so there’s a lot of aunts and uncles and cousins, and I think we’re a pretty rowdy bunch.
And I love to talk to people. That’s why I love being a senior interviewer, [because] chatting is fun, and getting to know someone from a clean slate—literally, I don’t know you, you don’t know me. It’s really exciting.
A: What do you study here?
EB: I’m an Italian studies major and a film minor. I would’ve never anticipated that. I took Italian for the first time coming to Wes, and in high school we’d sing songs in Italian, so that’s when I heard the language for the first time. I thought it was really beautiful, and I wanted to try something new after speaking Spanish in high school. I loved the language and I studied abroad, so I got to go to Italy, and that’s the best way to learn a language in general.
And now that I’m not really in language classes, that’s really fun, because I can go deeper and study things that just happen to be spoken in Italian, which is awesome. And I love film, so that was sort of a nice pairing. Italians have their film stuff together. I’m in an Italian film class now. It’s a really great way to put them together.
A: What actress would you want to play you in the movie version of your life?
EB: Uh oh. Well, Beyoncé is the easy answer. You could say she’s not an actress—who knows; I’m a big “Dreamgirls” fan—but I don’t know. That’s hard. Is this a drama or a comedy?
A: Would the movie of your life be a drama or a comedy?
EB: I think it’d be both. I, like, want to say Beyoncé. You know what? I’m going to say Beyoncé, just because that’s a good answer.
A: Own it. What’s your favorite spot on campus?
EB: My favorite spot on campus…interesting. I’ve never really thought about these kinds of things. To study, or…?
A: Just to exist.
EB: I don’t know. I’ve become a fan of Allbritton lately. There’s those little nooks, and it feels private. And I think that people don’t go there first [to study], so it’s a hidden spot. I like that it’s quiet and not where everyone else is going. And it has a more intimate feel. You can hear yourself think. But I’m a Sci-Li girl.
A: Tell me about your first kiss?
EB: Okay, this is super lame. It was playing Spin the Bottle, as kids do. I’m still friends with him, which is really awesome. He was one of my friends in, like, fifth grade. But yeah, we were playing Spin the Bottle after our graduation from elementary school—so fun. It was very exciting.
But that’s not really a thing people do anymore, I feel like, so I was keepin’ it old school.
A: That’s such a classy way to do it. My last question is: What’s next for you? It’s O.K. if it’s too stressful to talk about.
EB: I really want to sing. Like, for my life. That would be the greatest thing ever. But that’s a tough thing to do, so there’s obviously a back-up plan, and different things going on, and making money is nice. But I’m from New York, and I really want to go back home and just refine all my skills, and take classes, and make money any way I can. But I’d love to be on a touring cast of a musical, or something like that. I just really want to perform, and it would be the most fun job to have. I know that it’s hard, but I’m excited about the challenge.