Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Stacey J. Aswad, Must Do Disney Host: Get the Latest BUZZ!

Disney Host, Stacey J. Aswad

Disney Host, Stacey J. Aswad

Every Disney fan knows Stacey!  If you’ve travelled to the Walt Disney World Resort and had a moment to sit in your hotel room and turn on the TV, YOU KNOW STACEY!  She’s the energetic, loveable host of the Must Do Disney show!  How many of us have watched the loop of her touring the parks doing the “TRIPLE MOUNTAIN WHAMMY” over and over and over during our relaxing down-time in the room?  My family even refers to it as “the Stacey channel.”

I was fortunate enough to interview Stacey and talk about not only Disney, but her other great projects such as her work with animal rescue charities and the coolest voice over actor show on the web, VO Buzz Weekly (VOBuzzWeekly.com).  So, keep reading to find out the BUZZ about Stacey!

Jeanie: We always look forward to seeing the latest updates to the Must Do Disney/ The Top 7 Must Sees from you when we visit WDW. Turning on our resort tv to see “what Stacey is talking about” has become part of our family trip traditions.  When did you first start hosting Must Do Disney? And how did that all start?

Stacey: “I started hosting the Top 7 Must Sees in May 2005, then it changed to Must Do Disney in early 2009. I auditioned in Atlanta for the Top 7 back in 2005, got a callback and a few days later found out I had booked it. It all moved very quickly from that point. Before I knew it I got on a plane bound for Orlando and was standing in the World Showcase at dawn with a full crew all around and a camera pointed at me.” 

Must Do Disney
Must Do Disney

Jeanie: Disney families know you as the energetic and loveable host when they tune in to Must Do Disney. They may not realize that you are a classically trained dancer.  Would you share with our readers your impressive background in the arts?

Stacey: “I have been dancing and twirling since probably before I was born! I got incredible training from the very beginning with some brilliant teachers. While I was still in high school, I was an apprentice in the professional ballet company, dancing 6-7 days a week, performing all the time, classical and neoclassical ballets, and I also danced with the professional Opera Company too. My first paid dance gig ever was dancing in operas. I love opera and working with such talented people was an amazing experience, so much mutual respect for each other’s talents. I have danced in a lot of operas over the years.

Stacey J. Aswad
Stacey J. Aswad

I graduated with my BFA in Dance from The Juilliard School in New York City and went on to perform professionally in ballet, modern, jazz, flamenco and ballroom. At the same time, I got my Personal Training and Group Fitness Instructor Certification to help support my dance career during slow times. It was awesome because I could train clients and teach fitness classes from 5am-Noon, then be free for dance classes, rehearsals and performances the rest of the day. It kept me in top form and is a skill that I have used throughout the years and continues to serve me to this day. 

Then I danced with the Louisville Ballet and taught modern and jazz in their training school as well. I was on the dance faculty of the Youth Performing Arts School in KY, one of a few dozen amazing performing arts high schools in the U.S. When I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, I taught ballet, modern and choreographed for private dance schools and started acting in commercials, theatre, TV shows, indie films and then landed the Disney job.

When I moved to LA, I knew I was coming here to pursue my acting, hosting and voiceover careers but I decided to go to a ballet class to check it out. I was dressed in my tights, leotard, hair pulled back tightly, ballet slippers and pointe shoes ready to go. Everyone in the class was wearing some combo of things like bikini tops, cut off shorts, sweatpants, socks, baseball caps. I realized that it was the Divine’s way of saying that it was time to move on. 

I feel I have realized my dreams as a dancer and choreographer and have had so many amazing opportunities that I cherish. I’m grateful that I will always have these talents and I continue to nurture them. I know I could walk in to just about any class and take it, or even teach it, I still play around with movement all the time and maintain my body and flexibility. It serves me in my on-camera and voiceover endeavors as well. Being a dancer, a performer, an artist, is part of my identity, it’s in my cells. It has helped me in so many aspects of my life and career. I will always perform in some form or fashion, period.”  

Jeanie: Your website, www.staceyjaswad.com, has a charity page.  Would you tell us about your charities and how fans can help contribute to the cause? 

Stacey: “Helping and loving animals is one of my passions and I want to be a big part of the solution that helps end animal homelessness and cruelty. It is not right that shelters are euthanizing healthy animals because they can’t find their forever homes in time, it breaks my heart. It is my hope that every person on the planet would adopt or rescue, not purchase their furry family member. With the resources I have, I try to help amazing organizations and rescue groups who are advocating for animals every day, they have my unwavering support and respect.

When people ask me for my autograph, I am happy to give it. It means a lot to have so many people supporting me and appreciating what I do. On my website Charity page, you can pick a photo and tell me how you would like it personalized. Some people just want me to sign it, some want their favorite Top 7 or Must Do Disney line, it’s fun to see what people like. In return every penny of their $20 donation and my matching funds, go to various charities and groups like Best Friends, Alley Cat Allies, Doris Day Animal League, ASPCA, North Shore Animal League, The Humane Society and many others. It’s pretty cool because they get a keepsake they want and they help save animals too. Over the years, I have heard so many wonderful stories from people who have rescued their animals and appreciate that they’re helping a little more by requesting a photo. It’s going to take all of us working together to make a profound and lasting change. 

I have had animals my whole life, some actually were mine and some were the ones my family cared for because no one else was doing it. Right now, I have four cats. My first is Rosebud, she was found outside all by herself, barely two weeks old, weighing less than a pound. I fed her with a bottle, the whole deal. I was set to start filming the TV series I was in for two seasons, 7th Street Theatre, for 6 weeks and she still needed to be fed every couple hours. Thankfully the producer loved animals and allowed her to be in my dressing room with me so I could take care of her, it was an amazing experience. We have been through so much together, our bond is unbreakable, in May she will be 9 years old.

Once Rosebud was weaned, I wanted her to have a companion so I adopted Lily from the Humane Society, at 12 weeks old. She had a really hard start and almost died but thanks to the incredible Humane Society volunteer, she was nursed back to health. The first time I picked her up she coiled around my neck and burrowed her face in my hair, I knew she was meant to be mine. The animals you are meant to love find you. She is my assistant, lays on my script pages while I study and sits on my lap every chance she gets. In April, she will be 9 years old.
In September 2013, I got a call from a friend who had found a litter of five kittens, about 3 weeks old. Let me preface this by saying that I get these calls and emails about dogs and cats a lot. I have my moment of “I want to save them all, I want my animal sanctuary to be ready” and then I come back to the present and activate my amazing network of animal lovers to help me find them their loving, forever homes.  

This started out that way too but then it changed. Long story short, my friend kept one, the two Ginger boys found great homes with people she knows and sweet little, Hanna Belle and her handsome brother Charlie joined what I now call “My Kitty Pride”. They are six months old and just got spayed and neutered. I’m so happy to say that all four of the kitties get along beautifully and I can’t imagine it being any other way. For those who think you can’t integrate adult cats with kittens, please know that with preparation, patience and calm, energy you can do it!!! 

Stacey's Kitty Pride
Stacey's Kitty Pride

FYI, I love dogs too, pretty much anything with paws, whiskers and tails is good with me. Cats are the ones who have been put in my life thus far, but I am sure there will be more amazing creatures who will grace my life along the way too. I’m so honored to be able to care for them and so grateful for the incredible things they teach me and bring to the world. 

Two Quotes I love:
“Animals are such agreeable friends-they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.” -George Eliot, Mr. Gilfil’s Love Story
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated” -Gandhi 

Jeanie: In between trips to Walt Disney World, where can fans find you? Can you tell us about your current projects?

Stacey: “That is an everyday changing thing because I audition all the time and never know what is going to end up on my plate. It keeps things interesting to say the least, but here are a few things.

In 2012, I created with Chuck Duran, one of the most respected voiceover producers, a web talk show called, VO Buzz Weekly. We have more than 100 episodes posted and are being watched in more than 85 countries. We talk with the superstars of the voice over business. It gives viewers not only an inside look at the voice over industry but also an in-depth look as the patterns and behaviors of successful people. It’s really inspiring to hear people’s journey from the beginning and how they got through the highs and lows, you don’t have to be in the voice over business to get something out of it. I’m really proud of what we have created because it is celebrating amazing people and helping us all get closer to our goals and dreams. It’s free, you just need to subscribe with an email and password at www.VOBuzzWeekly.com

I am the Announcer for a series of TV spots and Infomercials for Nescafe Dolce Gusto with Mario Lopez. You see him and hear me. I do promos for some network affiliate stations around the country, like in Indiana and Ohio. There are some things I can’t talk too much about yet like a big video game I’m in that’s coming out this year. I have radio spots running for AT&T and McDonald’s, that’s all I can think of right now but check back tomorrow! If you follow me on Twitter @staceyjaswad, on my Facebook page: Host Stacey J. Aswad and on my website News page, you can get the latest and greatest!” 

Jeanie: Voice Over work requires a special talent to keep the audience entertained without the help of visual expression.  Are you inspired by the classic pre-tv radio show actors i.e. George Burns, Lone Ranger, etc? Have any favorites?

Stacey: “Sure, they are amazing and all the actors are so talented and fearless. The classic radio shows, Masterpiece Theatre, Prairie Home Companion, my parents always had something on and I found it so engaging and fascinating. You have to focus in a totally different way and listen on a deeper level than you do with a lot of entertainment out there now. I am always looking for inspiration so I keep the growing and getting better.”  

Jeanie: Who are your favorite modern VO actors? Anyone who makes you star-struck?

Stacey: “WOW, that is a really hard question to answer. Just look at all the guests on my show, VO Buzz Weekly. There is so much talent in this industry it’s crazy. I will say, getting to know and talk with the amazing June Foray [voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel and many others] on my show is a life changing moment. She is a big animal lover and advocate too, how awesome! She is still working at the young age of 96 and such an incredible example of “when you do what you love, you will do it forever.” She is such an inspiration!” 

Some of your fans have a few questions:

Stephanie from Tennessee asks:
What is your favorite food or snack at Disney?

“I really like dark chocolate peanut butter cups. I always get one when I’m there filming and I cut it in wedges like a pie. After a long, fun, challenging day it hits the spot! I still need to have a Dole Whip. I have yet to have one, I know it’s crazy! That could become my mission next time I am in WDW.”

Stacey J. Aswad
Stacey J. Aswad

Ray from Pennsylvania (my 75 year-old father and possibly your biggest fan) asks:
How long does it take to film each segment of Must Do Disney and do you film during regular park hours or when the park is closed?

“It really depends on how much they need me to do. I have been there for as little as 36 hours and as long as 8 days. We film both before the parks open and during regular hours, usually anywhere from 8-10 hours a day.” 

Rob from Florida asks:
What is your favorite resort at Disney?

“Truthfully, I really do love all the ones I have stayed in for different reasons. Let’s see, The Grand Floridian is just so majestic and it’s the one I stayed in the first time I came to WDW to film in 2005. I have been back there a few times since and it is always lovely. Animal Kingdom Lodge, please. I can talk to giraffes from my balcony, I love it! The Yacht Club and Beach Club are fun because I used to race sailboats and I love jogging and sightseeing on the Boardwalk. The Wilderness Lodge is like the coolest, tricked out Lincoln Logs log cabin you could ever make, my room had bunk beds, I had to try them out!”  

Ann Marie from Pennsylvania asks:
What are your top 3 must dos at Disney?

“Depends on my mood but today I would say, Expedition Everest, Rockin’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith and Space Mountain. I really do love roller coasters!”

Stacey J. Aswad
Stacey J. Aswad filming Must Do Disney

Katherine from New York asks:
What’s your favorite “adult-only” activity at Disney?

“I’m not really sure I have an answer for that one. I don’t drink alcohol so those things are not really on my radar. I am such a “kid at heart” so I guess you will probably find me spinning in the lavender teacup with Alice and the Mad Hatter.”


Thank you again Stacey for doing this interview.  I’m sure the Disney Community fans will find this glimpse behind-the-scenes into your life to be both fascinating and enlightening!

Be sure to check-out Stacey’s website, staceyjaswad.com to donate to her animal rescue charities and get your own personally autographed photo.  And don’t forget to go to VOBuzzWeekly.com to see Stacey and some of the best voice over actor celebrities in the industry!
Stacey J. Aswad
Stacey J. Aswad

Facebook: staceyjaswadhost
Twitter: staceyjaswad
YouTube: staceyjaswad
Instagram: staceyjaswad 

Follow Jeanie on Twitter @PrincessPapers

Photos provided by and published with permission from Stacey J. Aswad.

Note: Please respect the personal interview content of this column and cite this copywrited post when sharing this information in social media or elsewhere.

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