Miss West Virginia Teen USA Takes on Fordham Dance Team and Big City Dreams

As a dancer and a pageant queen, Emma Kitchen, FCRH ’26, has discovered her spotlight in New York City



Kitchen is able to continue her love of dance on the Fordham dance team, where her energy and determination serves as an inspiration to her teammates.


The cliche of a “small-town girl with big city dreams” often gets tossed around, but nothing rings truer for Emma Kitchen, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’26 and Miss West Virginia (WV) Teen USA 2022. For Kitchen, representing her home state of West Virginia as a pageant queen and dancing for the Fordham dance team is the perfect combination to achieve these dreams.

Her First Love

West Virginia imbued Kitchen with soaring ambitions. Her home spotlighted her passion for dance, which she made her platform for Miss WV Teen USA.

“I think my work ethic definitely comes from my home state of West Virginia and the way I work and the way I view how I work,” Kitchen said. 

Since the age of 6, Kitchen’s devotion to dance inspired her to share the delights of performing with other people around her. At the age of 14, in hopes of lifting a new generation of young dancers, she taught the power of dance as a form of exercise, community and expression to children at a dance studio. Witnessing a reflection of her younger self through the kids, she said that “it reminded me of where I started, and it kind of renewed my joy of dance.”

Chasing the same love for the art, she established herself as a member of Fordham’s dance team at the start of her first year. Balancing college classes and the dance team while representing her state Miss WV Teen USA has been a little scary for a first-year, according to Kitchen. She added that the support of her teammates on the Fordham dance team made the transition easier for her.

“Whenever you’re there, and you’re distracted by doing something that you love, and you’re with people that you love, it makes the transition so much easier,” Kitchen said.

Dancing to Her Dream

On her way to Columbus, Ohio, 4-year-old Kitchen was dressed exactly like the Molly McIntire American Girl doll clutched between her arms. Kitchen was traveling with her family from Parkersburg, West Virginia, to see the Radio City Rockettes on tour. As she watched them perform, she fell in love.

“That was the moment when I realized that that is what I wanted to do,” Kitchen said.

Their “classic, timeless movement quality and performance” inspired her, she said, empowering her to establish herself as a member of Fordham’s dance team with dreams of being a Rockette.

The Rockettes are not her only plan, however. As a Fordham student, Kitchen is pursuing a political science major on the pre-law track with hopes of becoming an attorney. She emphasized that she enjoys learning about everything and seeing things from different perspectives.

“She’s so passionate, and so I think if she just keeps working and keeps going at it, I think she can do pretty much anything that she wants.”Rebecca Chretien, FCRH ’24

Kitchen believes in creating the right balance between career goals and artistic aspirations. “My mother always said it’s important to live a happy life where you have a dream and a reality,” she recalled. “Radio City Rockettes are my absolute dream.”

After her first pageant crowning at age 15, Kitchen began entering West Virginia’s “Fairs and Festivals” competitions, which connected her to dance professionals and opportunities.

In 2019, Kitchen joined the Rockettes’ summer intensive program, where she connected with Rhonda Malkin, a Rockette. She began training with Malkin in order to audition for the company at the age of 18.

The same week that she signed up to compete for Miss WV Teen USA, she rushed to catch a train to audition for the Rockettes and tour the Fordham Rose Hill campus. To her, the chaos of it all seemed like a sign.

Although she was not selected as one of the 86 dancers joining the Rockettes’ ranks among 1,000 auditionees, Kitchen explained that her mom said that it was “the happiest she’s ever seen me.” She added that she could not contain her awe and excitement for what was to come. 

“I was just so inspired by so many girls, and I was there,” she said. “I made it. I made it to the audition.”

For Kitchen, the Fordham Rose Hill campus offered the best of both worlds: the traditional college experience within a safeguarded environment and, just a 40-minute Ram Van ride away, the opportunity to experience Broadway and the busyness of city life at Lincoln Center.

Through pageantry and dance, Kitchen earned scholarships and created opportunities that made the vision of attending a school like Fordham achievable.

The No’s Before the Yes

Through dance, Kitchen understood what it meant to face rejection. She explained that the dance world “desensitized” her to rejection at an early age. After entering so many conventions for dance auditions where the spirit of wanting to be the winner or the best dancer in the world is at an all-time high, the rejections started to feel less and less upsetting.

“When you live in the dance world, you kind of have to realize that you’ll get 10 no’s before you get a yes,” she said.

Through pageantry, she continued to erase her fear of failure. To her, a rejection isn’t a “no,” it’s a “not yet.”

“I believe what is meant for you will always find you as long as you do everything in your power to help achieve it,” she said.

Kitchen will continue training, auditioning and dancing every day with the Fordham dance team. She said her ambition comes from her mindset from her younger years. Joining the Fordham dance team challenged and strengthened her attitude toward her goals.

Pageant Life

The pageantry scene can be physically and mentally demanding. Kitchen explained that she always tries to remind herself that falling into the trap of comparison is not a productive mindset, but “it’s very intimidating to walk into a room with all these beautiful, young, accomplished women.”

However, Kitchen said that she understands that “through that comparison, you realize that what makes you different is OK, and actually what makes you different is your strong suit.” As she advocates for the power of embracing your individuality, that strength allows her to be the powerful dancer she is.

Because she grew up dancing on the stage, a strong stage presence for pageantry came easily for Kitchen. She believes that “getting up there and being completely comfortable with who you are, not only just your appearance but what you can bring to the table” are elements that make a pageant special.

“​​If everyone looked, talked and walked the same, we would live in a very boring world,” Kitchen said.

Dance and School

Being one of three first-year students to make the Fordham dance team, Kitchen had to learn to find time to attend football games and basketball tournaments as new responsibilities.

However, Kitchen said the community provided by the dance team and her experience in pageantry made the transition to college life manageable. “It’s a great sense of community and school spirit,” she said. 

One of the captains on the dance team, Rebecca Chretien, FCRH ’24, said she notices and admires Kitchen’s commitment to dance.

“She’s so passionate, and so I think if she just keeps working and keeps going at it, I think she can do pretty much anything that she wants,” she said.

Chretien added that Kitchen inspires her and the rest of her team because “she’s such a powerhouse.”

Kitchen loves the dynamic between a performer and their audience, which is reflected in her passion for dance and pageantry. “The stage is like my second home,” she said. 

From being a “shy girl who really couldn’t even talk until she was four or five,” she said she transformed herself to feeling “very comfortable with the stage.”

For Kitchen, there is no such thing as looking back on the “no’s.” With confidence and poise, she is dancing her way to front and center, headed straight for the “yes.”