The last time I saw them perform, she was bouncing down the steps singing the songs of Brittney Spears, Madonna, and The Spice Girls. He was rapping the words of C & C Dance Factory and MC Skat Cat while soaring on Michael Jackson’s “Black and White.” It was “Back to the 90s,” a review of musical memories from the decade when they both were in elementary school.
Jeremy and Paige Braley, or “Paige and Jer” as they have branded themselves on YouTube, are a talented married couple fresh off of their fifth contract with Carnival Cruises and are now back home. Because they were smart with their finances onboard the ship, they have all the material items they need to live a comfortable life. They are very much in love with one another and figuring out the transition back to life – on land – together.
As she walked into Maplewood Kitchen and Bar, Paige said, “I should try to get a part-time job here. It looks like a fun place to work.” As a focused, driven, and ambitious woman, it wasn’t surprising to hear her say it. It’s a very Paige-like thing always to be looking for new opportunities.
The first Kindergarten student accepted into the Colerain Chorale (usually it was only open to first-graders and older), her natural talent was evident at an early age. So was her drive and ambition. At fifteen, she was one of the youngest entertainers ever hired to work the summer and fall seasons at Kings Island. At the same time, she competed in the well-regarded Colerain Showcards high school show choir.
At King Island, she quickly became one of the go-to performers for new shows. Her family’s legacy at the theme park is legendary; Paige’s younger sister, Haylee, also performed there for several years, and her brother, Kyle, is still on the roster on a part-time basis. Because she is so versatile, she was used as a swing often, learning all of the tracks of the shows, which allowed the other castmates a rotating break from performing. Paige is one of the best.
She strives to be anyway. “I didn’t know what I wanted to go to college for, but I knew whatever it was I would do my best.” She and her mother toured Wright State University, and she looked into their nursing program, among others. The one department she had no interest in, though, was Theatre. “It just wasn’t a practical choice.” But the admissions rep and her mother both suggested that she at least go take a look and even audition – it would give her another option just in case.
She was accepted, of course, and decided to give it a go – even though it delayed her graduation from college by a year. She found success in the program. She was cast in many shows, including the ensemble of “Jekyll & Hyde,” the understudy for Tracy Turnblad in “Hairspray,” and the leading role in “Wild Party.” She continued to work at Kings Island, did a summer stint at Cedar Point, had a leading role in “Rent” at the Victoria Theatre in Dayton, and generally worked very hard at her craft. Of course.
After graduation, she and Jeremy (who she met at Kings Island) moved to New York to pursue their dreams. They quickly booked a cruise ship contract with Carnival Cruise Lines and began a new lifestyle that allowed them to travel the world. It also allowed them to save money, enough that they were able to buy a house near Cincinnati. Of course, because they were halfway around the world they had to buy it sight-unseen, except for a tour courtesy of FaceTime from their realtor.
And now they’re back and ready to pursue their next chapter.
At three years old, Jeremy was performing “Achy Breaky Heart” for family and friends on a hayride. That’s his earliest recollection of performing, anyway. “You know how you sorta remember things at that age, but mostly, it’s because people have told you about it?”
Like many artists, he grew up singing in church. Despite his father being the preacher at a non-instrumental Church of Christ (meaning, there were no musical instruments, not even a piano or organ), his love for music only grew. “It certainly helped me understand vocal harmonies,” as they would sing all four parts of those old familiar hymns. Jeremy learned how to play the trumpet in school and joined the national champion Loveland show choir before enrolling at Bowling Green State University and majoring in Musical Theatre.
Unlike Paige, he wasn’t a great student. “I did OK,” he said, noting that he didn’t really see the value in being an A student when Bs were good enough. On stage, though, he’s never been complacent. While at BGSU, he auditioned for and was cast in the Halloween shows at Cedar Point, where he worked for three years (including one full summer season in the Red Garter Saloon working with a live band and singing country music.)
Jeremy made a practical decision about college; he was already working as an entertainer, so what was a degree going to do? He left school and decided to pursue music full time. Eventually, he moved back to Loveland and started a several year relationship with Kings Island performing in shows like “American Country,” “British Invasion,” and the popular vampire-themed Halloween Haunt show, “Hot Blooded.” He also began working behind the scenes at the park and co-wrote “The Boyz Are Back,” in which he also performed. He also starred in a community theatre production of both “White Christmas” and “Big: The Musical.”
Eventually, though, he and Paige decided to pack up and move north to the big city and to see what else they could accomplish.
FAITH AND FOCUS
Gaylene Dobkins was a regular in the Festhaus at Kings Island back in the day. Because Kings Island was such a family affair, aunt Gaylene was there a lot. She was a kind, passionate woman; she and I had many conversations between performances, always about family. She was a fiercely supportive cheerleader for all of her nieces and nephews. “She was like a second Mom to me,” Paige said.
When she died unexpectedly, Paige was devastated. “I felt a loss of control,” which is understandable given how much she relies on schedules and organization. But this loss of control – as well as a fractured hip – led to a “faith awakening.” Paige, who danced on that broken hip for at least six weeks, now had to re-evaluate her identity. As a singer who dances, the idea that she could have easily shattered her bone was more than unsettling. So, she began to search for something.
Paige grew up in a Baptist Church and has pretty much always considered herself a Christian. But like many of us, her faith was rooted in the beliefs shared by her family. As she read the Bible, began to pray, and asked questions about faith and life, things started to become apparent. “I wanted to find a church home when we got back.”
Jeremy was having his own crisis of faith, which he realized when Paige started asking questions. As the son of a minister, Jeremy felt like he should have more answers. But it was Paige who initiated the couple’s spiritual revival. Describing it as a “loss of passion” and even a depression, Jeremy was willing to find a church with Paige.
Their intention was to church-hop and try on a few for size.
On their first night in their new home, with few supplies or furniture or even bath towels, disaster happened. Paige wanted to take a shower, but there was no hot water. Jeremy found the water heater, turned it on, and all seemed to be working fine. He heard the water running and assumed Paige was showering. Paige heard water running and thought Jeremy was working on something downstairs.
It was several minutes before they realized that the washing machine valve was open upstairs and their second floor was flooding. With several inches of water now accumulating – and again, no towels to use to soak it up – they unpacked their suitcases and used their clothes instead. “We basically broke our new house the first night,” Paige said. They had a cracked ceiling but were able to deal with the damage, thanks to the kindness of Paige’s Uncle Carl and Aunt Jan.
Not only did Jan and Carl help with the house debacle, but they also invited Paige and Jeremy to church. They attend Christ’s Church in Mason, not far from the Braley’s new house. They immediately felt at home. Paige read about a class that was offered there to orient new people to the church. She told Jeremy that she wanted to go; he agreed. They liked it. They met with the pastor and he asked about their journeys; they were a natural fit for the church’s worship team. “Paige and Jer” now had a church home.
Shortly, they were offered another cruise contract. Paige and Jeremy thought they were finished with that life, but the offer was appealing enough and it was back to the boat. “We didn’t plan on this,” Jeremy said.
Not having a plan seems to favor these two.
GETTING THEIR LAND LEGS
So, after four cruise contracts, Paige and Jeremy Braley are home. And they are anxious to learn what’s next.
And while their future is currently undetermined, they have ideas.
The ever-ambitious Paige is in school to become an Integrative Health Coach. She has a Facebook page called Seed + Sow, where she focuses on all aspects of wellness. And Paige is writing a book.
“I discovered my lost love for writing during the last contract.” She began drafting short stories with inspirational messages and asked Jeremy to read one. He was beyond impressed and told her she had to keep writing. Her book is currently in development; She hopes it will bring comfort and encouragement to girls and women struggling with finding their authentic identity.
At first, she was worried that by pursuing new dreams that her own identity would be compromised. “I was worried that if I focused on other things, I might lose my identity as a singer,” she said. But she’s learning that singing is just one dimension to who Paige is.
Jeremy is hoping to transition from performer to artist. Theme parks, cruise ships, and even musicals are about performing someone else’s vision. He wants to write original songs. “We want to create and help other people at the same time.” He also discovered a love for photography. He and some friends have a multi-media company called BroDuction Productions, focusing on photography, videography, music production, and more.
While onboard the ship, they began making YouTube videos and creating content. Music videos, short inspirational messages, and even a vlog of ship life all helped them pass the time. But what they realized along the way is that content creation is their mechanism to connect to others. “All that we have and all that we are is a gift of grace to be shared.”
They’re all in on this.
“We’re transitioning from using our gifts and talents in a conformed, perfected way as performers – it now feels artificial and self-serving – to using those same gifts to give back to the One who gave them to us in full surrender. We’re using our authentic voices as a way of sharing our unique and honest story, inviting others into the freedom we’ve found. It’s what it was given to us for.”
So, now they’re awaiting their next adventure. Regardless if it’s here in the Cincinnati area or somewhere else in the world, they know that having a community is essential. They’re building it through their various creative endeavors. Whether it’s on stage, on screen, on the page, or in someone’s living room, “Paige and Jer” are ready for whatever comes next.
You can follow Paige and Jeremy by clicking below:
Kirk Sheppard is a blogger, focusing on finding clarity through topics like spirituality, mental health, and wellness in 2020. Subscribe to his blog so you don’t miss a single post!