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Disney star Sofia Carson searches for peace of mind in quest to 'do it all'

It’s right there on Sofia Carson’s Twitter feed, sandwiched between a tweet about her Girls’ Life cover story and a People magazine piece about her participation in a UNICEF kids program. It's one in a line of smiley tweets that would soon be interrupted by tragedy and heartbreak.

But first, the happy:

wow....thank you @billboard,” Carson wrote, adding a heart emoji to her retweet of a Billboard story placing her on a wish list for the casting of Fox’s “Rent” live musical.

Let’s emphasize those words: Wish list. Carson hasn’t been cast for the show; nobody has (publicly, at least). But as writer Patrick Crowley compiled a list of entertainers he would like to see in the show – a list that included Miley Cyrus, former One Directioner Zayn Malik and Fifth Harmony’s Lauren Jauregui – Carson was clearly top of mind.

This Disney starlet is on the brink of a major breakthrough, so why not fast-track it and give her the female lead in 'Rent'?” Crowley wrote. “With her sultry voice and Colombian roots, she’d be great to play the spunky good-time gal.”

Carson, who is signed to Disney’s Hollywood Records, is performing a free concert May 27 at Darien Lake Theme Park. She’s the first of a slate of tween- and teen-friendly entertainers who will be taking the stage this summer at area venues.

Billboard’s “Rent” endorsement had Carson glowing.

“I just saw that in the car,” Carson said during a phone interview from Los Angeles. “I literally just saw that an hour ago, and I was blown away.”

Over the last two years, Carson has had plenty of kisses blown her way. In 2015, she was cast for a lead role in the Disney Channel movie “Descendants,” the story of the children of classic Disney villains. (Carson plays the daughter of the Evil Queen from Snow White.) That was followed by a Disney remake of “Adventures in Babysitting,” a new spin on “A Cinderella Story,” and the upcoming “Descendants 2.”

Meanwhile, through her deal with Hollywood Records, Carson has been realizing a dream she’s held since she was a little girl growing up in Miami. Around age 10, Carson fell in love with the idea of becoming a singer.

“I always wanted to share my music with the world,” said Carson, who would finish her homework early enough to leave hours each evening to steal away to the piano in the corner of her family house.

“I always kind of had my head in the clouds,” she added. “I was also kind of a nerd. I studied a lot in school. I think sometimes kids can be a little mean and they picked on me for that. I never had too many friends.”

When the bullying got bad in sixth grade, Carson switched schools. She found two best friends “who were completely different than me. One was in debate, but they were both kind of nerdy like I was. They got me. All you need is people who are close to you and love you for who you are and don’t ask you to be anything else.”

Empower and supported, Carson kept writing. By her senior year of high school, Carson was shuttling back and forth to L.A., where she was working with music producers. She enrolled in the communications program at UCLA and broke in with Disney while still a college student. Carson kept writing music, now from a keyboard in her dorm room.

Today, she said, the Notes app on her phone is filled with “thousands” of song ideas. Many pages have just a single word; some have a full set of lyrics for which she’s also written melodies.

“My keyboard is always and will forever be my escape,” said Carson, who has been hitting red carpets and radio shows promoting her first two singles. The upbeat “Back to Beautiful” has traces of late-’90s and early 2000s pop, while “Love is the Name” has a bouncy Latin feel, which speaks to Carson’s heritage. Her parents are from Columbia, and her mother serves as her manager.

“Growing up, I was always told the most important thing is to keep your family close,” Carson said. “You never imagine exactly how tough it is and how important it is to keep your family close.”

The tough part isn’t the work, however. “What we’re doing is not rocket science — I’m singing and dancing and acting,” she said, adding, “I think the toughest thing has been to find my peace of mind.”

Carson is still figuring out this pop-star life, still trying to find the words to describe precisely how it feels to have every opportunity in front of you. Impossibly in front of you.

“I wish I had more hours in the day,” said Carson. She wants to do everything – every performance, appearance, job, “every single day, all hours of the day” – but realizes she can’t.

“I don’t know if that makes any sense,” she said, “but I want to be able to do it all, you know what I mean?”

That makes sense, but what happened next doesn't. On May 22, a few days after the interview, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive as fans poured out of an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena in England. At least 22 people, many of them children or parents, were killed in the tragedy.

Carson took to Twitter and asked fans to pray. She posted a black heart inscribed with "Manchester." She shared this tweet from Tanya Rad of KIIS-FM in LA: "Girls as young as 7 & 8 crying their eyes out, holding hands, begging their parents to take them far away," and added ".....speechless."

Sometimes, even for a dreamy little girl-turned-songwriter with thousands of ideas in her phone, there is nothing else to say.


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