If just a month ago someone had told Maya Levine, B.A. ’23, and GW junior Katelyn Kovach that they'd find themselves backstage at the Kennedy Center, creating a TikTok with Michael Bublé, they never would have believed it. Yet that's precisely what unfolded after the pair won a contest to be the social media correspondents for the 46th Annual Kennedy Center Honors—a star-studded, whirlwind experience that they’ll never forget.
Levine and Kovach, both recipients of the Presidential Academic Scholarship, met through the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, where their shared passion for theater brought them together. When Levine learned of the Kennedy Center's contest offering a chance to cover one of the most prestigious performing arts events in the world, she immediately thought of Kovach.
The dynamic duo filmed and posted their contest entry, a humorous TikTok explaining why they should be selected as the social media correspondents for the Kennedy Center Honors, an annual event that recognizes individuals for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the arts.
Their list of reasons included their love of theater and their TikTok prowess…or lack thereof, in Levine’s case.
“I’ve had one viral TikTok, and it was all about my mom, so I know how to appeal to an older crowd,” Levine jokes in the video.
Since the contest required the use of a specific hashtag, the pair was able to track the other submissions. For a while, Levine and Kovach’s video was the only one, but as the number of entries grew, so did their apprehension.
“Any time another video got posted, we’d be texting each other like, ‘Oh this girl’s really good’ or ‘This one was really funny,’” Kovach said.
But then they got the fateful email informing them that they won, meaning they’d be backstage during the event filming behind-the-scenes TikToks for the Kennedy Center’s official account.
“It was incredibly exciting,” said Kovach, whose live reaction video to the news was the duo’s first TikTok as the Kennedy Center Honors’ official social media correspondents. “It was just so surreal.”
So, too, was walking backstage for the first time.
“That was the first big standout moment,” Levine said of the backstage tour she and Kovach received a few days prior to the event. “To see a professional, crazy, functioning backstage with all the art on the walls from previous shows and posters and set pieces… I just could not believe I was in a space of such significance and talent.”
“The whole time I just kept thinking, ‘Why are we here?’” Kovach added with a laugh.
This year’s honorees were actor and comedian Billy Crystal; acclaimed soprano Renée Fleming; British singer-songwriter producer and member of the Bee Gees Barry Gibb; rapper, singer and actress Queen Latifah; and singer Dionne Warwick.
During the event on Dec. 3, honorees were celebrated through a series of performances and tributes by other artists, which was another memorable moment for the pair of young thespians.
“Cynthia Erivo sang ‘Alfie’ by Dionne Warwick for Dionne Warwick, and if I was alone, I would have just started sobbing because it was so beautiful,” Levine recalled. “The amount of work you could see she put into it represented how big of a moment this was, and it was just so emotional.”
For Kovach, highlights included performances by Dove Cameron, one of her biggest idols, and Ben Platt.
“I turned to Maya, and I was like, ‘I cannot believe we're watching Ben Platt dance around on stage right now.’ It was just crazy,” Kovach said.
Even crazier than that, however, was when the duo got the opportunity to film a TikTok with Michael Bublé.
“We were sitting there watching the broadcast and he was also standing by the monitor, and he looks over at Maya and just starts talking to her,” Kovach recalled. “So, I’m freaking out like, ‘Why is Maya talking to Michael Bublé like everything’s normal and like he’s not Michael Bublé?’”
The pair asked the singer if he’d be in a TikTok with them, and “he was so down.” It was one of many fulfilling moments throughout the whole experience that emboldened both Kovach and Levine to pursue the performing arts as a full-time career.
“I was like, ‘Oh, this is exactly what I want to do,’” said Kovach, noting that the opportunity was the perfect blend of her two majors: marketing and theater. “It was really cool to see that I can do something with both of those things.”
“This solidified for me that I want to either be in performing arts or extremely close to it,” Levine agreed. “Look how powerful it is and how it brings people together.”
Kennedy Center Honors aired Dec. 27 at 8 p.m. on CBS.