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Mia Love: From dreams of Broadway to Capitol Hill
Mia Love » The Saratoga Springs mayor has become a rising star in the Republican Party.

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"The country of up "» The naturalization process was simple: The Bourdeaus received an information packet within a day of making inquiries with immigration officials. They were interviewed and passed a test and within a few years the family members became U.S. citizens.

At a glance

Mia Love bio

Age » 36

Family » Husband, Jason Love, and two daughters and a son.

Education » Bachelor’s in performing arts, University of Hartford Hartt School

Birthplace » Brooklyn, N.Y.

Occupation » Flight attendant, call center manager, fitness instructor and mayor

Hobbies » Music, long-distance running

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By that time the Bourdeaus had left the high-rises of New York for the more suburban surroundings of Norwalk, Conn., a diverse city of about 78,000, which has maintained a strong Haitian community, and where Maria Bourdeau had relatives.

Working long hours as a janitor and factory worker, Jean Bourdeau was able to move his family into a three-story home on Ponus Avenue, a winding highly traveled two-way street that alternates between cozy tree-lined neighborhoods and dense business districts.

On Sundays, Maria Bourdeau would be in the kitchen, cooking up a meal for whatever family or friends or neighbors happened to stop by. "That’s the way she showed love. She feeds people," said Love.

The Bourdeaus enrolled their children in Catholic elementary schools before moving them to public schools, and their parents emphasized the importance of gaining an education.

"I want them to be something what I never be in my country," said Jean Bourdeau. "I want them to go to school, to learn. This is the country of up. You can be whatever you want to be."

It may not have been an idyllic neighborhood — Love says that when she threw a party, a friend’s mother was reluctant to let her son travel to the rough side of town to attend — so the parents kept their kids busy in after-school programs, summer camps and extracurricular activities.

Love was in the choir, where she demonstrated some talent. When she reached high school, she was in the color guard, traveling on weekends to competitions with the school’s top-ranked marching band, and keeping a grueling schedule.

Then she got involved in theater, landing the role as "the oldest woman alive" in the musical "Barnum."

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"I fell in love with it," said Love.

Performing » Jeff Smith, her music teacher in Norwalk, Conn., remembers how Love had to climb into a full body suit and cake on makeup to make her appear to be the oldest woman alive. Students wheeled her out on a cart before she belted out the song "Thank God I’m Old."

"She was a very outgoing student," said Smith, who retired in 2010 and moved to New Hampshire. "A very strong young lady and a very powerful personality."

In "West Side Story," she sang a duet with Becky O’Dowd, who was a year older and a friend of Love’s sister, Cynthia. They remain close friends and, after graduating from Norwalk High School a year early, Love followed O’Dowd to the University of Hartford’s Hartt School as a musical-theater major.

Love was one of 11 to qualify for the program, which was still new but seen as a potential stepping-stone to Broadway, a path many graduates have taken.

The Hartt School was demanding: Dance lessons each morning followed by acting and voice lessons and then play rehearsals in the evening, all wrapped around the traditional slate of college courses. It left time for little else and Love’s drive and ambition chafed some of her fellow performers.

"She was very intense with the way she approached her work in the theater, almost in a way that was off-putting to some of us," said Rachel Mans­field, a theater teacher in Connecticut, who was one of Love’s classmates.

Love and Mansfield played rivals in their senior year production of "42nd Street," Love as the fresh-faced Peggy Sawyer, the musical’s main character, while Mansfield portrayed the aging actress Dorothy Brock.

Near the beginning of "42nd Street," Love performed a duet with Kevin Duda, who went on to appear in Broadway productions, including his current run in The Book of Mormon musical. Duda is a few years younger than Love and remembers looking up to her, calling her a "leader" in the department.

"Whether it was musical theater or not, you knew she was going to succeed at something because she had such a strong will," said Duda, who hasn’t been in contact with Love since college.

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