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Photographed by Shoji Van Kuzumi

In our latest episode of What's In My Jewelry Box, we learn more about the lovely and multitalented Alex Waterbury. She's a student at Columbia University and a ballet dancer alongside her day job as a model with Wilhelmina International. We met her on a bright and sunny day at Columbia to take a peek at some of her favorite pieces of jewelry and look at a day in the life of a student who's juggling professions that require intense focus and discipline.

What are some of your favorite memories associated with jewelry? Did you have a lot growing up/what was your first piece of fine jewelry?
Growing up, my absolute favorite movie was the Titanic. I was four years old when I first watched it and cried. I still cry every time. I think her iconic necklace got me hooked on jewelry straight from the start. After that, along with all of my dress up clothes, I had lots of dress up jewelry that was way over the top. Now that I think about it, I understand why my nickname was “Fancy”. My first piece of fine jewelry was gifted to me from my father. It was a pair of very small diamond earrings which I had stolen from me at boarding school, unfortunately.

Have you ever lost or broken a piece of jewelry?
Those earrings were the first and only pair of earrings I’ve lost. One of my necklaces broke once. The chain was so delicate; it broke while I took it off.

The pieces in this picture all have some tie to important people in my life. The necklace furthest to the left with the “A” on it, is from my mother. I believe she gave it to me on Christmas. The diamond necklace all the way to the right was from my father which was also given to me for Christmas many years ago. The dangling pearl earrings on the left were a gift from my mom whereas the pearls on the right I stole from my mom’s jewelry box—along with the gold hoops in the picture which I wear all the time, just because. The necklace in the middle was a gift from my boyfriend on our first Christmas together. That necklace is so sweet because I opened it sitting on my floor in my old apartment in Harlem, under a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Everything about the setting was so imperfect but the necklace was stunning and we were so happy. That necklace always makes me smile.

What is your most meaningful piece?
That’s hard because I feel as though everything I wear has some meaning behind it. I have a diamond necklace from my father that was called “The Journey Necklace”. It sounds very cliché but the shape that the stones were set in is supposed to resemble a winding road. If I wear it, it’s usually because I’m stressed out and need it as a reminder to remember that “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and that life will be crazy at times. I also have a necklace from my mom that has and “A” on the front for Alex that says “One in a million” on the back. When modeling, ballet, or school brings me down, that necklace reminds me of my worth—at least to someone like my mom. And last but not least THE SHIFFON PINKY RING for obvious reasons!

Believe in every step you take and every move you’re making.

How do you manage modeling, ballet, and school all at once? What advice would you have for younger girls who aspire to do what you're doing?
It’s tough. This past year has been really tough as all three things have really started to take off in the best way. I’ve learned to manage everything by prioritizing and sticking to a very strict schedule even if that schedule changes daily. You have to know when to say no to hanging out with friends, when you have to force yourself to read for homework, and when you really should be at the gym instead of relaxing watching TV. There’s so much to maintain and stay on top of. But I’ve also learned to prioritize myself (which mostly means getting 8+ hours of sleep per night.)
I think I would tell younger people to work hard, and have confidence in everything you do. Believe in every step you take and every move you’re making because it does affect the way others perceive you as well as the final outcome you get personally. For me, walking into a casting or a ballet audition, or even answering a question in a classroom full of 200 people, I need to believe in what I’m doing and saying. I’ve learned how hard it is to actually be confident and still I’m not confident in myself or my actions at times, but you have to fake it till you make it! Also, surround yourself with people that are positive and that want what’s best for you. I have very few friends but the people I keep close; I keep close for this reason. The world is already so hard on us, why be surrounded by people that bring us down?

As told to Shreya Chaganti for Shiffon Co.

This article is part of Shiffon Co.'s What's In My Jewelry Box series, where we visit women we admire to learn about what their jewelry means to them. Follow along @shiffonco for sneak peeks at our next features.

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