X Factor

6 minutes

Whether it’s the country break-up songs of Carrie Underwood, the simple folk tunes of Woody Guthrie, or the smooth rhythm and blues beats of The Gap Band, Oklahoma music spans the symphonic spectrum. But recently, a star from the Sooner State exploded onto the pop culture scene, proving to the world that Okies can do just about anything.

Some years ago, Alexandra Schneiderman was just a regular kid growing up in Tulsa. Her mother encouraged her to join the cheerleading squad at Jenks High School, just like she did during her youth in South Korea. The young Schneiderman also participated in competitive show choir and theater. She knew from a young age that she was born to perform, but what shape that would take started to form in 2008.

AleXa, Alexandra Schneiderman, beat out artists from across the country on NBC's "American Song Contest." Photo by Trae Patton/NBC

AleXa, Alexandra Schneiderman, beat out artists from across the country on NBC's "American Song Contest." Photo by Trae Patton/NBC

“My best friend and I were in Chinese class together, and the teacher asked us to do a project over Chinese pop culture,” she says. “And at the time there was a K-pop group that had a Chinese unit, so my friend turned to me and said ‘Hey, let’s do the project over this K-pop group,” she says.

Schneiderman had never even heard of the genre, but she was instantly hooked.

“Upon first seeing the spectacle that is K-pop, I fell in love immediately,” she says. “The concept of not just singing, not just dancing, but the visuals, the aesthetics, the choreography—it’s just this entire package.”

From there her passion grew as she began listening to groups like Super Junior and SHINee: She even started an Instagram account dedicated to doing dance and song covers of K-pop music that ended up amassing fifty-two thousand followers.

After studying musical theater at Tulsa Community College, she began pursuing her dream of K-pop stardom in earnest. She adopted the stage name AleXa, and started preparing to go to South Korea.

“I actually taught myself at home how to read and write the Korean alphabet,” she says.

AleXa worked for years in Korean dance competitions and reality shows to prepare for her career. Photo by Trae Patton/NBC

AleXa worked for years in Korean dance competitions and reality shows to prepare for her career. Photo by Trae Patton/NBC

From 2016 to 2018 she competed in dance competitions and Korean reality shows such as Produce 48, Rising Legends—where she placed number one in the dance category—and the TV show Legendary: Making of a Pop Star. She was then signed as the first act under ZB Label, an artist management subsidiary of famous K-pop music video production company Zanybros, and began training and language lessons.

In October 2019, AleXa’s debut single “Bomb” peaked on Billboard’s World Digital Sales List at number seven. Since then, AleXa has been a rising star within the K-pop industry. She’s collaborated with groups such as Dreamcatcher and In2It; she’s verified on social media platforms Instagram and TikTok with followers reaching more than 1.6 million combined; and her music videos have gotten upwards of forty million views around the world.

And AleXa’s star seems to be growing brighter every year. On March 21, she represented Oklahoma in the first round of the American Song Contest on NBC. An absolutely electric performance of her song “Wonderland” earned her a spot in the semifinals, and on May 9, she beat out every other state in the nation—including those represented by Michael Bolton, Jewel, and Macy Gray—to become the competition’s first winner. Even as she storms the world stage, AleXa still has Oklahoma on her mind.

“I have so many memories of horseback riding, picking blackberries . . . there are so many beautiful, scenic places that Oklahoma does feel like your own Wonderland,” she said in her introduction video for the competition.

In fact, one of her personal goals is to perform at the BOK Center in Tulsa and elsewhere in her home state.

“I also think it’d be fun to do a college campus tour, maybe hit up OSU, OU, TU, or Edmond,” she says.

It’s hard to say what AleXa will be doing in the future or where her talent will take her, but it’s clear that wherever she goes, she’ll take plenty of yeoljeong—passion in Korean—and Okie pride with her.

AleXa will perform her winning song “Wonderland” on the Billboard Music Awards Sunday, May 15 on NBC. Follow her on Instagram at @alexazbofficial, or TikTok, at @alexazbofficial.

Written By
Olivia McCourry

Olivia McCourry
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