Q&A with Alexandra Ling ‘25GS

A content creator, dancer, and film and media studies major, Ling shares how she’s bringing her many passions together at Columbia GS.

October 23, 2023

Growing up, Alexandra Ling ‘25GS envisioned a future devoted to professional ballet. Social media content creation, which she began as a teenager under the name twirling pages, was simply a hobby and way to connect with peers as a homeschooled student. Fast forward nearly a decade and social media is her career, ballet is a community-building extracurricular, and Ling is majoring in film and media studies at Columbia University. We spoke with Ling about her transition from ballet to academia, how her social media presence has evolved over the course of nine years of content creation, and how her film studies at Columbia inform her social media storytelling. 

What was your path to GS?

Growing up, I was surrounded by ballet –– especially considering my dad was a professional ballet dancer and taught dance. In the summer between middle and high school, I decided to pursue ballet as a professional career and wholeheartedly focused on dance. Also during this time, I also explored other avenues and interests such as starting an ethical ballet clothing brand with my sister and a social media presence. 

However, when it came time to dance professionally, I realized the structure of the ballet industry was one I no longer wanted to participate in. Simultaneously, COVID fundamentally changed the world and made me think about the fragility of life. Thus, I began my journey back to academia and found my way to GS!

Alexandra Ling in front of Low Library

What have been your most memorable experiences at Columbia so far?

One of my most memorable experiences was my first performance with Columbia Ballet Collaborative. It was my first time performing after leaving professional ballet and it was incredibly healing to dance again with such a supportive community. For many years, dance was the biggest aspect of my identity and life. Leaving it felt heartbreaking in many ways, despite knowing that it was necessary for me to pursue my current goals. Participating in Columbia Ballet Collaborative and Columbia Repertory Ballet healed the part of myself that believed I could only be a ballet dancer if I gave up everything else. I’m incredibly grateful for the ballet and dance community at Columbia and hope to help other former pre-professional/professional dancers with their journeys as dancers and students.

Another special memory for me was Columbia’s Tree Lighting Ceremony. It was my first autumn/winter in New York and the ceremony was a beautifully joyous way to transition into the holiday season. 

Tell us about your journey with twirling pages. What has been the impact and evolution of your content creation? 

Throughout high school, I was homeschooled through online school and focused on training for pre-professional ballet. Because of this, I spent much of my time alone and engaged in my other passions during my time off. For me, that was reading and literature. When I finished a new favorite book, I wanted to share my thoughts with others but didn’t have the means to do so through online school. Thus, I created an Instagram page and blog dedicated to my passions outside of ballet and hoped others would join in the conversation.

Alexandra Ling's desk setup

In the first few years, I primarily shared book-related content such as book reviews, recommendations, and hauls. However, my interests evolved and I began incorporating my other passions such as fashion and wellness. Now, most of my content focuses on self-growth through improving productivity, living sustainably, and engaging in one's hobbies. I want to use my platform to encourage others to be the best version of themselves, and I hope others feel less alone and more inspired through my vlogs, interests, and documentation of my love for stories.

What is it like being a student and content creator?

Balancing content creation and my academics can be incredibly challenging, but ultimately very fulfilling and rewarding. Sometimes it feels like I’m living two lives, but thankfully, my content and studies are quite integrated, which makes it more manageable.

For example: after creating my own videos for years, I chose Film and Media Studies as my major to explore the history, theory, and practice of traditional filmmaking and beyond. I love how the structure of the major allows me to have an equal balance between filmmaking in practice and in theory. If not for my classes on the history and analysis of films, I would not be able to understand the meaning of certain modes of storytelling when used in practice.