The Story Behind The Face / by Meg Saligman

Philadelphia Muses, 2002, Philadelphia, PA. 

Philadelphia Muses, 2002, Philadelphia, PA. 

Ever wonder what it’s like to be immortalized in a permanent mural? To have your face become a giant city landmark? We feature real, everyday people in our paintings, and although the portraits often become familiar visual icons within the city, very few actually know who these people are in their real lives.

We recently got in touch with one of our most elegant models, Willia McCormick, who posed for Theatre of Life back in 2002.

At the time of the mural’s making, Willia was 18 years old and dancing with the prestigious Philadanco dance company. Willia recalls Meg visiting the dancers’ rehearsals to scout for models and actually missing the first photo session. “I was disappointed I missed it. But when Meg came back a second time, I was glad to be there. Of course, I didn’t know if she would end up choosing my photo or not, but it was such a unique opportunity so I still felt lucky.”

Willia said when she first saw the finished mural, she thought “it would be cool to show this to my children one day. It’s funny, at the time it’s not like I was thinking about starting a family or anything. It was just an idea that came up for whatever reason. But now that I do have kids, I am really looking forward to showing them the mural when they’re a few years older.” Willia’s children, ages two and four, will hopefully connect with the spirit of the mural - they reportedly both love art and dancing.

Since her days with Philadanco, Willia has been dancing professionally on Broadway with The Lion King for 20 years(!). Whenever she revisits Philly, however, she says people still recognize her. “‘Hey Willia, was that you up on that wall?’ I still get recognized to this day.”

Here’s Willia now: