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Photo Credit: Chris Bartelski

Life is a collection of moments created by a series of decisions we make each day.  Every so often, one of these moments meets us in a pivotal place of our journey and completely changes the game.  IN THE HEIGHTS was one of such moments.

C O U R A G E

Courage is to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. ~Brené Brown

The day I accepted the challenge of joining the cast of IN THE HEIGHTS, little did I know that I was on the precipice of something that would transform me in the most unexpected ways. Among my many hats, my favorite is that of performer and here I was in a life defining, paradigm shifting moment: a dream role, breathtaking music, and the most amazing cast and production team.

As performers, we risk getting caught up in the day-to-day, show-to-show, just-another-job grind.  

This was different.

In a recent journal entry I wrote: “Let me just say that I am forever impacted and changed by the experience. I have emerged! And it is freaking fantastic!” For one to emerge, it takes guts. It takes the courage to step into the darkest, messiest places of one’s story and allow them to be seen.  Here was an opportunity to do so and I seized it.

I left my story out on that stage every night.  For the first time, I played a role that was written for me, about me, for my people, and about my people.  But the conflicting narratives about myself and how I connected with my culture made it unexpectedly difficult to lean into the depth that this character really needed in order to come to life.  I was going to have to reconcile these conflicting narratives and make peace with the parts of my Latinidad that I had rejected.  It required courage that drew me inward and the daily practice I needed to make the inner work translate to outer transformation.

Courage is to tell the story of who you are, right?  Well I did it. Not only did I do it but each of my cast mates, a group of beautifully gifted people of color, did it as well. IN THE HEIGHTS provided for us a platform from which we would say:

“Hey America, we are here and we matter!”

But after generations of that proclamation being met with resistance, do you think it was easy to go out there and do that every night? Absolutely not!  It took a level of vulnerability and resilience from each person that inspired me every day. During a time when we are being reminded that we are still not considered equals, I joined each of my cast mates as we took our beautiful selves out there to show you who we really are.  We took up space. We reclaimed our rhythms.  We poured our hearts out. We showed you or hair, our hips, our skin. We told our stories. Unapologetically.  That work is what changes hearts, communities, nations.

It was a game changer. I believe it was as much for me as for everyone involved on stage, in the audience, or behind the scenes. That said, I will end with this thought for you:

What’s your game changer?

Make the decision to seek out opportunities to be courageous.  You know it’s an opportunity because it will lead you inward, be very uncomfortable, and make you reconsider old paradigms. Seizing such opportunities can be the difference between just existing and truly arriving at one of those moments that changes the game.

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