She knows what it is like to play a role and transform into someone else. She has been a bargirl in war-torn Vietnam, a grisette turned prostitute in the streets of Paris, and a middle-aged wife to a closeted homosexual, among other things.
All her efforts have catapulted her to a pedestal on the international stage, permitting her to tread a path that many would only ever dare to dream of. Her turn as Kim earned her a Tony Award—becoming the first Asian woman ever to receive one—a Laurence Olivier Award, and a Drama Desk Award. In addition, she was also the first Filipino artist to sign with an international recording company and receive a major album release. One can only imagine how much pride she is giving her home country.
Now older and wiser, Lea’s artistry (though she continues to perform very well in such areas) has transcended both awards and album sales. “Contrary to how some people may think, artists are not here to simply entertain,” she says. “As performers, part of our job is to step into another person’s shoes and see what it must be like to live a lifetime in them in the span of a couple of hours. The characters we play allow our audience to see things through someone else’s eyes—and, hopefully, help trigger a change.”
BRIGHT YOUNG THING
Music has always played a big role in Lea’s life. She grew up listening to ABBA, The Osmonds, Michael Jackson, and Olivia Newton-John. Performing itself was second nature to her; even as a child who’d had to audition for big names—the late Zenaida Amador easily comes to mind—the concept of stage fright was rather alien. “I was a six-year-old with a smart mouth who liked singing,” Lea recalls in jest. “I didn’t have a very clear idea of what exactly I was supposed to do at the time, but there must have been something in me that made me worthy of a callback.”