Lea Salonga became a household name for many because of her powerhouse vocals and high-profile roles in Broadway musicals and Disney films. But a viral video circulating in mid-May 2021, amid a surge in anti-Asian and Pacific Islander hate crimes, brought to light a comment she made about her experience with racism.
The video provides a brief summary of the hurdles Salonga overcame to become one of the world’s best-known vocalists. She has starred in award-winning roles for Broadway musicals including “Miss Saigon” and “Les Miserables.” She also voiced the singing roles of Disney princess characters Jasmine in “Aladdin” and the titular “Mulan.”
Referencing the surge in anti-Asian hate crimes driven by political rhetoric about the COVID-19 pandemic, Project Nightfall host Agon Hare concludes the video by stating, “It is no secret that many Asians right now are going through a lot,” adding, “We need more people like Lea who proves that talent has no nationality, who proves that everyone deserves a chance no matter where they come from.”
The video includes a snippet from an interview Salonga gave Sky News in 2019 in which she recalled an incident in which she was rejected from a production because of her race — although she doesn’t name the production:
In the interview, she stated, “And ten minutes later he (her talent agent) calls me back and he says, ‘Oh, they’re not gonna see you. They’re not gonna see you because you’re Asian.’ And I’m like, ‘Okay, there’s the rude awakening.’”
Before her high profile vocals performing iconic Disney songs like “A Whole New World” in “Aladdin,” Salonga previously rocketed into the public eye with her flawless rendition of the character Eponine’s song “On My Own” in the theater production of “Les Miserables”: