This weekend I am very excited to visit my hometown New York City. I left 20 years ago for Los Angeles to follow my dreams. I never thought I would be gone for so long. And I must admit I miss the lights and the fast pace of the City. I think about who I am as a woman my passion and the fire that lives inside of me to pursue my goals and I know that growing up in New York is the reason that I am so strong.

I started working professionally in musical theater at the age of 16 years old. I would travel on the A train to Harlem on my own to sing as the lead in my first show. I never had much fear to travel alone. And the level of courage it took to sing on the stage was high because of my upbringing in the Church. My family owned a Church in Brooklyn for many years then we moved to our new building in Queens which we still run and own for nearly 60 years. The Church was also my school. I learned the music. I learned stage presence and I got rid of stage fright as I sang for my uncle the Pastor. The combination of Church and theater in NYC has made me a very spiritual passionate strong artist.

Growing up in Brooklyn I remember being very excited to go to Manhattan. My guardian who raised me was like a grandmother and for her to go to the City was like traveling to Europe. It was a big deal. She would pack a lunch for us. And in all the years I knew her I could count on one hand the number of times she went. I was accepted to Music and Arts Performing Arts High School for drama. But I was not allowed to attend it because in her mind Manhattan was just too far away so I was forced to find a school in Brooklyn. I chose Erasmus Hall High School. Because it was in Brooklyn and because my idol Barbra Streisand attended the school.

While in 11th grade I auditioned for my first professional job and I was hired to sing the lead in the show Mama I want to Sing. Imagine being in the 11th grade making $600 a week as a teenager in New York City of all places. It was amazing but it was competitive and sometimes it was so scary. There were so many talented singers around me who like me had the same passion and fire and grew up in the same environment as me. It was the most intimidating environment one could be in but it could also make one great. Being forced to rise to the occasion you would break or you would fly.


I decided that singing Off Broadway was not enough so eventually I made my way downtown from Harlem to Times Square. It was time to shine like the lights there on Broadway. And I did. I starred on Broadway for years. I remember doing the lead in the show Footloose and inviting my family to the premiere in New York City. Seeing myself on the big screen singing live in the middle of Times Square and seeing a huge picture of myself in the middle of the city is something that will have a lasting impact on my life.

I know my father was not happy with me when I decided to leave. He told me he disagreed but secretly I felt I had to go. In the minds of others I had made it. But I was tortured inside. I was in a relationship with a man who did not love me and who fought with me all the time. And doing 8 shows a week over and over I felt like I was dying inside. New York had lost her flare. And I had to get out. I was heartbroken and felt so alone.

I remember roller blading through Central Park and riding my bike from midtown all the way over the Brooklyn Bridge. It was a great way to stay fit but also to get some space and breathe and try to gather my thoughts. Central Park is about 6.1 miles and traveling from midtown over the Brooklyn Bridge is about 11 miles but the views are so beautiful you do not feel it. The excitement of the city gives you the energy to walk 100 blocks without flinch.

 

Time has past now and I recall these memories with a bit of sadness but with lots of joy and gratitude to be a New Yorker. It has taken a while to decide to come back because I have been afraid to return to such a new reality. The City has changed so much and I am sure that there are new buildings and people I no longer recognize. However, everything must change and new memories must be made and created. I am excited to meet with a new musical theater agent when I arrive and to see what the future holds for me in the great city of New York City.

I have had the honor of singing in over 250 cities around the World and I must admit there is no place like home.

 

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