It’s important to face the facts of our organised oppression so we can deal with them.
Daphne Rubin-Vega is a Broadway star with the voice of a rock goddess, the clothes of a rave princess, and the moves of a Fly Girl, as finely summed up by the US Elle. Starring as the original Mimi Marquez in the Broadway super hit ”Rent”, and as Fantine in the “Le Miserable”, the Panama native singer and actress has a long list of awards wins and nominations, including two Tony nominations. You might also recognise her enchanting features from movies like Wild things, Sex and the city and Flawless.
The actress had battled heroin addiction followed by a struggle with a food disorder. In the body-positivity series StyleLikeU she says that once she vowed to end her bulimia, she started singing in the girl group, Pajama Party, explaining that she believes the universe ‘really responded’ to her taking her attention away from her eating disorder.
Musical theatre has been rough on Daphne Rubin-Vega, notes The New York Times. She has played a drug addict in “Rent” and an orphan-turned-prostitute in “Les Miserables”. Now, in the new musical “Miss You Like Hell”, she portrays another desperate woman on the verge, threatened with deportation from the United States and losing a relationship with her estranged daughter – an immigration musical for the new Trump era.
Daphne, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview. You play on Broadway and we have seen your face in a number of world hits, ‘Sex and the city’ being one of them. Let’s take it from here: what were your fantasies of being an actress of this calibre before you became one, and what the reality turned out to be?
If I had a fantasy about being an actress, it would be that hard work generates opportunity. I’ve been very lucky to see that become true. Reality, however, is that you have to create your own opportunity. That has been my experience.
There is a charming story with David Bowie and Chaka Khan behind the kick-start of your career. Would you tell me more about that?
I was invited to a recording session of David Bowie’s singing a song for the film “Labyrinth”, in which he starred. Chaka Khan was a guest vocalist, as were Cissy Houston (Whitney’s mum), Luther Vandross and a pageant of a major talent. Chaka’s brother, Mark, had invited me. I was still in school. All of these Fabulous people in one room made my head explode with the desire to sing with them. Basically, I asked the producer if I could sing and he said yes and it made my life because I put everyone in the room’s name on my resume! The producer turned out to be Arif Mardin, who produced the RENT album years later. Thank you, Arif!
You need to be “fuckable looking” to be successful in the acting business, you say in an interview. What price are you paying to look fuckable and how has your perception of your own body changed over the years?
Wow, I said that?! I sometimes assume harsh vulgarity gets the point across… I think women (men too, but often significantly less so), fall into stereotypes easily if they’re not attractive in some way but there are many ways to be attractive! My perception has changed over the years in that a confident, composed dignity is what I now strive for to keep finding the places where I can be of most service.
You have struggled with heroin addiction and an eating disorder. Three question I have about that – what got you to the addiction and eating disorder, what made you seek recovery and how did you make it through both?
Those are HUGE questions.. I don’t know what got me to my addiction other than LIFE. Some say it’s genetic. Eating disorder is a social control device I had no idea I was expressing. I sought recovery when I was in enough Pain. “Pain is a motivator!” What gets me through is remembering I’m in a world where despite what I’m going through, the sun will continue to rise; and there’s somebody who can help. If you really want to change, there’s help.
Let’s talk about self-expression and body image. Where do you draw the line between healthy self-expression and improvement, and bad taste and a health hazard?
If it’s good for you, do it. If it’s not good for you, don’t do it. If it’s not good for you and you like it, enter at your own risk!
I call it National PTSD.
I became a citizen after 9/11 because I feared the distant threat that many now face. It’s disgusting. But it has lit a fire of consciousness that has been necessary. Freedom ain’t Free. There is no Privilege without Cost. I think it’s important to face the facts of our organised oppression so we can deal with them. Dissent is Very Patriotic these days.
What is happiness to you? How do you define it?
Happiness is Gratitude. The feeling that the Universe Loves me and listens to me is how I’d define it right now but that changes. All forms of gratitude make me happy.
Some Bulgarians might have the chance to come and watch you. Where are you playing now and could you, please, say a couple of words about the play?
Miss You Like Hell Fall 2018 that’s all I can say about that for now.