For Shoba Narayan, Playing Princess Jasmine Is About Honoring Brown Girls Like Her

Quick-forward a number of years to 2017, when she was an understudy within the Broadway musical Natasha, Pierre, and the Nice Comet of 1812. When she lastly stepped into the lead position, the strain to be good was monumental—it was the primary time in additional than 10 years {that a} South Asian girl had a lead position on Broadway.

“Personally, I didn’t have anybody to look to after I was rising up,” she says. There weren’t brown ladies getting kissed within the rain on film units or singing in massive attire on Broadway levels. The closest factor for a ’90s child was Aladdin’s Princess Jasmine, a cartoon, an improbably proportioned fictional character.

“To have somebody who was sturdy, may sing, was lovely, fascinating, and courageous, wished to query authority and doubtlessly rule a kingdom…I wished to be her,” Narayan says. She grew up belting “A Complete New World” within the household room, and even grew her hair out to match the character. “She was the one factor that I needed to relate to,” says Narayan. “So she meant lots to me.”

When the pandemic closed down Broadway, Narayan was performing in Depraved on Broadway. It was full-circle for the onetime Dorothy portrayer—she was enjoying Nessarose, the long run Depraved Witch of the East. When the theater turned darkish, Narayan returned her sparkly slippers. Months later, she received a name from her agent. Immediately she was auditioning for her dream position over Zoom. Suppose you’ve had a tough virtual meeting? You’ve by no means needed to faux to be driving on a magic carpet whereas in gallery mode.

However she received the half. She’ll be climbing very, very, fastidiously aboard a carpet that may whisk her excessive into the air, the place she’ll sing an iconic track, for a rapt viewers. She imagines her physique and her voice floating in that massive, empty house, the “gasps and tears and cheers” of the viewers.

Every time she performs a giant position, Narayan says, she hears from individuals within the South Asian neighborhood. However she additionally hears from individuals of all completely different minorities. “They see somebody like me being the lead within the present, portraying a personality who is robust and fascinating and the middle of the story,” she says. “I believe all of them really feel seen and that they’re represented onstage.”

Quickly she’ll be sharing her items with audiences who haven’t seen a dwell efficiency in years. There will probably be laughter, fist pumps, rapturous applause.

Shoba Narayan will probably be there. And he or she’ll be good.

Jenny Singer is a workers author for Glamour. You may follow her on Twitter. | For Shoba Narayan, Enjoying Princess Jasmine Is About Honoring Brown Ladies Like Her


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