Celebrated for her role as Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton on Broadway, Mandy Gonzalez is a force who uses her voice for more than just singing. The vocal superstar has been taking inspiration to new heights with a fearless message that is filled with hope and unity.
Originally from Santa Clarita, California, Gonzalez currently resides in New York where she spends most of her time living out her artistic dreams. Apart from her phenomenal theatrical career where (among a long list of outstanding credits) she originated the role of Nina Rosario in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning Broadway musical In the Heights, she has been working on several other extraordinary projects.
If not on stage, you might have caught Mandy on the ABC drama thriller Quantico or in the CBS breakout hit Madam Secretary. Recently, Mandy released her debut solo recording, which also features some of her ultra-talented friends. The album is titled Fearless and the title track is written by her dear friend and amazing composer, Lin-Manuel Miranda. It also includes the fine work of Jennifer Nettles, Tom Kitt, and Bill Sherman.
InLove Magazine had the chance to speak with Mandy about what she’s up to and exactly what it means to be fearless.
Sari: Tell me more about your inspiration behind the album and what else you’ve got going on?
MG: I had started this movement called ‘Fearless Squad’. It came from feeling overwhelmed by the negativity on social media. I wanted to put positivity out into the world so I started this hashtag. Since then, thousands upon thousands of people have joined from all over the world. We try to hold up the squad rules which are: we help each other when we fall, we erase our differences, we look for the good and we dream big. We talk about the things that are bothering us and we try to work through it together.
That’s what really started my idea of fearless for the album. When I talked to Lin-Manuel he asked me what fearless means to me, I said, ‘Let me tell you about my Fearless Squad.’ I also told him about people who inspire me. The biggest people are my parents. They met as pen pals during the Vietnam War. They’ve been together now for 43 years. They’re from two different worlds. I think that’s what ‘Fearless Squad’ is, too. We’re all from different parts of the world, but we come together with love. I told Lin these stories and he wrote the song ‘Fearless’ which is incredible.
On top of that, doing Hamilton and flying different places to promote my album. I’m also a mom to an incredible 6-year-old.
So, you’re superwoman.
[Laughs] I wouldn’t say that. I just have one, whereas my friends up the street have three. I think that there’s this feeling amongst all of us, as moms, where we want to support one another. I have friends, fellow mothers, who are doing incredible things. It’s really inspiring. I still have things that I want to achieve, and I think with a squad behind you, you can be fearless and do anything.
How do you balance it all?
I don’t think that balance is possible, but I have an incredible husband who I wouldn’t be able to do anything without. My husband is an artist. We tag team because my whole family lives in California. I really think it’s about building your squad where you are. I definitely had to learn as a mom, that it’s okay to ask for help from your friends because they want to help you. They want to support you and be part of your life. Once you kind of figure that out, it’s a really beautiful thing.
Could you ever see yourself creating something with your husband? Where maybe he paints and you sing? Doing some kind of performance art together?
Maybe. My husband is an abstract painter. He’s already involved in every aspect of my life. I always run things by him and ask for his opinion because I think he’s the coolest person I know.
How did your journey actually begin?
When I graduated high school, I went to school at CalArts. They had a great theater program. I did so much singing growing up, so at the time, when Bette Midler was looking for new Harlettes for her tour, I got the call to audition. When I booked it, it changed my life. I was singing at these huge arenas and these spots in New York. After that, I told my parents I wanted to go to New York and be on Broadway. I took the money that I made from that job and I moved to New York with nothing else. I came with a dream. I worked odd jobs. I went to auditions and after six months I booked my first job. I won an OBIE Award and that started my career.
Hamilton is now my seventh Broadway show. I did In the Heights, Aida, Dance of the Vampires, Lennon, and then I did Wicked. After Wicked, I wanted to take some time off and have a family. In doing that you become a lot more creative so, I started doing concerts. That’s the brilliant thing about New York City, is that the opportunities are there, you just have to find it. While I was doing shows, Thomas Kail called me to do Hamilton. It’s the same team that was with me for In the Heights. They’re like family to me. Hamilton has just opened up so many opportunities for me and for everybody here. All these things I’ve been working towards, because of Hamilton, have come to fruition, which is really wonderful.
Did you ever have a moment with Hamilton, before it became such a huge success, when you just knew you were doing something special?
Definitely; with In the Heights and with Hamilton. I think you can’t deny it when there are no seats in the house. That’s a rarity on Broadway. Having been on the journey you just appreciate it so much more. When you’ve been in shows where you’re just hoping it will make it another week, to then be in a show where you know it will continue to run and take the world by storm, it’s an incredible gift.
You’ve also done really well in television with roles that don’t require singing. Do you ever have to refrain from breaking out into song on set? Or, do you sometimes burst into song purposely to lighten the mood?
With Madam Secretary I think it’s a little tough because I’m at the White House. There’s not a lot of singing at the White House. I just kind of keep cool. I’m around these titans of film and television so I sit back and I just watch. It’s like a master class. Téa Leoni is just a master at what she does. It’s interesting. I’ve been around a lot of powerful women throughout my career. To see someone like Bette Midler and how she creates a show from scratch, then to somebody like Téa, there’s so much that she has to do, so many scripts that she has to read and learn, and she does it flawlessly. I think there’s something about that, to see women in those positions, who also strive for more.
What do you see for your future?
I’m looking at myself now as more of an entrepreneur. I really want to take the ideas I have for business all the way. I see myself succeeding in that way, being my own boss. That would be a future for me.
What advice can you give to somebody when it comes to finding their own style and learning how to fall in love with that?
It’s kind of like what my mom told me when I left for New York. It’s a quote by Antonio Machado, and it’s ‘Traveler there is no path. The path is made by walking.’ There were so many people I admired along the way that I thought, ‘Oh I have to do this like them and therefore my path will lead this to that’. Sometimes you say yes to a thing you wouldn’t even expect. That is your path. It’s about the journey and finding that sometimes it’s up and sometimes it’s down. It’s not easy to live a life in the arts, but it’s worth it.
What’s next for 2018? What can fans expect from you?
Check out Fearless.us because I may be coming to a city near you. A lot more music. Follow me on social media. Really, it’s about the ‘Squad,’ learning about who they are and growing together. 2018 is the year of being fearless and saying yes.
Photos by Jacob Blickenstaff, Joan Marcus.
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