Arianda Fernandez Pays Her Rent

Behind all of this, I am a dancer. That is what I mainly call myself. That is what I was training for most [in school]. So it helps me with the character.

Rent On Tour Site 



Ten years: That is how long Rent has been gracing the stage on Broadway. To help celebrate the 10th anniversary, The Fox Theatre will be bringing the dazzling musical, which focuses on the harrowing AIDS epidemic, to St. Louis once again. For one weekend only, March 17–19, you can enjoy the magical songs and colorful characters inhabiting Jonathan Larson’s sensational story.

Brooklyn’s own Arianda Fernandez is filling the role of Mimi, the sultry dancer battling her drug dependency along with the killer disease. At 18 and barely out of high school, this adolescent actress is out to prove that she has what it takes to fill this demanding role.

To say that Fernandez is a breath of fresh air is an understatement. As I grilled this actress a barrage of questions, her enthusiasm and remarkable professionalism made me stand up and take notice—and you should as well. Fernandez is a talented force to be reckoned with.

What was your very first role?

My first role was as Little TiMoune in Once on This Island. I was 12 years old.

Is this your first national tour?

Yes, this is my first professional job ever. I have never been away from home. This is like the college experience, only more fun.

Your first job and you landed the role of Mimi in Rent?

I had auditioned for them before, but I was always too young because I was 17. In order for me to travel with them I would need a supervisor, so they never wanted to deal with that. But I turned 18 last November, and in December this opportunity came up and I came to the audition; the next day they called me and offered me the job. I could not be happier—I was in school and I was becoming unhappy with the school. This opportunity could not have come at a more perfect time.

Seeing how you are the youngest in the cast, do the others look out for you?

Oh, everyone in the cast, they all want to take care of me. They call my parents and tell them they are making sure I am eating well. It’s great; I don’t think most casts are like this.

What would you say is the most demanding aspect of playing Mimi?

I have an explosive number called “Out Tonight,” and right after that song I have to sing a softer ballad with Roger called, “Another Day.” The thing I have come to realize is how difficult going from so much movement and singing on “Out Tonight,” and then having to catch my breath and having to get into the other emotion. We are still in the beginning of the process; I am still learning how to control myself. I have to go to the treadmill, build up my stamina, stuff like that.

What special skills do you bring?

Behind all of this, I am a dancer. That is what I mainly call myself. That is what I was training for most [in school]. So it helps me with the character. I did more flamenco dancing and salsa, which is more Latin. You could say that helps me when I am Mimi because of the rawness. I did take ballet and other classes, but the other styles are more raw and sexy.

You were involved with the Latin Billboard Awards. How did that come about?

The Spanish salsa singer Celia Cruz died in 2004; after she passed away, they created a foundation. I was one of those kids who got a scholarship for vocal study at my art school where I took my vocal and dance lessons. For the Latin Billboard Awards, Celia Cruz was going to win an award, but she had already passed away. So they decided to create this tribute with her students who won the award to perform one of her songs; I was the lead singer, then there was a pianist, and a girl who was playing the drums. II was singing the song with [salsa singer Oscar D’Leon] and Celia Cruz’s husband was onstage while all of the other Spanish/Latin recording artists were sitting in the audience watching us. It was thrilling.

You seem like you are genuinely getting the most out of this experience.

I am having a great time; I can’t say anything negative about it. I feel like if I do, then I am not appreciating what I have because I am so lucky. I feel so blessed.

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