Eva Noblezada on creating her legacy as a Filipino Mexican woman in America today

As special guest performer, Noblezada sang She Used to be Mine from the musical Waitress.

THE Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF) held its Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month event last week and Tony-nominated and Grammy-winning performer Eva Noblezada.

The Filipino-Mexican Noblezada is no stranger to CACF. The nonprofit honored her in 2019 with their Catalyst for Change award.

“I think that CACF is doing such a good job at opening the conversation about anti-API hate and other inequities affecting our community that’s why I am so fiercely happy to be here tonight,” Noblezada told the Asian Journal. “I spoke to someone today saying that they’re trying to put forward to teach about Asian history in schools in New York State. That’s huge, I’m just hearing about this and I’m so excited.”

Currently the star of the hit Broadway musical Hadestown, Noblezada originated the lead role of Eurydice, where she was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Lead Role and for which she won a Grammy.

Eva Noblezada is a two-time Tony Award nominee and a Grammy-winning performer. She is a part of Easter Sunday, a film starring comedian Jo Koy. Currently, she stars as Eurydice on the hit Broadway musical Hadestown. Photos by Lia Chang for CACF

The actress made her Broadway debut via Miss Saigon in 2017 where she received her first Tony nomination. She previously starred in Hadestown at the National Theatre in London after being a lead in the West End revivals of Miss Saigon and Les Miserables.

Noblezada made her film debut in the acclaimed Sony Pictures film Yellow Rose, playing the lead for Filipino-American director Diane Paragas.

This year, her fans can catch her in Apple TV+ animated adventure film Luck this August and the upcoming Jo Koy film Easter Sunday.

“So yeah, my character plays a very unlucky human and she always thinks that she is cursed with bad luck and she finds out by the end of the movie that there is no such thing as always having bad luck,” she said. “And if anything is just like, that’s life. You know, it’s about how you deal with the cards that are dealt you.”

“I’m really excited for Easter Sunday because that’s a very important movie,” she said. “I’m proud and grateful to have been a part of both Yellow Rose and Easter Sunday, two Filipino movies written, directed, produced, and starred by Filipinos.”

Tracing Roots

Noblezada grew up in San Diego down the street from both her Mexican and Filipino grandparents.

She feels lucky for that, knowing now that there are younger people who are just coming to terms with their Filipino culture and what it means for them.

“I love being Filipina. I f*cking love being Filipina,” she exclaimed. “I’m still learning every day. There are still things that I have to learn about like the colonialism in the Philippines and the imperialism, and the history.”

“I’m 26 years old and I’m the fruit of the privileges of being who I am in the States. But what did it mean for my family? What sacrifices did they make for us to be here,” she shared.

In her short speech, Noblezada paid tribute to her grandfather Ephraim Noblezada who passed away in Iloilo last year due to pancreatic cancer. He was the one who brought the family to the United States in 1973. She said he “could grow anything and was the funniest person ever and made the best Filipino food.”

“I wasn’t able to go unfortunately because I was in a lockdown in Vancouver, and I would have literally gotten fined and arrested if I left my hotel room to go home. It sucked,” she shared. “It makes me sad, but also like the second he passed away, I felt him on my side.”

Noblezada believes that it is absolutely important to understand who we are and where we come from.

“Being in Miss Saigon gave me such a f*cked up ‘myself identity’ because I didn’t know who I was. I was a Filipino playing a Vietnamese woman and everyone in the cast felt the same. They’re like ‘I’m Chinese,’ ‘I’m Japanese and Korean,’ ‘I’m not Vietnamese’ and that show f*cks you up because it’s not right. You know?”

“The music is beautiful, but at the root of it, it does nothing but set us back, two steps back. And what I want to do is f*cking hurdle jump 18 steps forward,” she said sighing. “But that’s easier said than done.”

Asked about what her major takeaway so far since she started her career as a bright-eyed teen, she paused and got excited.

Noblezada with her boyfriend and Hadestown co-star Reeve Carney

“I’m a woman now, I’m 26! I’m not 17, I’m new here today,” she said, singing a line from the musical. “I think what I’ll say is this might sound cheesy, but I just want to be honest about how I feel right now. Enjoy your life and dig deeper. It’s not enough to enjoy the things that happen on – como si dice – the surface, it isn’t enough,” she explained.

“So the thing, the lesson I’ve learned is to understand who I am really, where I come from, and that will give me a direction of where to go from here. And then I’m in control of how I live my life. I don’t have to play victim to things that aren’t actually more powerful than who I am,” she added.

Momar G. Visaya

Momar G. Visaya is the Executive Editor of the Asian Journal. You can reach him at momar.visaya@asianjournalinc.com.

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