Mulan was my childhood icon. After seeing her face and recognizing something similar in mine, I decided that I also wanted to cut my hair off in an act of 5-year-old defiance.
With my Papa’s nose hair trimmers, that was. And for a long time, Mulan was one of the very few characters I saw on TV and in magazines that looked like me. This confused me in a way because my own life was full of all different types of people who made my life feel wonderful. I wondered why I wasn’t watching more of their stories.
As I grew older and fell more in love with acting and the need to be a part of telling stories, I acclimated to a very small (yet whom I fiercely adored) list of actors that looked…. kinda like me. They were beacons of hope that made me think maybe one day, I too, would be doing what they did. I am still on the never-ending journey of self-identity. But if there’s one thing I know; it’s that I’m effing proud to be Mexican-Filipina. And I feel more strongly about that every day.
Being in Jo Koy’s upcoming release “Easter Sunday” was…soul-fulfilling. It was very similar to being served a steaming plate of lumpia and pancit palabok — dishes integral to Filipino cuisine and homes. It was food for my soul.
It was truly touching to be a part of a movie that felt like home. Of course, I was also extremely grateful to have a job during such challenging times.
It wasn’t until being on set that all of the “Easter Sunday” cast took a moment to look around at each other’s faces and go, ‘Woah.’ ‘You got my nose.’ ‘I have your eye shape.’ We have similar stories. This is the first time this has happened?! That Hollywood was having this film with an all-Filipino cast. It’s first in studio history. Crazy.
I felt even more power in representing Filipinos after being a part of the independent movie, “Yellow Rose.” That film by Diane Paragas was a project that definitely set fire to my need of being on screen. At the same time, being able to portray Eurydice in “Hadestown” on Broadway is another blessing in itself.
When people message me and say, “Wow, to see someone onstage look like me took my breath away,” will always feel like I’m winning in my career. No matter what genre of entertainment it is; people want to see themselves…they want to be the love interest, they want to be the superhero, they want to feel connected in some way and they want to feel seen.
We need more stories that center around the beautiful inhabitants of this earth. All of them. In all forms. I feel for those who didn’t grow up seeing themselves in society. There are definitely traumatic repercussions from that. Especially when all we see is one type of person who represents the epitome of beauty. For them, it always looked easy.
But life isn’t easy.
I learned to focus on the reality of the industry despite setbacks and challenges that tried to shape me into becoming something that I most certainly am not. I am excited to continue to celebrate the wins of the Asian community. Every month of the year.
So, I cannot wait for my brother and sister to see “Easter Sunday” and feel seen. And for my Papa in heaven (adobo king!) to laugh with us.
Eva Noblezada is an actress and singer whose credits include “Hadestown” and “Miss Saigon.” Most recently, Noblezada starred in 2020’s “Yellow Rose.” Next up, she will play Ruth in Universal’s “Easter Sunday.”
Throughout the month of May, Variety will publish essays and stories from prominent AAPI artists, artisans and entertainment figures celebrating the impact of AAPI entertainment and entertainers on the world at large.