In the middle of her ongoing workshop for the new Frank Wildhorn musical “The Song of Bernadette” in New York City, Lea Salonga flew to Singapore over the weekend to personally attend and accept her TIME 100 Impact Award.
Salonga was recognized by Time Magazine for being the voice of Disney princesses, a life-long role model for kids of color, and her unparalleled contribution to theater.
Joining her were Alia Bhatt, a film actress from India, scientist Gregory Robinson who led NASA’s James Webb telescope program, and computational geneticist Dr. Pardis Sabeti.
ABS-CBN News caught with up with Salonga right after the awarding ceremonies where she shared her humbling experience receiving the recognition.
“Each of us, I guess, according to Time magazine, has made an impact in our respective industries and however we did it, moved our industries as well as the world forward. In hearing that description, it just felt really overwhelming and surreal to be an accepting an award for just doing what it is that I do,” said Salonga.
She added, “All of the awardees were people of color, which is pretty sweet; 3 out of the 4 awardees were women. Everybody gave an impactful speech and accepted awards with humility, but it was Pardis’ speech, for me, that really hit because she is from Iran. She was imploring everyone in the room who has any sort of influence or power to make sure that those stories from her country were told and were made more widely known.”
Dr. Sabetis, being an Iranian refugee, dedicated her award to the 22-year old Iranian woman Mahsa Jina Amini, who died in police custody last month and sparked protests against the country’s regime.
Part of Dr. Sabeti’s speech reads: “I want to dedicate this award to Mahsa Jina Amini and the young Iranians right now who are fighting for their freedom, whose impact should be seen, should be supported and should be fought for.”
As for the Broadway icon, she dedicated her speech to entertainers who pressed on and continued giving entertainment to the world in the middle of the pandemic.
“I just said that even just as a kid, I was enamored with music, with being on stage. It’s something that I really love. And all I wanted to do was to make people smile and entertain. And that during the COVID pandemic, it was more important to be doing that. It felt important to keep doing it, and I shared the award with every entertainer that in however way that they could, entertained.”
“Whether it was singing outside their apartment windows, there were people singing operatic arias, out of their apartments or out of their windows. People, who via Zoom, were creating content, doing plays or making TV shows, doing concerts and singing, and making music, still entertaining people, to help them forget a little bit about whatever bad news they were seeing on TV or reading or hearing, the sound of sirens out in the streets.”
“Every entertainer all over the world, that utilized technology and whatever tools they had at hand, to entertain and made people happy, I shared the award to everyone who did that. Because of going above and beyond, just to make people smile for just even five minutes.”
During the global lockdown, Salonga participated in a few online fund-raising events for COVID-19 frontliners like the “Bayanihan Musikahan” concert series, “Lockdown Cinema” and the online reunion of Disney Legends to raise funds for members of the performing arts and entertainment industry whose livelihoods were severely affected by the pandemic.
“You don’t realize how important your job is, until you are really called to do something. And you don’t realize the kind of impact you make until someone says you have no idea what kind of impact you’ve made.”
She continued, “In some places in the world, yeah artista ka lang. But in the last two and a half years, I think a lot of artists need to be told, ‘You have no idea what you’ve been able to do for people who were stuck at home looking for joy.’ There are people that did it, in a huge scale like BTS who did an online concert that people all over the world got to see. Or even people creating content who end up getting uploaded on TikTok, or YouTube, or via zoom doing live events, or Facebook Live or whatever platform.”
“Even though the Impact award has my name at the bottom, it’s like a glass frame. Even though it’s got my name at the bottom, I might as well etch every single entertainers’ name on that frame for anybody and everybody.”
After the awarding ceremonies, Salonga is scheduled to fly back to New York City.