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Becoming Diana

How a backstage routine helped one actress become Diana Ross on Broadway.

becoming diana comic title card
Lila:   Valisia Lekae is a Grammy- and Tony-nominated actress and singer. She’s also my stepmom. In 2013, she starred on Broadway as Diana Ross in Motown: The Musical. What follows is Valisia’s nightly ritual, in her own words, as she prepared herself for the stage.   Valisia:  6 p.m.: Arrive at my dressing room.  When I walked through the theater door, I had a goal: to tell this story and to continue the Motown legacy.  My dressing room was filled with things that inspired me as an artist — like orchids from my boyfriend and timeless photos of Diana throughout her career.  6:30 p.m.: Beyoncé warmup.  Diana Ross paved the way for Beyoncé. But in my world, there is enough room for both of these women to motivate me.  7 p.m.: Shower and vocalize to the Supremes.  Taking on a role like Diana was not easy. She’s a huge icon, but she’s also human.   It’s important that the people not only see but hear and experience that. Stylistically, the Supremes had a unique, blended harmony. With Diana as the lead singer, they had a crossover sound that appealed to both white and black audiences.  7:30 p.m.: Makeup.  Applying Diana’s makeup brought me one step closer to truly becoming her. Lashes, dramatic eye makeup, and a bright red lip showcased Diana coming into her own as she aged.  8 p.m.: Wig application.  In a matter of two hours and 30 minutes, I had almost twenty costume changes, with ten pairs of shoes and almost as many wigs.   Each wig tells the audience what era of her career Diana is in. This wig is worn as Diana confidently becomes a solo artist.  8:10 p.m.: Get dressed.  All of these looks represented her from the ages of fourteen to 34 years old.  I had to focus all my efforts into physically and emotionally being Diana.  8:20 p.m.: Read a passage from Diana’s memoir Secrets of a Sparrow.   To me, Diana represents LOVE.   Love for the people …  Love for the music …  Love for her gift that is God-given!  It’s like she was put on this earth to spread love, to give love!   And I, too, share that sentiment.  8:25 p.m.: Head to the stage.  When I left my dressing room, I knew it was time to tell the story.   When it’s showtime, it’s showtime, and nothing else matters.   It was all about Diana.   I left Valisia behind.
Lila Ash

Lila Ash is an illustrator based in Los Angeles. She likes comics, cartoons, and cute dogs.