Broadway’s LaChanze (P ‘18, ‘19) recounts life of resilience in Du Bois lecture


Sprinkled in Lachanze’s lecture was clips of different songs she has performed. At one point LaChanze even demonstrated a dance move she had to master for one of her musicals called ‘the Skate’.

When senior and school president Zaya Gooding proudly introduced her mother to the upper school, the spotlight was entirely on LaChanze as the crowd grew quiet. Students and teachers alike listened attentively to LaChanze describe her experiences on Broadway and beyond.

LaChanze was invited to deliver the W.E.B Du Bois Lecture, an annual tradition honoring Black history and culture.

LaChanze is an established Broadway actor, having performed in a number of musicals including “The Color Purple,” “If/Then, and Summer: The Donna Summer Musical.” She is credited with a number of awards but is most well-known for winning a Tony Award for Leading Actress in a Musical in 2006, which she received for her role in “The Color Purple.” She also dabbles in film, having voiced a character for the movie “Hercules”, and acted in “Law and Order,” “The Help,” and a number of other productions.

After the presentation, LaChanze visited with students and explained that over the course of her long career she has seen improvement for minorities. More people of color are in positions of power on Broadway, composing, directing, writing, and acting. These people have not only empowered and inspired others to try to make it on Broadway, but have also been able to tell more diverse stories whether it be through song, dance, or acting.

In her presentation, LaChanze told the story of her rise to fame in detail. She described her struggles with rejection, and how she combatted them with resilience. Later, she explained her go-to advice for aspiring actors, including her eldest daughter and Hackley graduate Celia Gooding, who will perform on Broadway beginning in fall of 2019.

LaChanze often tells her daughter to “put your blinders on”. She explained that she has found success by focusing on her own goals and not comparing herself to others. She believes that one should be the best at what they do, not what the person next to them is trying to do.

She has done this with success and has carved out a place for herself in the notoriously tough show business. Her story that she shared with Hackley of a young black girl from the South working her way to Broadway impressed many.

Freshman Mira Zaslow said, “I thought LaChanze’s story was really impactful. I thought the message of overcoming setbacks with resilience applied to everyone there and was definitely important to hear.”