Fact Check

Did Lea Salonga Say She Was Rejected From a Role for Being Asian?

Salonga's powerhouse vocals have made her a household name.

Published May 18, 2021

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In an interview in 2019, Lea Salonga said she was rejected from a role because of her race.

Lea Salonga became a household name for many because of her powerhouse vocals and high-profile roles in Broadway musicals and Disney films. But a viral video circulating in mid-May 2021, amid a surge in anti-Asian and Pacific Islander hate crimes, brought to light a comment she made about her experience with racism.

The video was posted on May 17, 2021, by Project Nightfall. The Facebook version of the video contains the caption, "Lea Salonga - The Disney Princess Singer rejected for being Asian."

The video provides a brief summary of the hurdles Salonga overcame to become one of the world's best-known vocalists. She has starred in award-winning roles for Broadway musicals including "Miss Saigon" and "Les Miserables." She also voiced the singing roles of Disney princess characters Jasmine in "Aladdin" and the titular "Mulan."

Referencing the surge in anti-Asian hate crimes driven by political rhetoric about the COVID-19 pandemic, Project Nightfall host Agon Hare concludes the video by stating, "It is no secret that many Asians right now are going through a lot," adding, "We need more people like Lea who proves that talent has no nationality, who proves that everyone deserves a chance no matter where they come from."

The video includes a snippet from an interview Salonga gave Sky News in 2019 in which she recalled an incident in which she was rejected from a production because of her race — although she doesn't name the production:

In the interview, she stated, "And ten minutes later he (her talent agent) calls me back and he says, 'Oh, they're not gonna see you. They're not gonna see you because you're Asian.' And I'm like, 'Okay, there's the rude awakening.'"

Before her high profile vocals performing iconic Disney songs like "A Whole New World" in "Aladdin," Salonga previously rocketed into the public eye with her flawless rendition of the character Eponine's song "On My Own" in the theater production of "Les Miserables":

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who started her career as a daily newspaper reporter and has covered everything from crime to government to national politics. She has written for ... read more