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July 24, 2017

Storytelling Close-Up: A Musical Actress in Search of Her Best Role

"I was looking for deeper meaning."

Walesca Frank

She has always had a blooming fantasy. Seamlessly, she slips into a role, jumping from identity to identity, from character to character. From the tender age of 16, Walesca Chloé Lauren Frank has been a musical actor. We Will Rock you, Mamma Mia, Stairways to Heaven – the young woman from Switzerland has already played numerous roles in different stories. But her biggest and most important story took place far away from the spotlight.

The start of a perfect career

“I just love to play and impersonate another character,” Walesca says. The 25-year-old is a petite, young woman with a strong political opinion. Her fine-boned fingers are reaching for a chai-latte with soy-milk. She is looking out of the window onto the green Savignyplatz. “I don’t do it because of the applause, but rather because I enjoy it.” At the age of 16 her career started off. Quickly and steadily she moved through the greatest and most famous musicals of our time. As a teenager, she began to study musical and show at the University of Arts in Berlin. During the day she went to school. In the evening she slipped into her costumes and went on stage for the musical hairspray. The sails were set and the goal quite clear: Walesca Chloé Lauren Frank headed towards a career as an artist.

In search for global fame, she finds her roots

“Musical is about the story of a person told with your own emotions,” that’s how Walesca describes her work life. Singing, dancing, the design of the stage, acting and the script, the story itself – as a storytelling form, a musical encompasses many narrative formats. But still, it has to fight against the cliché to rather put attention on entertainment than on depth. “People say that a musical show begins with someone just starting to sing. But if a play is well done, the audience doesn´t recognize someone is singing. It fits. It works. That makes the harmony,” states the young artist.

But Walesca started doubting when she accepted a role where the director could no longer explain the message of her character. She asked herself how she could be able to play a person without a message or a deeper meaning behind it? That was the point which lead Walesca to the decision to change the city. At that time she was 22 years old and applied to the Lee Strasberg Theater & Film Institute in New York. It drew her to the origin of the art of musical. But what she did not know yet: she would discover her own roots.

From the musical metropolis to artistic freedom

In the great lively city where artists and creatives are attracted like moths to the show light, Walesca felt free. She got to know a lot of personalities, but most of all she discovered herself. A look at the family pictures of the Franks shows that Walesca is a bit different compared to her parents. “I had the best childhood ever! My parents adopted me at the age of three months,” she says proudly. Walesca’s parents are white. Her dad is a native Swiss and her mother is from Spain.

At the age of 14, she discovered her biological mother, who is originally from the Dominican Republic. “New York made me think more about my origins for the first time in my life. I met many Dominicans who were quite different from the typical picture I had before. I realized how cool it is to be proud of your own roots.

It connects people. It gave me strength and a certain sense of freedom.” She wanted to know more about herself and took a DNA test in New York. “All this stimulated a great process inside of me: everyone should be proud of their origin. In a certain way, we are all different from each other.” Walesca abolished her own stereotypes against her origins.

Between two worlds

Walesca came back to Berlin and continued with her work. With Mamma Mia she tried to return to her old role as an actress, subordinate herself to musical as a product instead of hatching into characters that had an emotional depth. After taking another role for Stairways to Heaven she gradually felt something had changed. She wanted more. But a key experience ensured that she realized what was happening with her. When she auditioned for a role, the casting director explained that she must play her role “a little more black”. Walesca did not understand the woman. She grew up in a quiet home in Switzerland. She had a dark skin color, but what does “a little bit more black” actually mean? She looked at the media landscape of Germany and thought about all the people who could not be hired as they sat on the back seat and were only pulled forward for certain show acts. Stereotypes and a lack of depth stretch across all musical stages. She saw how little black people are represented in advertizing or in talk shows or even being a host themselves. The ones she found smoothed their hair with chemicals to fit in the predominant European image. All of them were actually the people who were playing a role.

Sharing her story revealed a new path

Source: Refinery29

Walesca realized she wanted to tell her own story. The story of many people who have a dark skin color and are German. She wrote an article on Refinery29 titled “I’m angry because I cannot find any beauty products for my curls in the drugstore” and it was a big hit. “After the article had been published I received a lot of private messages from different people. Then I realized: it is an important message! There are people out there who are like me!” Instead of slipping into other roles and adapt to roles like a chameleon, she does not try to change herself anymore. She now uses her blog cielolover, a Youtube-Channel and other social media platforms to share her own story. “Right now, I don’t know where this will lead, but at the moment it feels good. I love musicals and would like to continue working in this arena, but I want to have more depth.” Walesca is in the midst of a transformation process. Her journey across the many musical stages and different cities has now brought her to a point where she does not slip into a role anymore. She is for once herself.

Author: Ciani-Sophia Hoeder

Whether in the form of books, online texts or visual content, Ciani is always on the lookout for exciting stories. Born in Berlin, she studied journalism in her hometown and moved to London for her master’s degree in political communication in the British, irresistible, creative hub. Since July 2015, she has been part of Mashup Communications.

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Ciani-Sophia Hoeder