Join columnist Vicky Ellison every month as she meets with inspiring women from the worlds of wellness, business, fashion and art to bring you a snapshot of their story and advice to take into your day.
“In the industry in the Philippines I felt a bit like a robot, they tell you what to do. At that time I didn’t think it was for me, I wanted to challenge myself more.”
With a speaking voice as melodic and energetic as her stage appearances, West End star Rachelle Ann Go is a performer at her highest.
Her big break came when she won talent contest Search for a Star at the Philippines Music Festival in 2004. She went on to record a string of award-winning albums, and perform live both at home in the Philippines and internationally for 10 years.
Coming from a musically inclined family, singing was always her passion, but she began to realise she needed something different.
‘In the industry in the Philippines I felt a bit like a robot, they tell you what to do. At that time I didn’t think it was for me, I wanted to challenge myself more’ she explains.
Coincidentally a musical was opening in her hometown. Despite her lack of theatre experience and concerns about her ability to play the role, a Director’s belief in her encouraged Rachelle to try. She landed the part and in that lead role as Ariel in The Little Mermaid, her love of theatre began.
Her next role, another career catapult, took her to London as the lead in Miss Saigon. Despite perpetually missing home, Rachelle forged ahead to play Fantine in Les Miserables in London, the Philippines and on Broadway before moving back to London for her current role as Eliza in Hamilton.
I was struck by the number of moments when Rachelle overcame her fear and self-doubt, time and again making the brave decision to keep trying for new roles.
‘There are always moments I think I just want to go back home as I really miss my family. I was really homesick,’ she recalls, ‘but then I think what am I going to do there? I always feel like there’s something more for me, something more that I can do. I don’t want to be stuck in a box and regret it for the rest of my life. When I moved here a lot of doors and opportunities opened which I wasn’t expecting and I just took them. I felt like I came here as a baby and grew as a woman, being brave enough and bold enough to think you know what, I can do more.’
It may be surprising to hear that despite her experience and talent, Rachelle feels nervous before every performance. ‘I think it means that you care,’ she considers, ‘I’m not taking it for granted. It’s not just about the show, for me there’s a purpose behind why I’m doing this’.
The importance of the story she’s telling gives Rachelle her sense of purpose. Her deep belief in the need to let the audience feel what she’s feeling comes across so strongly, in both our interview and her performance.
Preparation for this process is something Rachelle takes very seriously. ‘I am a very spiritual person so (before going on stage) I play some worship music just to calm my spirit and prepare my soul, because on stage you bear out – you open your heart and soul for all to see, so you have to prepare for that, your mind, soul and body.’
Delivering this level of production through 8 shows a week takes its toll. How does she recharge? ‘I’m learning how to switch off now I’ve been doing this kind of job for a few years’. Rachelle got married earlier this year and is grateful to share her frustrations and excitement with someone she loves. Despite the fact that ‘it’s hard as he’s tired at the end of the day and I’m full of energy’, she finds it much easier to unplug than when she lived alone. Post show Rachelle eats dinner, as it’s hard to eat before the show, and winds down by playing relaxing music or taking a bath.
Her dedication and gratitude are apparent throughout, ‘I play music the whole day and I sing. Sometimes when I’m too relaxed and then do the show I find it hard to sing, my voice feels tired – it’s like stretching when you go to the gym, for singers you have to keep using the muscle so you’re ready for the show’.
If there’s one thing I took away from Rachelle’s story, it’s the importance of self-belief, hard work and overcoming your fears; especially in a competitive industry.
‘I just have to trust and believe in myself and know that I’m unique,’ she asserts, ‘I can’t compare myself to other people because God created me to be this person and there’s no one else like me, so I just have to focus and tone what I can do – and I think that’s what I did. Just focus on my strengths, fix my weaknesses and embrace that, and just audition and audition.’