The insights, conversations and behind-the-scene news of Heather Headley.
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I dreamt about this moment for years. I had envisioned it, acted it out in my mind; some may even argue that one of the reasons I accepted the job, was to have THE MOMENT. So, a few days ago when my dear Commander turned on Cooking With Elmo (a little video I did with Sesame Street a few years ago), I knew ‘the moment’ had arrived. I sat ready, poised; a tear perched in my right eye, waiting for the perfect moment to fall to my smiling cheek. My scene came on, I proudly straightened myself in my seat next to him, and there I appeared…on the screen in front of him…with THE puppet himself, ELMO.
So, the conversation followed:
Me: Sweetie, who’s that?
The Commander: That’s the Pocket Queen (that’s true, they call me the Pocket Queen in the show).
Me: Yes, but WHO is it (pushing my face a little closer to his)?
The Commander: Mama, it’s the Pocket Queen!
Me: Yes, but it’s me (now making sure he can see both the POCKET QUEEN and me – - to see the resemblance, of course)!
The Commander: (exasperated, as if I was disturbing him…) No, it’s not, Mama! It’s the POCKET QUEEN!!
Me: (now getting a little – - well, a lot more perturbed, and slightly raising my voice) NOOOO! It’s ME…!!!!
The Commander: Mama, stop it! That’s somebody else’s Mama. Not YOU! Now stop, I watching the movie!
I tried again 20 minutes later – - and 20 minutes after that, to no avail.
Well, another moment down the drain…. I guess I’ll have to do a movie with Jake and The NeverLand Pirates or become an asparagus in “VeggieTales…maybe I’ll get my moment then.
I wanted to take a moment to thank you all for your sweet words. I’m always so touched to know that you would take the time to post a few words about something I’ve done. So, I thank you all.
What a day to commemorate! As I was going over it all in my head, choosing the memories to stamp into my mind, I kept seeing the tens of thousands of people sitting there…in the rain…waiting to hear these speakers and performers. And then, I think I saw myself in a perfectly ironed 60s dress, with a cute, tightly pressed and roller-ed hairstyle, my dark sunglasses perched on my face, waiting to hear Dr. King! I hope I would have been there. My sister-in-love said something so amazing to me last night. She had been watching documentaries about the March and re-researching it, and was struck by the way they got it all together. There was no social media! The organizers then didn’t have Facebook or Twitter; they didn’t send out mass email to get everyone to Washington. They didn’t have an abundance of airlines, bus comfy bus coaches, and SUVs to race them to the city. They told each other, called each other, immobilized, car-pooled, took uncomfortable bus and train rides, walked if they had to, so they could make their voices heard in Washington, in the world, and in history…and 50 years later, they allowed me to climb those hallowed stairs, and stand on the backs of their sacrifices.
My sister-in-love said to me, “Heath, I think I would have been there…(a moment of silence) I WOULD HAVE BEEN THERE! I hope I would have gotten on the bus too, and marched side by side with her.
Congrats America! Even though we still have work to do – - A dream was dreamt…and I’m proud and grateful to be living it!
Dear London -
The time has come, and I must now take my leave.
Allow me to thank you for quite a ride over the last 11 months. When I signed up to do The Bodyguard, I don’t think I was aware how intense the journey would be – - I would have brought sturdier seat belts with me if I had known – - but, as I head back over the pond to our home, I’m incredibly grateful.
Within these past few months, the good Lord has taught me quite a bit about myself. Everyday wasn’t easy. I must be honest. There were days I walked down the streets wishing I could click my heels and go home. But my ruby red shoes never worked, and kept me planted. Which was a good thing because, I was forced to hold on to the only stable person I knew… and that was God, and He did pull me through and blessed with me with an amazing experience. He stayed close to me throughout this journey, and I’m grateful. He’s taught me quite a bit about myself during my stay here. Above all, I’ve been reminded that He loves me and has encircled me with family and friends who support and love me unconditionally… and across miles. I knew they loved me, but this time has shown me how blessed and lucky I am to call them family…friends.
I’ll fondly remember the amazing audiences I had the opportunity to share with at the Adelphi Theater. Your people have been so kind and encouraging to me…and I’ve added a few friends, and many sweet memories to my life. I’ll never forget those amazing and talented people I was honored to call castmates. It was a joy to share the stage and this experience with them.
My little Commander has had the time of his life. He’s grown so much while he’s been a resident here. I pray that he will always remember his time in London, even if the memories are scant. To recall all the places he’s visited, all the playgrounds he’s raced around, the gardens he’s trampled – - would take more time than I have. But I thank you for entertaining him so well while he was here.
Our “house manager” has loved being here so much that she doesn’t want to go home. She has a special place in her heart for you, and I’m not sure that visits here alone will suffice.
My sweet husband (I’m so grateful for him) has flown here over 22 times. The sacrifice he has made to allow me to be here is extraordinary.
So, I leave you. I thank you and your sweet people. I will always remember my time here, and I know I’ll see you again…. I’ll keep a few pounds on my oyster card in case it’s needed.
Until then, my sincere thanks.
I Will Always Love You…London….
Fare Thee Well.
As my time here in London comes to an end, I’ve found a few things I’ve enjoyed about the city (and this in no way discredits my love for AMERICA, or the fact that America has her own “amazingness” too – - for those of you who need that explanation:)):
- 1. Political Correctness: I have to say that I’ve admired and enjoyed the political timbre of the Brits…at least those I work with. I do think that as Americans, we can sometimes be way too sensitive. It seems like we’re forced to tiptoe around everyone and everything. Now, don’t get me twisted on this. I DO NOT believe we should intentionally hurt, discriminate, demean, or bully anyone, but I do think we have the right to disagree or even respectfully address an issue without being called names. If I disagree with you and you happen to be of a different ethnicity or color, that does not me a racist make? Why can’t a man debate a woman, and not be labeled sexist? If I disagree with the way a person, who happen to be gay, does something, does that really stamp me as being homophobic? We need to KEEP CALM and get over it.
- 2. The storms: as they have gotten stronger and more violent, I’ve grown more and more frightened of the storms of the Midwest. England doesn’t really get those. For the year I’ve been here, we’ve heard a clap of thunder twice – - and it was so foreign to me I thought it was an explosion somewhere.
- 3. Access to the rest of the world: a two hour flight from Chicago gets me to New York or Washington – - amazing places, but still in the States (and that’s the beauty of America – - how much there is under the “same roof”). Here, that same flight, or a train ride lands me in Paris, Italy, Scotland. The European world is open to them.
- 4. The crime: it’s sad to say that even from here, I’ve seen the news stories of high crime in my city of Chicago. It’s so sad. Yes, there’s crime here, but you don’t hear, or see reports about it as much.
- The traffic: that’s sarcasm and a joke!
- 5. Interracial relationships: As a member of that community, I’m sometimes still saddened that there are still people who have huge issues with interracial relationships. Now, those people are all over the world, and there are racists EVERYWHERE, however, I’ve enjoyed watching the melting pot of races in London. The other day I saw a Middle Eastern man, with his Asian wife and their amazingly beautiful and exotic child. Yep, I stared a little – - but out of admiration. It was such a beautiful family.
- 6. The amazing architecture and its history. It was such an amazingly crazy experience heading to “work” and passing Royal Albert Hall, Buckingham Palace, The Museums, and Trafalgar Square everyday. I love driving down the street and being inconvenienced by the practice of all the horse guards in their finest regalia walking down the center of the street.
- 7. The beautiful, colorful parks and gardens dotted all over the city. There’s a garden everywhere…you can sit, have a picnic, enjoy the afternoon. It all makes me want to go home and make sure my yard is a haven.
- 8. The rainy weather: another piece of sarcasm… Although the past few weeks I’ve been here, the weather has been glorious… Almost like…Chicago:).
9. The accents: I will miss hearing the accents. Somehow, that English accent makes even the worst of sentences sound better. “Sorry, Madam, not only do you have an enormous monstrosity growing out of your forehead, you also have absolutely no sterling in your account, and unfortunately my colleague and I are now forced to arrest you for the flagrant over draft of funds.” Brilliant!
- 10. The cast, crew, theater staff, and the friends we’ve made in and out of the theater. They’ve all come along side us through out the time here.
11. My pub next door: love the people… and the fish and chips, and steak and ale pie are worth a trip. I can’t attest to the drinks as I don’t drink, but the people there seem to be very ‘happy’ .
12. Croissants. Croissants. Croissaints. God bless that woman and may she be in Heaven for thinking up the croissant.
13. Portobello Road and its Market! Oh the joy that floods my soul when I walk down that street…
- 14. To my husband’s disappointment, I think that London has some of the best shoe and clothing stores I’ve seen in a while;). ’nuff said!
It’s been quite a ride. Quite an interesting, wonderful ride.
I took a few days off, and the Commander and I travelled home to Chicago to smell the American earth, touch the earth…play in the earth. It’s always so good to be there. It’s good to have my little family, in our house, around our things. I’m a little tired – - I get back home and there’s way too much to do (at least so I think). Although my husband has fought the urge to turn our house into a bachelor pad, I still want to run errands, and clean, and do laundry, and see what I can do to make the home feel like we’re there – - even when we’re not! I thought the pollen count was awful in England, but actually it’s nothing compared to Chicago. We were all up coughing and sneezing, and nursing headaches, runny noses and watery eyes. Anyhow, although I’m a tired and still a little (a lot) allergic, I’m energized and ready to head into the home stretch of my time in London.
…a little over 10 weeks to go.
I’m proud of the show we have. I’ve grown incredibly fond of those I work with…and I’ve enjoyed having the great opportunity to perform for each person who has spent those two hours with us, However, I’m really excited to get back home. I’m ready! My sweet husband is incredible, and in the past few months has flown over 25 times to and from London to be with us. I think he will welcome – - and deserves – - us all being on the same patch of earth for a bit….
So, 8 months down…just over 2 to go….
As my mother says (sometimes out loud during my final performance of Aida – - but I digress and that’s another, quite funny story)…
Let’s finish strong!!!
The text from my husband simply said that she “collapsed, and they rushed her to the hospital.” It wasn’t looking good. He said to pray! I was a few blocks from the apartment, still feeling the adrenaline and exhaustion from the show, but I felt a terrible feeling in my stomach and said a quick prayer. I immediately wrote back: “What happened?” No answer. “TELL ME WHAT’S GOING ON!” No answer! I walked through the door…and then he answered. SHE, my healthy friend, the woman I go to with my questions, the doting mother of four, the beautiful wife, my “Elizabeth” as I call her, was dead.
I am broken.
It wasn’t easy being away in London while the world at home was upside down, but my dear cast mates and my dressing team surrounded me, and helped me through a few shows that would prove difficult…but cathartic!
I’m not sure how to handle it all; I really don’t understand why God allows certain things to happen. Why does a woman filled with life, collapse and die? Die…leaving four precious babies without a mommy, and a husband without his soul mate and heartbeat? Trust me, I have questions, but she would tell me that it was part of God’s plan. She would say that even in my confusion, I should trust Him and not myself or the unbelievable circumstance.
So, now, I’m on the plane heading back to London after the 48-hour weekend whirlwind. We have to restart life…and without her here. Over the past weekend, I had some beautiful moments, and yet some incredibly sad ones. I couldn’t imagine that I’d see my sweet friend laying in a casket…with her precious babies running in and out of the room to comfort their amazing daddy, and sneak another peek at their beautiful mommy. The sadness was indescribable. It IS indescribable. But I had to smile as I watched as hundreds of people wait in line for hours at the visitation and service, all for a chance to join in the chorus of the song we were all singing: “She was an incredible woman. She loved God. She changed my life. She prayed for me. She loved her family. She served her community.” I’m not sure she even knew how many lives she touched. Yep! That’s my girl, and I am so proud of her!
Somehow, we’ll all get through the coming months and years, and at some point we’ll all cry a little less. She taught us so much…and in death, she’s teaching me even more. She stamped her household, her friends and her community with the love of God. I’m spurred on to do the same. I am so blessed that I was loved by her. I am honored that she called me a friend. I could not have asked for a better “Elizabeth.”
Sing with the angels sweet girl; I know you are singing so loudly in that choir:-).
We are going to miss you terribly. I already do…but we will all be better because of you.
…And don’t worry – - we’ll look after them.
We thank God for you.
I love you.
So, I walked into this chocolate shop here in London to get a little box of goodies for the Commander to give to his valentine (don’t worry: she’s much older and will be married and into her 50s by the time he hits 25). Anyhow, before I pulled out my credit card, I did my normal question/statement to the clerk: “So…your chocolate is amazing…right?!” The very well dressed English gentleman looked at me, smiled, and then gave me a short history on the shop. It was the oldest chocolatier in England; only the best and most pure ingredients were used in this chocolate…this, that, blah, blah (roll my eyes)… but then the kicker came: “The Queen has endorsed our chocolate.” He then showed me a letter from the Palace proudly displayed above the counter. ‘Nuff said! He offered me a truffle, but I didn’t need to taste it – - “give it to me! I’ll take a box!” I said. The Queen thinks it’s good – - that’s enough for me!
I did laugh to myself as I left the shop. Whether Her Royal Highness has even tasted the chocolate – - who knows – - but her “endorsement” got money out of me…quickly! The seal of approval was all I needed.
It got me thinking….
- God, The KING Himself, has a seal over my head and will gladly tell the world that I am His
- He thinks I’m His little girl (even when I don’t behave like I am)
- The King loves me (even when I don’t deserve it)
So, why isn’t that good enough for me at times? Why can’t I always leave the Shop of Life, with its box of chocolates, and think…it is well and I’m okay; HE loves me and thinks I’m great, so all is well?
Why can’t I extend that same gift to others at times?
He says we’re His! We belong to a King. And He endorsed, and continues to show His love for us with much more…a whole lot more than a quick “taste” and a letter.
So, we’re good enough, we’re beautiful (we’re definitely eons better than the world’s best chocolate:-)), we’re loved, we’re HIS!
And I’m going to treat myself…and you as such;-).
I was on a flight with the Commander General a few months back. As we were getting ready to take off, the flight attendant stopped at our row and strictly reminded me that ‘in case of emergency, you are to put your mask on FIRST and then the boy’s.’ Well, if I ever see those little masks fly in above my head, my heart and I have a deal – - it’s supposed to take me out, or at least stop long enough to render me unconscious until the trouble has passed. But seriously, I always sit there saying to myself, ‘I’m not going to put my mask on first, and have my precious baby fight to breathe for any amount of time…what kind of mother do you think I am!?’ But as you well know, they suggest we do this because if I’m putting my son’s mask on, and really find myself unable to breathe or in greater trouble, then I have left a helpless 3yr old without a caretaker, and defenseless against whatever we’re going to be facing. And that’s not good! I’ve helped neither of us! Being the older, wiser one, and with my mask on first, I can assess the situation, and get us both to safety…or to Heaven!
Anyhow, a few months ago, I found myself adopting the slogan in my own life.
“Put Your Mask On First, Heather!”
So many times I’m dealing with everything around me, and finally look up to find myself gasping for air. For instance, as a mom (or anyone else) you wake up in the morning, and before you have a chance to eat, someone is screaming for you to feed them, wipe their nose, iron a shirt, find keys…. You race to get everyone out the door, and then, you remember the errands, the email, the cleaning…and who’s knocking at the door?! Before you know it, afternoon arrives and the house is once again filled with hungry, you-need-to-entertain-me kids, and you’re trying to make or find something appetizing because a hungry, also-over-worked man is on his way. By night time, you look in the mirror and figure out that you’ve hardly eaten, and if you really think about it, haven’t had a moment to even use the bathroom…. and then your husband looks at you in that loving, wink-wink-hello-honey way. AHHHHHH!
Well, it’s in these situations that I think sometimes I have to put my mask on first! Stop! Eat first, bathe first, wipe my nose first, pray first…. Sometimes, the only way we can be of use to our families and others is if we’re inhaling oxygen ourselves. We can’t be good husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, friends and co-workers if we’ve been putting masks on everyone else, and suffocating ourselves. Now don’t get me wrong: there are countless days when I need to “mask” someone else before myself. Life is about serving and sacrifice, but I can’t ‘serve or sacrifice’ efficiently unless I’m strong enough to do so. I also have to be nourished physically, spiritually, emotionally…. We can’t neglect ourselves under the guise of “unselfishness,” but rather we have to take time to care for ourselves, so that we can then be more ‘selfless.’
So, if you feel run down, and you feel like you’re running out of air… in case of emergency, take a minute and put your mask on first… like me, you just might find that you’re better equipped and able to serve and help everyone else on your row.
You Inhale…. That’s it!
What a week!
Last Sunday, our family walked through the door: my dear husband, my mom, my in-loves, and some family friends; I was so excited to see them. All of a sudden, it felt as though Chicago just wasn’t that fa
I went out for dinner with the family and had a few crustaceans (which obviously should have stayed in the ocean, or wherever they came from). Within a few hours, I wasn’t feeling all that great and combined with the anxiety and nerves of opening week, I was a bit of a mess. For the two days leading up to opening night, and on the night itself, I couldn’t eat much.My stomach wouldn’t settle and there was little my doctor could do to help me. The worse part is that playing Rachel Marron is quite a carb workout, and doing it on an empty (or even half an empty stomach) is not ideal. But God is good. He gave me my daily bread and enough strength. He was…and is so near, and He got me through.
The Commander also had a wonderful opening day. I was so nervous for him. I thought my stomach would betray me, but I started crying instead! I couldn’t believe that he was sitting on that stage doing all the movements and singing at the top of his little lungs. I remember watching him and feeling such pride and love for him. There I was sitting in that audience watching our little boy sing his heart out, and knowing this was the first of many times that I’d have to sit in the audience or the stands and watch HIM! ….And people! He is so cute to watch. Trust me! You can’t find cuter!
We had a great opening night party, and it was so great to celebrate with my family, my cast, creative team and crew. What a ride this has been…for all of us! I’m so proud of everyone. These people have worked so hard to make this show great, and they’ve also held me in their hands as they did. They’ve cared for me and have been there for my family and me; I’m so appreciative. I think I underestimated how much it would all affect me. It’s been a while since I’ve had an “opening night” so the butterflies in my stomach were joined by eagles…and an ostrich! But I’m so grateful. So blessed. God is gracious, and I’m so humbled that He thinks me ready and right for a moment as this.
And while I’m here, indulge me for a moment: I have to thank my husband, Brian for his continued love and belief in me. It was Brian who said, ‘You have to go to London and do this show.’ It’s Brian who has sacrificed and given up time with his son and me so that this can become a reality. He’s the one who commutes back and forth and walks into an empty, quiet house back in the States. It’s because of him that I have the courage to walk on that stage and claim that I’m the Queen of any part of the day. It’s because of him that I look in the mirror and feel beautiful and incredibly loved. He’s all the man I’ll ever need, and I thank God for him!
If you have a chance to come to London, come by and see the show.
Open The Bodyguard: Check. Watch the Commander’s first performance: Check! Stomach back to normal: check!
Now, I get to enjoy London…at least I hope I’ll have time to.
There are some things that you should stamp in your memory…and I have a new stamp in my mine. Last night I had the great honor of performing at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England. My description of this hall will not do it justice, so I won’t even try. It’s amazingly beautiful. Just beautiful…and standing on the stage, I stood in the footprints of so many amazing performers (and athletes) who have graced that hall before me. Well, last night I had the honor of singing for the Royal Variety Performance in that beautiful space. It was the 100th jubilee performance and it was done with a very special guest in the audience: the Queen of England. I had a lesson on my curtsey and the way I was to address Her Royal Highness. I was a little nervous that I was going to mess up, but I’m still in the country, so I think I did okayJ. The night was filled with performances by some of the world’s best: Maestro Placido Domingo (Such a sweet man, and said the most kind and encouraging things to me – I may have a new crush with this one), my friend Andrea Bocelli, Rod Stewart (another sweet, warm man), Neil Diamond (him too!), Kylie Minogue (SWEET!), Robbie Williams, Alicia Keys, One Direction, Girls Aloud, Diversity (check them out), and many, many others. Needless to say, my most memorable meeting however, was The Queen herself. She was very kind and sweet. I will say that she just looks like one of those grandmas who will spoil you with her life, but if you get out of line, she’ll gladly get you back on trackJ! As I watched her as she walk towards me, I couldn’t help screaming in my head, “Heather, how did you get here?” How does a girl from Trinidad get to shake hands with the Queen of England. Easy answer: GOD! If you begged me to write this script for my life, I couldn’t think this big. I’m grateful. I’m honored. I’m humbled!