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Meet Christina Marie Won Pat

Today we’d like to introduce you to Christina Marie Won Pat.

Christina, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
You know, it’s funny. In my head, I was this shy little kid who barely spoke. I was happiest when I was singing and dancing. Mom says I was singing at a ripe age of one-and-a-half. I’d sing my ABCs in the grocery store while sitting in the shopping cart as she walked through the aisles. My best childhood memories are watching Jumanji obsessively… And Sister Act, X-Men, and Cinderella. I know the combination sounds interesting for sure. My mom thought I wanted to be a nun. You know. Wolverine and Princess were already taken obviously. I was for sure an interesting kid.

I loved the Backstreet Boys and knew all the words to “I Want it That Away.” Think it’s safe to say I felt more comfortable singing than talking from the get-go. I specifically remember sitting in the back seat of my mom’s car and watching myself sing in her rear view mirror. And I was definitely born into the right family. My grandparents passed on a strong appreciation for the arts. They were and are lovers of Jazz music, Broadway, film and television and I’d say they are well-versed humans.

Sometimes ya gotta go to your happy place while at an audition or working through a time crunch. For me, it’s as simple as recalling sitting in my Grandfather’s car, listening to him tap the steering wheel to a smooth jazz tune. He was unapologetically himself and a natural born singer, dancer, and story teller. I have no doubt that those qualities are intrinsically inherent and ever present in me as an individual. The thing I admired most aside from an excellent taste in music and most things was his ability to share his truth and to be unapologetically himself.

I started taking dance classes at our community rec center. It was more of a hobby for me than anything. I took many years of Hula and Tahitian classes on the side. Shortly after I turned about 8 or 9, it was the start of the new year and I was begging my mom to take me to voice lessons. A couple of months before I had asked my mom to sing karaoke at a Relay for Life event in our hometown. The way that she describes her reluctance to me willingly going out of my way to sing for perfect strangers was unmatched by the silence that fell over the crowd when I sang.

So, yeah. I mean, my mom always knew I loved singing in the choir, and church, and naturally was the kid that would make a stage in the living room out of a stepping stool, with my hairbrush serving as a microphone. She just didn’t know it was more than wanting to be a nun.

Mom took me to this music store in my hometown and started asking around about lessons. Most people didn’t want to deal with a kid my age. I persisted. We were referred to a couple of people- some of whom served as my first teachers.

I told one of my first voice teachers that my favorite songs to sing was “Seasons of Love.” Mom and my aunt had taken me to see RENT in the movie theatre that year. I’m sure it must have been pretty wild to see a nine-year-old kid so in awe of a Broadway musical about poverty, sexuality under the shadow of the HIV/Aids epidemic. That’s some heavy stuff.

Anyway, I sang it for my first voice recital- solo. I had about two weeks to prepare for this recital. We had gone out and purchased a tape recorder and I would listen and rehearse in my bathroom at home. To this day, every time I hear “Seasons of Love,” in my head, I go, “Don’t sing,” the way my teacher did as he was recording the tape for rehearsal purposes.

I started going to the theatre camp every summer and then joined the main stage productions during the school year. I auditioned for many of the local community theaters in the Bay Area throughout middle school into high school. I took voice lessons every week from age 9 to 22 — tap lessons on the side for fun. I filmed scenes for friends who wished to attend film school. I sang at events for well-known politicians. I fell in love with it. I made the best of friends.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Has it been a smooth road? No way. Have there been struggles? Absolutely. And to tell you the truth, I would not have it any other way. The struggle in the process is what makes it so genuinely beautiful. It’s messy in the best way. And this love for art and the need to share it has shaped every part of me. I would not be the same human without that struggle. It’s taught me discipline. It has forced me to know myself, to become well acquainted with not only my own human behavior but others’. I strongly believe the knowledge I’ve gained as an artist has shown me how to live a life I’m proud of– to live it fully and well.

I’ve learned that it’s okay to be uncomfortable and actually to fall in love with being uncomfortable is a good move. I constantly feel my own growth. It’s mildly terrifying to be so in tune with all of that. Accepting myself as an individual who feels and thinks deeply and being okay with that has for sure been a challenge. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to look at it as more of a blessing. You know, it’s hard to be a sensitive person. It’s hard to accept it. To be okay with it. And to know that’s my reason and my purpose and to love it wholeheartedly.

I think as artists. We are able to look at the world and see so much color. We feel it, too. Strongly. Knowing that I have people who support me has made a world of difference. I have the most supportive family there is. Growing up, my mom brought me to every single rehearsal, every voice lesson, every dance class. She sat in those practice rooms with me. She did my makeup and hair and countless other kids’. She showed up when I needed her and poured her heart into seeing me through my road to success. That unconditional love is something that I hope every person gets to experience in their lifetime. If I can in any way offer that to a human through my work, I’ll know I’ve done my job. And, no. It absolutely is not easy. It’s just worth it.

And maybe the hardest part of it all is just sticking with it. People will pretty much say anything to persuade you to take the easier road. But, hey. Nothing worth having comes easy. Waking up every day to live a life I enjoy while still working to fulfill my dreams… It’s not an option. It is just what I do.

Knowing that I have this beautiful support system has made this road more manageable. I always have something to fall back on. And growing up, I think people just knew this is what I wanted to do with my life and nothing will ever keep me from that.

That all sounds pretty intense and mad deep. It absolutely is. It’s also heartbreaking. Auditioning is like going to a job interview every single day. There’s so much prep work. And you absolutely have to let go of being perfect. It’s hard to hear “no,” and to keep going. I will say those “no’s” make me work harder. Admittedly, there are days when I think to myself, “there’s no way I’m cut out for this,” because I’m human. And we’ve all got doubts.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
I must’ve applied to 26 colleges before choosing AMDA. Whatever your initial thought is reading that… That’s exactly how I felt about it. Getting into a great college for Musical Theatre is kind of like winning the lottery. Most of the top programs accept about 18 people — some even less. AMDA was the first school I got into and then I just had to go for schools like Carnegie Mellon, Juilliard, and NYU, to say I did that.

I’m proud of myself for making it through that process. AMDA was not my first choice. I got into nine schools and had great offers that would have led me down a completely different road. I do strongly believe everything happens for a reason and in my first weeks of colleges so many moments felt truly serendipitous and meant to be. I knew I was in the right place and I was ready to learn the things I needed to learn.

I graduated with my BFA in Musical Theatre from AMDA College and Conservatory of Performing Arts, fall of 2018, having attended both the LA and NY campuses. I took a four year program and graduated in under three years. I studied 13 different dialects, stage combat, picked up on two new instruments, studied four dance disciplines, memorized countless lines, and poured my heart and soul into the time I was given to be a free artist. If you should ever find yourself in a situation where you get to be surrounded by pure art 24/7, consider yourself a lucky, Successful human being.

Attending a performing arts school, you’re always surrounded by talented people. It was such an important time for me to know and understand that what brought us together– this crazy love for storytelling and art itself– it’s existed from the beginning of time and it will continue to exist long after you and I are gone. It’s not one moment in time. We just find the future by living in this present moment. Art changes things. It makes a difference.

It’s an incredible thing to say I’m the first in my immediate family to be receiving a college degree and not only that– but for something I love. To be honest, I don’t know that anything truly sets me apart from others. I believe we’re equals. We just bring our unique gifts to the table and do our damn best. If that mindset is what sets me apart, I’d consider that a success.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success is whatever you make it. I think if you find love along the way if you experience moments of happiness if you live your life well and fully… THAT. That to me is a success. It cannot be marked or measured in fame, money, or any material thing. And to have success, you have to be tenacious. Persistent. Confident. A GOOD listener. Authentic. Brave. Passionate. Knowledgeable. HONEST. Vulnerable. Courageous. Self-Aware. Playful. Grateful. Resilient. Compassionate. Hungry, honestly, even starving for knowledge. Lastly, you better be kind, dude not only to yourself but to others.

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Image Credit:
Simoné Sassudelli, Kimberly Won Pat, Aaron Chao, Noel Sy, Kimberly Won Pat

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