A Day in the Life of Ana Villafane of ‘On Your Feet!’

03/08/2017 07:51 am ET

Ana Villafañe made her Broadway debut as Gloria Estefan in On Your Feet!. The talented actress and singer took ShowTickets.com along for a day

It could be said that Ana Villafañe was born to play Gloria Estefan. “I don’t remember not knowing Gloria’s music,” says the Miami native who found it somewhat hysterical when she was sent sheet music for the On Your Feet! audition.“I have known this music since I could walk. I said, don’t worry about sheet music, but thank you.”

For Villafañe, who is half-Cuban, half-Salvadoran, the songs were embedded in the fabric of her life. “I have a big family, so anything anyone does is reason to celebrate,” she says. “And celebrate means a lot of food, music, dancing and really loud talking that might become an argument. With a big Cuban/Salvadoran family, we get together and, of course, Gloria Estefan and/or The Miami Sound Machine is going to pop up on that play list.”

When she was nine, she made her singing debut at a convention in Orlando, belting Estefan’s “Reach.” “I remember feeling like such a star singing this Gloria Estefan song,” says Villafañe. “I could have chosen any song. Now it’s come full circle that I get to sing that song in a pivotal moment in the show. Gloria said it was written in the stars.”

By the time Villafañe was in the fourth grade and cast in the children’s chorus in a regional production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, she knew that she had to be a performer. “I learned that I could act at the same time that I was singing,” she says. “Acting made me feel very free. It gave me kind of an invisibility cloak — I’m such a Harry Potter fan. I get to disappear and have the freedom of telling somebody else’s story.”

Now making her Broadway debut in On Your Feet!, the Broadway musical based on the life and music of Emilio and Gloria Estefan, Villafañe gets to tell Estefan’s story. Her acting school has been watching her colleagues. “To this day I’ve never taken a legit acting class,” says Villafañe. “I learned from people with experience. I try to be as honest and authentic as I can. I learn how to be an actor by living, having experiences and great examples like Andréa Burns and Alma Cuervo in the show and the people I’ve worked with in film and TV.”

So how does her family feel about her playing such an iconic figure. “They’re very proud and happy. Nothing I could probably ever do is going to top this,” say Villafañe. Then she jokes, “I could be giving birth and my mom would say, ‘Oh, whatever you played Gloria!’… For my mom there’s nothing else.”

Villafañe shared her action-packed day with ShowTickets.com. Read the full story here.

Ana Villafañe as Gloria Estefan in <em>ON YOUR FEET!</em>
Matthew Murphy
Ana Villafañe as Gloria Estefan in ON YOUR FEET!
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