Broadway Throwback: Keala Settle

Broadway Throwback: Keala Settle

Originally from Hawaii, Keala Settle had been singing since she was two years old. Her journey from Oahu to sitting as a nominee at the Tonys was one of scene-stealing roles and facing her fears.


Photography by Matthew Murphy

When did music become a part of your life? 

My mother was a singer and most of my family sings. It’s a cultural thing. It’s a part of our heritage and a part of who we are. When I was in high school, I was sort of a trouble maker and they put me in a Shakespeare competition to keep me out of trouble and focus my energy. I got a kick out of it, really enjoyed it and decided I wanted to do Shakespeare from then on. Ironically, I haven’t done any Shakespeare since.

You were nominated for a Tony Award in 2013 for Hands on a Hardbody. What was that morning like? 

I didn’t believe it at first. The show had just closed and my gays came running through the door and shouted “Girl you better get up! You were just nominated for a Tony!” As a performer, you dream about it, but when it actually happens, it’s a lot.

What did your experience with Hardbody change you as a performer? 

I had to open up my heart and I had to not be afraid. There were times in rehearsal when I would go into full blown panic attack. I didn’t want to be front and center and I had no place to hide anymore. It scared the living daylights out of me. But that show was so raw and there was nothing to hide behind. Priscilla started the wheel on breaking me out of that fear but Hardbody taught me that I am in this business for who I am. And it taught me to not be afraid of it and understand that what I do is what I love. I really, really love to tell stories.

Look out for Keala in Waitress this spring on Broadway!

Hair & makeup by Alex Michaels
Styling by David Withrow
Photo assistance by Carlos Gonzalez

First printed in BLEEP Magazine Issue 310

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