San Diego

For Cuban-American Christie Prades, Playing Gloria Estefan Is Like Playing a Part of Herself

Christie Prades, who plays Gloria Estefan in "On Your Feet!", was asked to lead the touring production of the show by Gloria Estefan herself. The rest was history.

First generation Cuban-American actress Christie Prades grew up listening to Gloria Estefan. 

For as far back as she can remember, Gloria has been in her life: her music played around her Miami home, at birthday parties, at Quinceaneras, on the radio. 

"My mom brought out the CDs and I would always remember listening to it when my mom was cleaning the house," Prades remembered, telling the story in an interview with NBC 7 San Diego. Her mom had all the vinyl, too, but they never used those, she said with a chuckle. 

Gloria was more than just a singer for Prades, who would later go on to play Gloria herself in the touring production of "On Your Feet!", a musical based on Gloria and Emilio Estefan's life and career. 

"My mom would always bring out her Gloria hits CD, and she'd play it and be like, look, this is an example of a woman who is just like us, who is representing our people, our culture, and who has made herself become this global superstar from nothing, from scratch," Prades said.

The similarities between Gloria and Prades are a bit surprising. Aside from both being first generation Cuban-Americans living in Miami, Prades graduated from Miami-Dade College (the same college as Emilion Estefan, Gloria's husband). Both Padres's mother and Gloria's mother were both teachers. Their grandmothers had the same last names. 

"It's kind of crazy I get to play this woman now," Prades exclaimed.

When she steps on stage as Gloria Estefan, Prades said, she's tapping into something she's always known, with a lifetime of history and experiences to draw from. 

"By tapping into all of those things that make me, me, I am tapping into Gloria," Prades said. "I feel like I'm really spoiled in that I just get to be myself and be honest and be authentic and do the whole, less is more kind of thing, and it totally resembles Gloria."

The leading role is a dream come true for the actress, who was living in New York City for years acting in smaller productions before she got her chance to come in and audition for the show. 

Prades booked the Broadway show as a member of the ensemble. She was hired on as a swing, a member of a Broadway company that understudies several roles. She ended up covering seven to eight roles and became the first cover for Gloria Estefan. 

Then, when she was doing a promo for the show in Miami, she was surprised, big time, by Gloria herself. After she performed on stage, Gloria came up and asked her to lead the tour. 

"That was a shock and a surprise all at once," Prades said, recalling how casual Gloria was when she asked her. But she didn't take the responsibility lightly.

"It was a big deal," Prades said. "I looked up to this woman all my life, my mom would listen to her growing up. It's full circle, that I get to represent someone who has represented us for all these years."

The touring production is made up nearly entirely of Latinos, Prades said, a rare feat when it comes to Broadway theater. The whole cast, Prades said, feels lucky to be able to show the country "the spice that we bring and the happiness and the joy that comes with our music and our culture."

Even in cities where the cast thought it would be harder to get the audience to connect with the show, they were surprised. 

"I haven't seen one city that hasn't been open to our story or to the Latin community. I feel like there's a lot more open-mindedness then people give (credit for)," Prades said.

The leading lady hopes the audience take away an important message of resilience, determination and perseverance from the musical. 

"They're pretty much like two local kids from Cuba, from a completely different country, who came here with this vision, that they believed in before anyone else did, when everyone else said, 'that's not a thing, that's not going to be a possibility,'" Prades said.

"You know how difficult that is? I know we all feel it when we try to achieve something," she continued. "It's a perfect reminder for people to keep going and to keep believing and keep striving and to keep pushing and pushing and pushing boundaries until you make it."

On Your Feet! The Emilio and Gloria Estefan Musical runs at the San Diego Civic Theatre until Sunday, Aug. 5. For tickets, click here.

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