I cried when I saw her tiny, 5-foot frame with arms raised on a Broadway stage, the first Argentine ever to interpret “Evita.”
I was moved by her voice, her huge presence, and by the fact that she is here, among the Broadway elite -- Elena Roger, the antithesis of what you would expect an Argentine in show business to look like.
Roger was once teased and called “garfio” because of her hook-shaped nose, but laughed it off even when a producer advised her to have plastic surgery.
“I see my nose as part of my Italian family, as part of my personality. At home, we all have large noses,” Roger said on a TV show in her home country.
And now she’s here, dancing and singing with mega star Ricky Martin to a standing-room-only Marriott Marquis.
I cried because I came to see Ricky (I admit, I’m a diehard fan) and to find out what all the buzz about her was, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. Portraying Evita, someone who also had plenty of odds against her, but whose dreams and determination were bigger than her perceived obstacles.
I felt like I was in her shoes with her light step across the stage, her glee when she sang from the balcony wearing that magnificent signature white dress. I vibrated with her excitement throughout the show, as she, Elena, carved her place in history, as she brought Argentina back to the International stage (first in London and now in New York.)
To me, the evening felt like sweet revenge. The kind you feel when you prove people wrong. I couldn’t help but feel ecstatic for her and for all the people who hold their ground when they know their value and talents. Those who, even against professional recommendations, keep their style rather than rushing to cut off parts of themselves to look like someone else. People who, like Elena, make it because of their noses and height and not despite them.
I cried for Elena’s success, which has been fully established since she did Evita in London and then Piaf, and for myself. For the country where I was born and raised and where it has always been hard for women not to be a size 2 with perfect features. Where I always felt I had to conform to way too many stereotypes. I left twenty years ago but my heartstrings are still easily pulled by this powerful performer giving voice to an Argentine icon.
I cried for my lost Argentina, the country with so many broken promises from which sometimes it is easier to keep my distance than others.
Mariela Dabbah’s new book Poder de Mujer was just released by Penguin. She’s a leadership consultant for corporations and organizations, an award winning author and renown public speaker. She’s the founder and CEO of Latinos in College, a not-for-profit organization that helps students and families find everything they need to succeed in college.