On a sunny Saturday afternoon, I walked into The Bean, a local coffee shop right by my residence hall, to get a drink that would keep me semi-conscious as I trudged through the hours and hours of homework ahead of me.
What I walked out with, however, was a picture with YouTube sensation Christina Bianco. I noticed the petite powerhouse while waiting on line. I saw her sitting at table with a girl who looked to be around my age and instantly recognized her as the woman who covered the popular Frozen song “Let It Go” while impersonating Idina Menzel, Demi Lovato, Celine Dion and more. After looking at some posters hanging by the door, I noticed Bianco get up to leave. Now or never, I thought to myself. Initially surprised by me recognizing her, she agreed to take a picture with me. And, after a week of emailing, she agreed to let me interview her over Skype.
Bright-eyed, she told me all about how she got started singing and doing impersonations. From a young age, her mother played music all around the house. With the added exposure from her father, who was in radio, Bianco started to constantly sing. And for her, singing led to impersonations. “The impressions came quite naturally,” she said. “I would sing along to these various styles and inadvertently take on the tone and the phrasing and sometimes the sound of a particular artist. I would sort of, without realizing it, mimic them.”
Bianco’s natural gift for taking on the mannerisms and sounds of others has allowed her to form a career out of something she loves. She has performed in off-Broadway shows such as Forbidden Broadway and Newsical. Yet, her success isn’t only connected to the Great White Way. She has performed all over New York City and internationally in London’s Hippodrome. In fact, performing in the Hippodrome is what Bianco would consider one of the most surreal moments of her career thus far. The timing of those shows could not have been more perfect. In the weeks leading up to her performance, a video of her singing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” while impersonating different celebrities went viral (it currently has over 5 million views on YouTube). Bianco recounted her time in London with a ear-to-ear grin. “When I walked onto the stage at the Hippodrome [each night] and looked out into this big audience, I didn’t know a soul. Not one of them was a personal friend of mine. It was an audience of unknown fans who were screaming and shouting and applauding for me.”
Of course, Bianco did not get to this point without a little help first. A graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, she frequently sought out opportunities to act. And while she did not get the lead in the main stage musicals while attending NYU, she did seek out other opportunities, such as student productions. She realized that the students putting together these productions would be, in 10, 20 years, the ones who write and direct shows. Those connections are extremely important, and she emphasized that to me.
She also emphasized the value of experience as learning. Going to school in New York City is very tempting, especially for theatre majors. There are a myriad of opportunities to audition, and many will attend these auditions with the hopes of making it big. Yet Bianco says to audition with caution. “I would say not to go to big auditions and to stay in school. It’s only a few years of your life and for the rest of it you’ll be looking for work.” So what does she recommend? Going to smaller auditions and to audition for roles that don’t seem especially appealing. This is important, she claims, because it allows the actor to get experience in a professional setting, but at a time when the stakes are very low. Just “doing it,” as she says, is good preparation.
Other preparation comes from playing versatile roles; yet getting to play roles other than the “comedic sidekick” were hard for her in college. In a little more serious tone than the usual light-hearted one, she explained to me that there were times during her college career where she was put into boxes, which were often hard to escape. When prompted about what she would do differently if she had the opportunity to re-do something in college, she answered by saying she would be more vocal about the kinds of roles she did and did not want to play. Diversifying one’s repertoire is something in which Bianco strongly believes. So she also offered advice to push for those opportunities while in college because they might not come in the professional world.
I’m sure, however, that nothing prepared her for her YouTube stardom. After “Total Eclipse” went viral, Bianco gained many more fans. Her follower count on Twitter and Facebook soared, which inevitably set her up to gain worldwide attention on future videos such as her cover of “Let It Go.” While unexpected, the growth of her celebrity has been equally as amazing. She has been recognized in the middle of Times Square by fans, and for her that feeling of joy knowing people want to say hello to her will not fade any time soon. “It makes me want to go out looking better. You know, with some trendy outfits and makeup or something,” she told me while jokingly tossing her hair.
Before our interview was over, I asked Bianco to offer some words of advice to high school and college students hoping to make it in “the business” like she has. “This may sound cliché, but I would say the only way you’re going to get stuff done is to do it yourself. You have to be proactive.” Nothing gets thrown into the lap of those who wait. When she was younger, Bianco would accept almost any offer to perform. Beyond that, she would go on auditions for not just the “perfect” role, but all types of roles (as aforementioned). Now, she makes sure that someone is recording her when she performs so she can first learn from it and see what she needs to improve and then upload it if she likes it. By doing so, she is putting her name out to the world, rather than waiting for the world to ask for her name.
Yet, with her spot-on impressions, powerhouse vocals and YouTube success, something tells me the world will be begging for her name soon enough.
Lightning Round Questions with Christina Bianco
Favorite musical: Into the Woods
Favorite impression to do: Celine Dion
Hardest impression to do: Dolly Parton
Best NYU memory: Hearing stories about how Alex Corey, a vocal performance professor, would pretend to throw herself out of the window to get her students to sing with more intention, and eventually getting to witness the spectacle
Dream role(s): Fanny Brice in Funny Girl, Dot in Sunday in the Park With George, and Little Voice in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice
Favorite NYC location(s): Lincoln Center at night, Bryant Park’s holiday market, Angel Share (a bar in the Village, for our 21+ readers)
Person you want to take a selfie with: Bernadette Peters