Joan Marcus; Denita Turner
When Hailee Kaleem Wright and her household first moved from Houston to New York Metropolis, life within the Huge Apple proved to be harder than they’d anticipated.
Wright, now 29, was an adolescent on the time — years earlier than she would make her Broadway debut in Paradise Square and subsequently rating a starring function in Six, an accomplishment she tells PEOPLE has “taken lots of power.”
“2022 was so many firsts,” says Wright. “It was like the entire desires coming true, particularly after such a very long time of not working.”
Her dream had been years within the making. Wright bit the performer bug after her mom, singer Asia Kaleem, landed a job in a regional manufacturing of Hairspray and obtained Wright employed within the ensemble, understudying a number of roles as a swing. Two months after graduating highschool, Wright was rehearsing in New York Metropolis.
“I fell in love with theater,” she says. “Me and my mother checked out one another, and we have been like, ‘Let’s simply pack up our stuff and transfer to New York. Let’s attempt to do that.’ And, uh, it didn’t work out very nicely.”
Not like their life in Texas, it took for much longer to seek out an house in New York Metropolis. Wright, her mom and her youthful brother, Joey, had “already dedicated to popping out,” she says, including that the cash “shortly dried up” after dwelling out and in of resort rooms.
The household discovered themselves on the Department of Homeless Services program in New York — a second Wright describes as “one of the crucial dehumanizing processes that I’ve ever skilled” — and waited for 16 hours earlier than they might be accommodated.
“The primary place we went to was in Southside Jamaica, Queens. We had bedbugs and simply terrible, terrible eventualities,” she says.
“That battle was a very long time,” Wright explains, including that it was practically unattainable to get above water working minimum-wage retail jobs. Nevertheless, she was capable of safe an agent and ultimately was approached by MTV to be filmed for the truth sequence True Life, documenting her journey as she pounded the pavement to develop into an expert performer.
“This might be a chance to inform my story,” Wright thought. “When it aired, we did not even have cable, so I could not watch it. I used to be trying on the stay Twitter feed of individuals speaking about my life.”
Nonetheless, the household was barely capable of make ends meet. “We went again to Houston. We packed it up, and I obtained a cubicle job. I used to be working at Xerox,” she says.
Little did Wright know, an audition for Common Studios in Japan that she attended in N.Y.C. practically 5 months prior had lastly paid off. “It modified all the pieces for me,” says Wright, who moved to Japan to do theme park work. “I used to be 20 years previous, and I used to be making essentially the most cash I’ve ever made. I couldn’t imagine that I had auditioned for that at a shelter.”
Issues have been going nicely for Wright till she returned to Houston. “Nobody actually is aware of [this],” she says, “however after I got here again from Japan, me and my household have been homeless once more, which was not solely devastating; mentally, it was catastrophic.”
She explains, “Simply since you get more cash does not imply you are gonna know what to do with it. … It is virtually like this survivor ability. While you make it out of a tricky scenario, you are feeling obligated to assist others. And I believe I overextended in that manner.”
With solely $200 in her financial savings account, Wright determined to take an opportunity on herself. She had been practising strategies from The Secret and commenced to imagine within the legislation of attraction.
“I took that cash, and I obtained a freaking one-way flight to New York. It had possibly been three or 4 months of dwelling out and in of the automobile, out and in of lodges, and I used to be so depressing,” she says of her temporary time again in Houston. “I wager on myself.”
“I obtained a hostel, and I obtained a aircraft ticket,” she provides. “I used to be there for every week. I obtained three contract presents.”
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Although Wright ready for auditions in public loos, utilized make-up on the subway and did not have an tackle to placed on her resume, the credit started so as to add up. She was ultimately solid within the nationwide tour of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical — and requested her mom to return to New York in order that she, too, may pursue her desires of performing.
“I am a giant believer in by no means freaking giving up,” says Wright, who ultimately made her Broadway debut final yr within the musical Paradise Sq.. As that present was concluding its run in July, she was auditioning to play one among Henry VIII’s wives within the Tony-winning musical Six.
At her first efficiency as Catherine of Aragon, “My mother was straight throughout from me [in the audience], and the minute I got here out, I simply noticed her,” she says via tears. “It felt so particular and divine, and I simply felt so grateful to have actually been a co-creator within the life that I wished.”
Wright and her household now reside in New York Metropolis, and her mom Asia is discovering success in industrial work.
“To be a bit Black lady from the South who got here from actually humble beginnings, and to make it to Broadway… It is not misplaced on me how huge the choices have been for me to fail, and the truth that I used to be capable of succeed — I have a look at my life now, and I am not the identical individual,” Wright says.
“[If] the lady 10 years in the past knew I may develop into the girl that I’m as we speak, she can be like, ‘Wow, she’s actually cool.’ “