The Popular Singer Dances His Way To Hollywood
by Yelba Osorio
photography Cesare Bonazza
grooming Kimberly Moore
styling George Blodwell
selling over four million albums, earning 19 platinum records, 28 gold
records, and becoming the star of the number one TV show in Mexico, music
idol Chayanne is ready for his Hollywood close-up. Chayanne, who has been
singing and acting since his pre-adolescence, is known by millions of
his fans in Latin America as well as millions of Latinos in America. This
month, however, with the release of the movie, Dance With Me, the English-speaking
public will have the chance to see the multi-talented Chayanne do his
thing. He stars opposite Vanessa L. Williams, playing an aspiring dancer
(Rafael) who salsas his way into Vanessas heart. Director Randa
Haines, best known for her feature film directing debut, Children of a
Lesser God, knew that Chayanne was the man for the role when he walked
into her office. When Chayanne walked in, the temperature in the
room went up. His charm, looks, musical skills, and accessibility were
exactly what Rafael required. It was the same feeling I has when an unknown
named Marlee Matlin read for Children of A Lesser God. All your instincts
tell you this is the one.
Recently, we spoke with Chayanne about his star turn in
Dance With Me, as well as his new found Hollywood friends, and his strong
family ties that make all of it possible. Even though the international
singing sensation was nursing a cold, he was a sport when it came to doing
the interview. In fact, he spoke at length without much prompting.
Your career in music started when you were very
I started professionally at the age of ten, but I began singing at the
age of five, in church, with my brother and sister who played the guitar.
My brother played el quatro (a four string instrument) which is a typical
instrument of my country, Puerto Rico. So we played with the chorus in
the church. I was the one who was following my siblings; they were playing
the instruments, I was singing with the chorus, playing the pandereta
(tambourine). When I was six, I got involved with the school plays. My
mom was my kindergarten teacher, and she liked theater, and I liked all
the activities that had to do with art. So that went on until I was about
seven, but then I started playing sports. It wasnt until I was ten
that my sister and I got into a singing group, she left the group to go
to college, but I stayed and the group then became known as Los Chicos
(The Guys). We were a quartet that harmonized and we became very popular
in Central America. We were like the New Kids on the Block. When
I was fourteen, the group split, and I went through a few dark years.
I was questioning whether I should stay in music, or leave it. So
I went on studying my regular high school subjects with my teacher. I
had had a private teacher since I was touring with the group to different
countries. I also took singing, dancing, gymnastics, without knowing what
my future would bring.
When did your second big break come?
When I was fifteen an opportunity to do music came up. It was in Mexico.
So I went. They liked my style and when I was about 16, I recorded my
first solo album. I did telenovelas (Spanish soaps), and then features,
all in Spanish. My first English language project is Dance With Me.
that youve added Hollywood film to your list of credits, what direction
do you see your career going in? Will you go back and forth--do an album,
then a movie?
Ive always intended to do both the acting and my music, but the
music, the singer in me, has always been in the spotlight more than the
actor, because Ive given more time to the music. But now, I want
to give them equal time, keep them parallel. I want to place the
same amount of importance on the acting as I have in the music. I dont
know how Im going to do it because it is very difficult to give
so much time and energy to both, when [the music] already eats up so much
of your time. But until now, Ive been putting in the extra effort,
and I hope to continue to do it, and to do it well. I dont want
to do mediocre work. I want to do them both at a high level. If I ever
start feeling that I am sacrificing one for the other, or not doing as
well as Id like, thats when Ill stop the one thats
coming out oscuro. Up until now, they have both gone well. Ive had
to work a lot. While I was filming, any free time I had, I had to work
on my music. And because it was so much work and I was so drained,
I said, Wow! You think youre not going to make it, you
know. But in the end everything came out super bien. Its worth the
effort later on when you see the benefits and merit of your work.
How was the experience of making Dance With Me?
It was fantastic for me , because it was something that Ive wanted
to do for a long time. Having accomplished it, I feel a great deal of
satisfaction both on a personal and on a professional level. The movie
provided a real school for me. It was my first picture in Hollywood, which,
you can say, is the epicenter of the worlds cinema. This is my first
strong project, my first strong passage to the Anglo market, as an actor.
Its with this movie that the doors [to Hollywood] have opened.
was working with Vanessa Williams?
Vanessa Williams is a strong and dedicated woman. She knows what she wants
and she strives for it. She is also a fantastic woman. We struck up a
very close friendship. There was chemistry on and off the project.
We became friends during the project. We didnt even know each other
before it. I also became friends with Kris Kristofferson. He called me
the other day. He was in town working on a film with Mel Gibson, and we
were talking, and he gave me real words of encouragement. Here is a man
who has lots of experience in film, and a person who is also brilliant,
so its a real honor to hear that [from him]. Its also an honor
to hear similar words from the director Randa Haines, who has the experience
and the worlds awards, and whos a very detail-oriented person,
and seeks to do the best. Shes not after the mediocre. She strives
for the best.
It sounds like a real learning experience.
That wasnt all of it. I had to study the Cuban accent. I had a dialect
coach. I had an acting coach and a dance instructor. I even injured my
clavicle doing one of the choreographed dance numbers that we had in the
film. I had to have physical therapy for that. So, it was six and a half
months of hard work. There was no rest. It was my first experience where
I was in every single scene. So my work was double. I think you
have to distinguish who you are as a person form who you are as an actor.
Chayanne the person disappeared. Who was constantly there instead was
Rafael, the character. Id have 18-hour days where I was thinking
like Rafael, living like Rafael, eating like Rafael.
Did you start speaking like a Cuban all the time?
I would go to salsa clubs, where there were lots of Cubans, and my assistant
was Cuban. She would speak to me with an exaggerated accent so it would
stick to me. Eventually, my accent, which is generally neutral,
began sounding very Cuban. Even after finishing the film, for sometime
I still was speaking like a Cuban. I was so into the character that even
at interviews the Cuban accent would come out. So I worked a lot.
But we will see the results, now that the film is coming out. So far the
reviews have been very positive.
Whose decision was it to get an acting coach? How did that work?
What an acting coach does is help you bring out the character. Its
like tennis. If you had to play a tournament youd work with your
coach, who would tell you things like, When you move to the right
with the racket youre hitting the ball too late, thats why
its going short. A coach helps you see what you dont
see. So when Im acting, I have an acting coach. When Im dancing,
I work with a choreographer, and even before entering the recording studio,
I prepare with a vocal lesson. I try to take it to the maximum with each
coach, challenging myself with things I havent yet developed. And
I gain experience like that, and thats how we grow, no?
do you do to relax?
I like to play basketball; my only problem is that its a hard game.
Ive suffered injuries that have cost me--time-wise and economy-wise.
The last injury I got on the basketball court was during the shooting
of Dance With Me. It cost the production un millon tres cientos mil dolares
for the week that they shut down, because I was in all the scenes. They
stopped production so I could recuperate. My eye was injured badly--I
was hit in my right eye and had to get 28 stitches. They had to wait for
the bruising to go down to start filming again. Everyone had to stop work
for a week, thats what was so expensive, not the medical costs.
Its a very aggressive sport that Ive played since I was very
little, but now I shoot three pointers more than driving to the hoop.
I also like tennis a lot, which has less physical contact. I like to run
on the beach, swim, ski, box. What I do when Im a little sick, like
I am now, I listen to a lot of music. I try to keep myself on top of whats
How does the experience of singing in front of an
audience of thousands compare with the energy of acting on a movie set?
When Im going to do a show or a movie, I get nervous because there
is a lot of energy there. I also want the result to be positive. I want
the people to be completely satisfied with my presentation. Thats
why I rehearse so much, and give my maximum on stage, because I respect
the audience. The difference between acting in a movie and singing to
a crowd, is that on stage when youre singing, the crowd gives you
instant energy, and you know the results right away. Right away you know
if they like you or not. But in acting, you work on a character, and you
dont know the result until its screened, or until the critics
see it, or until people stop you in the street and talk to you about the
character. But when youre acting you do feel the energy in the character.
When youre inside a character nothing distracts you, you live everything
as if you were somebody else, and thats how I felt about Rafael.
Thats whats nice about acting. Its like someone
switched you around, and you feel everything the character feels.
You were born and raised in Puerto Rico?
I was born in Puerto Rico, but I was raised--and it might sound strange--but
I was raised in many theaters all over the world, because I toured since
I was ten. I would be gone for months at a time. I was in that environment.
Buy I had a very solid foundation. I had a very strong family upbringing.
I am really grateful for what life has given me, because its given
me a lot.
Typed By Chayfan Lois Rita