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You Had The Power All Along: Shereen Pimentel

You Had The Power All Along: Shereen Pimentel

This column, inspired by our Dorothy Medallion, features inspiring women sharing what makes them feel powerful and inspired. Today's feature is none other than the incredible Shereen Pimentel, who stars as Maria in the new Broadway revival of West Side Story. She is truly a force to be reckoned with (she simultaneously finished up her final semester at Juilliard while premiering in the role on Broadway). This ground breaking production of West Side Story was temporarily halted by the Broadway shutdown due to COVID-19, but we can't wait to see her back on stage soon (we hope). In the meantime, we thought we'd chat with her about what's empowering her during this uncertain time and why her Maria has a strength that we've never seen before...


On staying powerful and motivated during tough moments (like auditions)...


There is a lot of patience that has to come with yourself...To know that it's okay to not be on top of your game 100% of the time, or not be perfect all of the time. It's not possible. You're a person. That's my biggest thing for audition season - putting my all into it but also knowing that if I needed to step back or needed some space (especially since it was also my Junior year of college) I just learned to be patient with myself, and look at myself and say 'It's okay. You're still great. You're doing the best you can.' If you keep saying that to yourself, do the best you can, and give yourself positive reinforcement, it's such a big deal. You need to keep that up.


On feeling inspired and creative as an artist during the uncertain time of COVID-19...


It started in a very powerless place. A lot of things I was looking forward to were getting cancelled. We were at the height of Broadway - basically everything we'd been working for since I got the job - and then they just had to hit the pause button. So at first it was really hard. But I think we have to allow ourselves to just experience. We want to hold onto something concrete but there isn't much right now. There's this idea of not knowing what the next step is that contributes to feeling powerless and that we don't have agency over what we're doing - and I was always the person who loved a plan. My whole life was planned. But now, I think there can be something beautiful that comes out of not holding on and gripping white knuckles to a plan.


On how women should speak to themselves in order to feel most empowered...


There's this idea that as women, if you believe that you're talented or you believe you're pretty, you're not being humble or that your conceited. I really love to sit with myself and dispel that notion. Just because you believe in yourself doesn't mean that you don't believe in other people, or that you see yourself as better than other people. You just have a sense of confidence. I think that's so important to realize as women. There are so many people out there that whether they mean to or not, bring you down. It's so important to be your own advocate. The year of auditioning for me was, 'You are your own advocate in every single audition room.' Yes, I have an agent, but when I walk in the room it's just me. I have to believe that I can be successful to actually do it. Start with talking to yourself and slowly progress to getting to that place where you can look in the mirror and say 'Wow, I look pretty without makeup on,' or whatever it is. It takes time to build that within yourself.  


On how she empowered the character of Maria in West Side Story, and brought that into her own life...


It was so great to have a team that was so encouraging to me to bring myself and my strength to the role of Maria, and to give her so much more than just being an ingenue and someone who falls in love. Allowing these things to be decisions that she makes instead of things that happen to her. She's so determined and knows exactly what she wants the whole way through. She went through hard times but she was never hopeless. That perspective changed me as an artist and as a person.


I talked to my Mom about 'Somewhere'. There's this idea that Bernardo [Maria's brother] dies and Maria falls into the arms of Tony and haphazardly goes back to him. That's not true. My Mom said, if you think about it, women go through things that are difficult but actively make their decision, whatever that is. And even if people disagree, that's okay. Maria made the decision to forgive Tony; she isn't a weak woman. That idea doesn't exist. Everyone makes their decisions and that was hers. I love to think of that part in that way. The big thing for me now, that I took from the show, is always being honest with exactly what I want and how I want it to be. Because then I can always say I was 100% true to myself and my decisions. If I regret a decision, I made it. If I love it, I made it. It was always up to me.

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