Victoria Velazquez grew up with music as a prominent part of her life. Her unrelenting passion for music later inspired her to pursue a music career, and carve out a niche. Along with her sister Alexia Sielo Velazquez, Velazquez founded Women of Color on Broadway, a non-profit organization, that was established to create more platforms for women of color who have disproportionate opportunities in musical theater. The organization has since been taking major strides, and even collaborated with MAC Cosmetics. Velazquez recently spoke to 21Ninety about WOCoB.
21Ninety: Thank you for taking the time to chat today. Can you please give some background on Women of Color on Broadway and how you started the organization?
Victoria Velazquez: Women of Color on Broadway was founded in June, 2018 by my sister and I. At the time my sister was anxious about building a successful career in theater because she was concerned about the lack of career opportunities for women of color, because at the time, she was auditioning for roles that were specifically for women of color. After she told me that, I responded by saying that if people wouldn’t create work for women of color, then we would have to create the opportunities for ourselves.
21Ninety: Talk to me about the first concert.
VV: As part of creating our own opportunities, I had suggested that we do a concert called Women of color on Broadway. It was a tribute cabaret that paid tribute to woman of African, Latin, Asian and Indigenous descent who have contributed to musical theater throughout history. The show took place in a little 60-seat venue called, and it was really successful. We got a lot of love and support for it and that set the rest of the story in motion. We ended up putting together another show after that which was also successful. All of that led to more open doors and partnerships, including a collaboration with MAC Cosmetics. While all of this was happening, I was pursuing my master’s degree from Berklee College of Music, and working on my thesis at the time.
21Ninety: How did the MAC Cosmetics partnership happen?
VV: Our relationship with MAC cosmetics started in Halloween 2020. At the time, the world shut down and it affected theater a lot because people couldn’t go to shows or produce them. This started the conversation around digital theater experiences, and how we could make that happen. Our goal was to find aspiring Black makeup artists across the country to recreate a makeup look that was inspired by a Broadway character. During that process, the people at MAC got to learn more about our story, and that led them to sponsoring out “Summertime” video project. It was a project that we put out with a video and it was our own spin off the original version from Porgy and Bess’s original “Summertime” record.
21Ninety: What do you do to continue opening doors for the organization?
VV: We do a lot of networking, but at first, networking for our organization was a bit tricky. It was challenging because most people who start nonprofits have some sort of funding secured. We started from ground zero, and I used the rest of my $500 student refund check to make things work. We used the resources we had and our partnerships and social media to help build our brand. We also went into this knowing that Black women are often ignored in the entertainment industry, both as performers, professionals and as consumers, we wanted to change that.
21Ninety: Who has been the most influential person to you throughout your career?
VV: My Mom and Dad have always played a big role in my life. They both helped to guide me find toward finding what we wanted to do within music. Both of my parents have backgrounds in music, and they were both excellent at what they did. Being born into that helped me to develop a love for music, which influenced what I am doing today. When my sister and I were kids, they would always take us to different music programs, and I was very much involved with the Black church, and the Black church also played a big role in my relationship with music.
21Ninety: What is next for Women of Color on Broadway?
VV: We are hosting our annual Purple Crystal Honorary Awards Ceremony in February 2023. The Purple Crystal Honorary Award is a non-competitive award created to honor the lifetime achievements and contributions in theater by a women of African, Latin, Asian, and Indigenous descent. It’s inspired by the symbolic value of purple crystals, and their association with royalty, nobility, spirituality and creativity. We previously honored Melba Moore and LaChanze back in 2020. We will announce our next recipient in January 2023. Also, next summer we will be launching an education program for gifted girls from low income families while also finding ways to reintroduce theater to the Black community. I am really excited about that.
Read more about Women of Color on Broadway here, and watch their MAC Cosmetics sponsored video below.