Valentina, former star of RuPaul’s Drag Race, will be starring in FOX’s live production of Rent. Valentina will play the role of Angel Dumott Schunard. In the story, Angel is a young drag queen and street percussionist who’s living with AIDS.
Valentina, born Andrew James Leyva in 1981, began performing in drag by late 2016. In an interview with Los Angeles Weekly, Valentina said that she wants to use her drag as a means of representing her pride in her Latin American culture. “I’m trying to show the glamour, the elegance, the sophistication, the intellectual, romantic, beautiful side of Latin culture that needs to be respected,” she revealed.
Drag Queen Valentina Will Be Playing the Role of Angel Dumott Schunard
“Especially in such a tough time when the community of mine has been considered bad people, illegal immigrants, rapists and criminals, all I can really do is show how much love and admiration I have for my community and my culture,” she added. “Through the show and through what I do, [I hope to] be a little beacon of light for those people who have been feeling really down and make them feel represented in a very positive way.” Valentina is openly gay and non-binary, and goes by “she/her” pronouns when she is in drag.
“I was called in because one of the casting directors was a fan of mine from ‘Drag Race,’” she told NBC News. “Without even knowing if I knew how to sing or if I had the experience or the potential for this, they invited me to come in and audition. They saw something in me.” Valentina went on to say that while her audition was not her finest moment as a performer, the producers saw something in her.
Valentina Was Born Andrew James Leyva In Los Angeles
“[I] wasn’t really hitting the notes” she admitted. “I just said, ‘Hey look, if you guys need me to do anything or you want to correct me on anything, feel free to let me know.” She added that after a series of workshops, she was awarded the part.
“Valentina personifies all the qualities we associate with Angel — heart, energy, vulnerability and excitement,” said original Rent casting director Bernie Telsey. “We saw many, many people for the role, but no one was better. As fans of Drag Race know, Valentina, even while reading lines or singing songs, has a personality that is magnetic.”
Valentina Hopes That Her Performance Will Help Spark Discussions About Gender Identity
When asked about what drew her to the role to Angel, Valentina said that she hopes she can help spark a discussion about gender identity. “I hope that people, especially in the LGBTQ community, take away that we’ve really come a long way since the ‘90s and since the AIDS epidemic,” she revealed. “Not only with science, with things like PrEP, but just topics of conversation, like gender identity.”
“Angel really is like an angel, because he came in so quick and turned all these people’s lives around and showed them what it’s like to be compassionate and selfless,” Valentina added. “Like the kind of person that just walks into the room and changes all the energy, you know?”