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Meet Adrian Villegas

Inspiring Artists Stories

Today we'd like to introduce you to Adrian Villegas

Current Location: Los Angeles, CA

Adrian, thank you for taking the time to share your story. Could you start by telling us a little about yourself?

Currently 21 years old and living in the Miracle Mile District of Los Angeles, California, I was born in Orange County, growing up on the border of Huntington Beach in a proud Puerto Rican and Colombian household. Things in my life got kinda rough at around 12 years old; a lot of responsibility was thrown at me and suddenly I felt all this pressure to do something important with my life at a very young age. I felt really out of place with no outlet of expression, and since I was growing up in this world dominated by traditionally forced gender roles and ideals, I always sought after something different and non-typical. Family life was never the easiest in the Villegas household both financially and emotionally. I spent most of my childhood alone in my imagination and thought. I began taking on the likes of the icons I idolized, such as Prince, Lady Gaga, and David Bowie, singing and performing solo concerts in my living room while I waited for my mom to come home late from work.

Art and fluidity soon became my language of expression. Due to some unfortunately severe bullying and taunting, however, life was never kind to me in school either, but I refused to be a victim of my environment. All of this pressure on a small object was bound to make a diamond at some point, and everything finally changed when I discovered the ukulele. At 12-years old, once I began to teach myself how to play both the ukulele and the guitar my journey to find my true voice began. Blazing through several community theaters, the Huntington Beach Academy for the Performing Arts, singing competitions, and several Broadway workshops and competitions like the National High School Musical Theater Awards in 2016 and 2017, and Broadway Artists Alliance in 2017, I earned accolades such as: Top 10 Vocal Music Artists in Orange County 2017, MACY Awards Best Actor 2016 and 2017, JRAY Awards Best Actor 2017 and NYA Artist of the Year 2017.

From there I began my androgynous journey with makeup and drag, polishing myself up as a fierce queen while working a full-time serving job and being a full-time student at Hussian College In Studio Los Angeles for Contemporary Musical Theater and Film! One of my proudest college moments has been producing a drag show highlighting Black and POC drag queens for a charity event benefiting LGBT homeless youth in Los Angeles. All of this in addition to the other short films, music videos, and stage and concert performances I've humbly been a part of throughout my college years. If there’s anything that I’ve learned, it’s time management, ambition, and commitment! It is through endless dedication that I’ve been able to persevere, discover myself, and conquer any and every challenge.

Can you tell us a little more about what you've been working on recently?

Right now I'm currently focused on my last year of college. While going to school in the middle of this pandemic is not at all ideal, I know that navigating the world outside is not necessarily ideal right now either. So I'm grateful to be learning how to navigate some things during tough times like this, that way I'll be that much more prepared getting out there.

The road of the artist is a sometimes long and bumpy road, especially for the BIPOC community. What are some struggles you've faced along the way, and how have you overcome them?

Hell no! I've faced countless challenges, and in fact, most of the success I've garnered has been through overcoming obstacles. Whether it was intense rumors or bullying, people telling me I'm "too Latino" for some roles while not being "Latino enough" for others, or people not taking me seriously in a man's role because they've seen me dressed as a woman. I've made peace with the idea that my art and essence as an artist in general is eclectic and hard to pinpoint.

I've had tons of people tell me no, or try to put me in a box because they think my ideas are too out there or not specific enough. My intense passion and energy for what I do intimidates others often and I've often had to defend my art and vision against multiple people. Fortunately, I've learned to never compromise for my artistic vision. My career is one I know I'm going to craft myself, because I have something in my mind that I know is unique to me. It's just about making sure the rest of the world is on board with that. Years of harassing, exclusion, and being literally thrown into a middle school trash can can tear down the valiant and forever curious mind I have inside.

Are there any lessons that you've learned along your journey so far? Something that you'd want to tell your younger self?

I've learned a ton of lessons in hard work, timing, and humility. Hard work takes a lot of time and it eventually creates humility. When we have amazing ideas, we need to carry them through regardless of what we think will work, or won't work. F*** the fear. Live in it and push forward. Embarrass yourself. You aren't gonna get anywhere if you aren't prepared to fall right on your ass in front of everyone and then keep going without so much as a blink in your eye. Also, follow your passion. Don't let other people tell you where you fit best. If you feel right in something, follow it and see where it leads you. We can not waste time analyzing creative pursuits. We need to create, share, live, and revel in our art. That is how we change the world.

What's the best piece of advice you've received?

Everyone always responds with one of those cliches like "be yourself!" or "be humble!" and I totally think that there's a reason for that. We as humans forget the most basic things right in front of us, and I think that the best advice I've been given was given to me in college. One of my acting professors pulled me aside after watching me struggle week after week. I had been really stressed out with juggling all the different areas of my life and I didn't know how to hold it all together anymore. He told me that we often forget the things that are right in front of us. We forget to take our days one by one, and admire them for what they are. Artists need to revel in the present, and make observations, so that they're able to have a clearer perspective for their artistic pursuits.

Stop being so concerned with that future. It is amazing to have goals, but big goals cannot be accomplished without small goals in place, and it is through focusing on these small goals that we learn, build character, and persevere. Also, be honest with yourself and your emotions. Work through your pain. We as actors and performers use the body as our instrument. Our emotions are the piano keys, and when they are played, something beautiful comes out. Never censor that beauty. It is our biggest gift.

Can you tell us about an inspiring life event? Something maybe that inspired you to pursue a life in the arts?

I'm inspired by everything and everyone in my life in general. Now I know that sounds like a cop out, but it truly isn't. I'm inspired by the world around me. As an artist, I surround myself with people, things, and concepts that I think will sustain me and further push me in the direction that I desire to go. I find inspiration in watching my roommate and best friend get excited over her favorite TV show, watching my drag sisters perform in local shows, and even conversing with both like minded and not like minded people about topics that matter to me.

The entire world is just a flood of emotions and experience, and I think we would be naive to not pull from every avenue we possibly can. We study the world around us and use that in our art to make it specific and honest. I also get my inspiration from my idols, Prince, Gaga, Bowie, and Freddie Mercury; androgynous icons that stand for liberation and freedom. They're constantly giving a middle finger to what is classy or taboo, what is masculine or feminine, what is acceptable or obscene. I dream of a world with more liberosis, the desire to care less about things.

What do you consider your proudest moment?

I've been so very grateful to have had some amazing opportunities. Whether it's competing twice in a national theater competition on Broadway, organizing and fundraising a drag show for homeless LGBT youth, or doing photoshoots and working with some amazing queens from Rupaul's Drag Race, I'm proud of all that I've done. I honestly think my proudest moment is yet to come. I have high hopes for my art and my future, and this is definitely just the beginning for me. I will continue to pave the way not only for myself, but for other young and fluid artists who are tired of being confined to one box in this industry. I'm proud of myself for making the conscious decision to take on that challenge and I'm sure it will eventually lead me to prouder moments.

The mission of The Rose is to make the arts accessible in the community. What purpose do you think the arts or artists play in today's society?

We are the bearers of truth! Art is an accurate description and expression of what is going on in the world today. We use it to share ideas and knowledge, and to further enlighten others. Sometimes the purpose is just to make someone feel something, whether it be happiness, sadness, fear, or grief, the emotional vulnerability that seeps through the art and into the person is what is most important. Art helps us sympathize and empathize with one another and it creates an environment where people are able to freely express themselves healthily without boundary or restriction.

But, all this abstract art does not come without commitment and dedication. There is a sense of discipline and determination that is alive in the arts and in the people that utilize them. Artists truly are the storytellers of the world, aiming to define the world in its present state. As the world is constantly changing, so are artists and our art. That is the beauty and fluidity of art in nature. Without it, we would have no seasons, no cycles, no mysteries. Without art, I truly believe humans would lose their ability to think and connect on an intimate level.

What are your hopes for the future of the arts?

My biggest dreams for the future of the arts industry lie in rewriting the narrative that says artists need to be one thing, with one niche. I'm a complex creator that has more to say than what can fit in just one single avenue of art. Throughout life I've discovered happiness through fluidity and expression and I yearn to share my findings with the world. I play on both ends of the spectrum, masculine and feminine, redefining the definition of what a man is altogether. I want to bring this concept into the arts industry and make it more normalized and widely accepted. I've dedicated myself to a unique avenue of art, yearning to finally break up the stigma around toxic masculinity.

I will continue to do so for the rest of my life, to uplift the voices of the new generation, to create change, and be an example and icon for the future. But at the end of the day, life shouldn’t be taken so seriously anyway. The arts industry serves a very specific purpose in our society to enlighten and inspire, and I just hope that it pushes us to find a more fluid and blurred world that is filled with nothing but color, freedom, and multiple perspectives. That applies not only to sexual and gender fluidity, but racial acceptance as well. I dream of a world where roles are created for people like me, but not in a way that exaggerates my Latinidad. Rather, in a way that celebrates who I am as a Latinx, a pansexual, and most importantly, a human.

Contact & Other Info:

Instagram: @ad_vi

Youtube Performance:

Image Credit

Ted Ely

Paola Nogueras

Suggest a story: The Rose Center Theater's Inspiring Artists Series is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition, let us know here.

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