Ana Milva Gomes – Beautiful, Humorous, Talented
Ana, you are an international superstar. We know that you grew up in Holland, where they speak Dutch, and that you speak English, amongst other languages. You now are now living in Vienna, Austria, and have worked in other German speaking countries. Did you grow up with the German language as well?
I was born and raised in Den Haag and studied musical theatre in Amsterdam before I moved to Germany for my first professional theatre job.
How did your Broadway journey begin?
My first job was Aida the Musical. I was an understudy for the main part and I played Nehebka, Aida’s best friend who sacrificed her own life to save her.
At the time I did not speak German at all, and I had to learn the lines of the show phonetically. There were times I had no clue what I was saying or had no idea of how a German sentence was built. Dutch and German are very similar, but you make mistakes in the beginning because you think you can just use the Dutch word and make it sound German. Thats where people look at you funny.
In Holland we actually get to choose German and back then I just thought the language was too complicated with the der, die, das, etc., so I dropped it and chose French instead. How ironic, that years later, that’s all I do.
You have been in so many productions and if we name them all then this will become more of a biography than an interview. Let’s begin with your debut in the musical Aida by Tim Rice and Elton John. Enlighten us, what was most memorable about it, for you?
The most memorable thing about my first job, Aida, was that I was so fearless…I was so eager to learn and fall flat on my face. I guess now I’m still eager, but more self-conscious, I guess. That show taught me so much about me as a person, a singer and as an actress. It’s a beautiful and deep story and looking back, it has been one of the most intense and powerful moments of my life.
What an ego boost to have played the leading actress in so many musicals. Fame is not an easy thing to handle. You are in the public eye, and the fans always expect you to have the highest of spirits, so how have you remained so amazingly down to Earth through all of your successes?
Exactly that…your ego has to be kept in check. What I have learned through the years is to just do my job the best that I can. I tend not to read reviews and let opinions of others slide off my shoulder because it is just an opinion. If you give it value, even if it’s a compliment, it will influence your job. Of course, its nice to hear that someone likes your performance and it’s nice to be appreciated, but at the same time I don’t take myself that seriously.
It’s my job to take people on a journey and make them forget their everyday life for 3 hours — make them feel something. I feel very privileged.
In 2019, Vienna, Austria, you were playing Grizabella in the musical Cats, a very versatile character, requiring an extremely wide range of vocal and acting skills. How did this particular role push your boundaries, being one of the most iconic characters in Lloyd Webers musical?
The musical Cats and playing Grizabella have been a challenge because it truly is the musical theatre Holy Grail. To be completely honest, I am in awe of my colleagues every single day with what they do on stage. The physicality, the endurance, the grace… they are super human. What I do is nothing compared to what they have to do. Granted, I have to sing and dance my booty off, too. But I get to have long breaks in between.
The biggest challenge for me is to look half as good as the rest of the cast and then sing Memory like it’s the last day on earth, and that song is definitely one of the hardest songs to sing, out there.
How do you transition from one role to another and how do you prepare yourself for a new role in general? Is it like Cinderella, you just put on the slipper and it’s a perfect fit?
To prepare for a part, it depends on what it is. What is tricky sometimes is to do research and to find so much material of another production, maybe even internationally. I try not to listen or watch other performers, because it will influence your own performance and sometimes even intimidate. You have to find your own way and thats why I love the rehearsal process. You get to be creative in your own way and create your own version of whatever it is you do.
In your opinion, what was the biggest stepping stone of your performances that paved the way to your stardom?
The biggest stepping stone, personally, was my first show in Vienna. Not only was it a big hit in Vienna, but it was my first big show again after my knee injury. Sister Act is a show that is filled with joy and comedy. I had never done comedy before and I had to overcome my insecurities. The director of the show and I had a great working relationship and it made the experience that much nicer. Plus the cast I worked with was filled with beautiful people with great attitudes.
All of these elements are rare… and if you have that perfect mix, the audience feels it also.
You played Donna in Mama Mia, as the world’s first dark skinned actress to portray her, who you actually played so beautifully. Were you initially surprised that you got the role?
Mamma Mia was a big surprise for everyone I guess. I just went to the audition thinking I had nothing to lose anyway, so why not go and ask for the impossible? I chose a song where I changed the lyrics a bit and just said, `Why can’t I play Donna in Mamma Mia?’ The director’s face was priceless, and I left the room shaking.
After two more rounds of disaster auditions I was offered the job. Later on, I heard that because my auditions were so bad, he could see the chaos that was perfect for Donna, because she is a mess and chaotic and can’t seem to get her life straight. Hahahaha.
Have you ever been denied a role based on your ethnic heritage?
I actually have been denied an audition because of my ethnic heritage. But then again…I was the first black Donna and the first black Byronic von Waltstätten. My eye is on the prize…Elisabeth is next!! Hahahaha.
Would you agree when one is talented in their career, how they look shouldn’t play a role?
There are so many talented people out there who are denied a part because of the way they look. Being a black woman in the entertainment industry is definitely a challenge. I feel like all eyes are on me. I can’t afford a mistake; I have to remain consistent and set an example. It’s tough, but I’m up for the job. I like to think, with this attitude, it should open more doors for my brothers and sisters to come through, or at least give people something to think about.
FabL’Style was privileged to have done a photoshoot with you and your newborn with designer Niko Niko.
This photoshoot was a way to see how far I was in my head, because thats what is really important. If you lack confidence, it shows! What is so great about my job is that I can tap into this confidence when I have to. That doesn’t mean that I am.
Niko’s clothes make me feel confident and sexy and after a very long time of wearing sweatpants, sneakers and leggings, I was really feeling myself that day. Good lighting and make up help, too though! Hahaha!
Congratulations on the birth of your daughter, Isabella! We can see how motherhood is treating you, you are glowing and emanating love. She was born at the beginning of the corona crisis. Do you think this allowed you both the advantage of having more quality time together?
My baby girl was born in the Lockdown and thinking back, I was so scared because nobody knew what was going on and what was going to happen. But the time spent with her and just my parents was really special. We were in our own bubble for two months and really got the chance to get to know each other, and learn each other, and for that I’m very grateful.
My work attitude has changed tremendously, I still believe in hard work and dedication but my baby girl is my world now. My life was mostly about my career. I would move constantly for a job, or travel a lot. That is harder with a baby and all I want for my baby is for her to be happy! She basically rules the pace of my day to day activities. Motherhood is so challenging, but so extremely rewarding… more than any standing ovation, honestly. My job is still very fulfilling, and fun and I’m happy to be back on stage again, but it is different.
Has motherhood changed something about how you perceive the world with Isabella in your life?
Like I said, my priorities have changed, but at the same time I feel the huge responsibility to take care of us, also financially. And going back to work will provide both some confidence, normalcy, and financial stability. As to how I look to the world, now that I have Isabella, it changes every day. Sometimes I feel scared for what is out there for her. Especially when you let the news dictate your life and your emotions, but most times I cannot wait for her to explore the world with me and experience the wonderful things life has to offer.
Your daughter must have a sound mind with such a sweet, beautiful voice singing to her all the time. What is her reaction to your singing voice?
I was still on stage up until I was four months pregnant, and I used to sing a bit in the bathtub. I assumed she was used to my voice. So when she was born and I sang to her, her lower lip started to quiver and she started crying. I was so shocked and disappointed, especially after a few tries. Now thats she’s a bit older, we have whole dance and sing parties in the kitchen when I prepare her food. She doesn’t like anything dramatic, but anything with a good beat, especially Salsa or anything Latin, she just loves.
Every woman wants to know (me included) how to get back in shape after a pregnancy. Did you put on any baby kilos that you would like to lose or are you ahead of the game?
Every woman who struggles with their body after birth needs to understand that you have to take your time and not push yourself too hard. Nutrition, sleep, and light exercise is key. Fact is, you have created life with your body…everything has shifted and changed. And the pressure of getting back in shape will drive you mad. So get rid of the pressure. My mindset had to change because to look good, you have to feel good first.
You were amazing in Dancing with the Stars 2017. How demanding or thrilling was it?
Dancing Stars was a very interesting and challenging period. I was dealing with an old knee injury and I was still doing another production (Ghost) at the same time in Linz. My partner, Thomas Kraml, was my saviour. Not only was he my trainer, he was my confidant. He has seen me at my best and at my worst in a very intense, relatively short amount of time…and pulled me through. I was very grateful to have him by my side.
It’s a, physically, very demanding process and to have camera’s on you the whole day makes it all a little bit more stressful. But I had the best time and I have learned so much!
So whats next?
What’s next…well, I’ll continue with Cats the Musical. My contract is until mid next year and I’ll spend as much time with Izzy as I can and we will see what comes next!
What have you always been most passionate about?
I am very passionate about the world of theatre, the people, the process.
Are you passionate about food and if so which cuisine?
I. LOVE. FOOD. Growing up in Holland and having many different friends with different nationalities, gave me the opportunity to taste and try many different cuisines. I love Suriname food, it’s soul food to me. Italian, Thai, are some of my favourites too. My father is a chef, French cuisine. And my mom is also a mean cook. So, as a child I already had a very eclectic and varied pallet. In our culture (Cape Verde) food is how you share your love.
Do you cook?
I like to cook for others. For myself, not so much. Most of the time I’ll eat a salad, an easy pasta or I’ll throw some vegetables in the oven.
Many designers are dying to dress you and many stylists to style you. How much do you enjoy being done up by the professionals?
It’s always very interesting to see someone else’s vision or idea of you come to life. Any stylist, designer, makeup artist, hairstylist, have their own idea of what you can look like. It almost feels like a spa day when you get pampered by hair and makeup. And who doesn’t like that, right?
It has been proven that one of the leading causes of pandemics is due to deforestation. Mass consumption and therefore mass production of meat requires the mass destruction of exotic animal habitats to plant soya feed for the animals we eat. The destruction of exotic wild life habitats leads to the spreading of viruses to humans, that exotic animals carry, which otherwise may never have spread in the first place. Some people suggest eating less meat and having a more plant-based diet, could prevent further pandemic crisis outbreaks. What is your take on this suggestion to battle our planet’s pandemic crisis?
I think what the lockdown has taught us is that we can actually live with much less. So many people were forced to stay home and cook, spend more time with family, spend more time in nature, and appreciate what we have a little more. It is so different for many people.
The fashion industry has its own problems with mass consumption, considered one of the highest pollution factors within the climate crisis. Too many produced cheap clothing lines add to pollution and trash accumulation. Water, air, and soil are being abused as well as poorly paid labor, and not to mention child labor usage. Some people suggest that being conscious consumers and purchasing clothing fibres that are recyclable or non harming fibres, in general, is one way to put an end to this cycle. Harmful fibres that are released into our water and aquatic life, sometimes literally land on our plates. What is your take on this suggestion to battle the planet’s climate crisis?
I believe that you can help by controlling your own household. The little things you can change in your own circle will have an effect on the world. It starts with your own consumption, how much, the quality, etc.!
We and the FabL’Style readers wish you all the best with baby Isabella and your up-coming plans.