be a professional, is to make the impossible seem easy. As
in front of an audience from the dour Gertrude Stein into the flamboyant
transgender hustler Sylvia Rivera during a performance of "ICONS:
The Lesbian and Gay History of the World, Vol. 1," one can't
help but ask, "How does he do it?"
on Lackland Air Force Base,
Jade's roots are deeply planted in San
Antonio. The eldest of three children, he seemed to be a natural
entertainer, performing in the school choir and on stage. Even then, he
strived to be original. "My earliest memory of performing was at Morrill
Elementary School when I was a singer and dancer in a Mexican folkloric
number called "La Cucaracha." I wore a sombrero and I remember thinking
that this was a song that no one head ever heard before. I remember
thinking "this is gonna blow them away! Watch this!"
was perhaps that naiveté that allowed him to pursue the performing arts
despite limited support from his family. His father had big plans for
him to follow in his footsteps by enlisting in the Army and frequently
attempted to steer
Jade away from the arts. His mother, was perhaps more
torn between wanting to protect her son and wanting to encourage him.
"My mother was afraid that people would think I was gay so she really
had a problem buying my dance gear. It was like an episode of "Mission
Impossible" when we went to buy my first ballet slippers. 'Just don't
tell your father,' she'd say, constantly looking behind her back."
wasn't long for others to take not of
Jade's innate showmanship. He
describes being awarded a full scholarship to the American Musical
and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) in New York City, as the best thing that
every happened to him. As a young talented performer with moderate
success, its easy to become cocky. The move to New York, was an
eye-opening experience, one that would help ground
Jade for the rest of
his adult life.
went to New York thinking I was the most talented person in the world
and that everyone needed to know who I was. When I walked out of the
Astoria Building, I realized that I didn't know the first thing about
show business and that I needed to learn."
transition from the Alamo City to the Big Apple was an adjustment for
the enigmatic artist who took the culture shock with receptiveness. "I
was taken back by the various cultures I had to get used to. I was also
surprised by 'the code.' If you spoke Spanish to another
Spanish-speaking person in New York, you could get almost anything you
needed. If you spoke English, you were just like everyone else."
Jade would spend many years in New York. He would work as an assistant
to the Tony award-winning actress Zoe Caldwell and in 1994, won the
coveted award for Funniest Amateur Comic in New York. In addition, his
singing talents would secure him a position as a scratch vocalist for
the Back Street Boys.
Jade would study dance with Slam from Madonna's
Blonde Ambition tour, alongside Jennifer Lopez. His dedication proved
fruitful when he obtained a position as the head choreographer to
notable classical guitarist Charo. "Charo's show is a well-oiled
machine," says the Latin star. "She starts the show on time by the
second. She sets up her jokes with such scientific exactness that you
wonder how a human being can do that every night the same way. I learned
onstage discipline from her."
pressures of New York weren't easy, but he recommends the move to
performers conflicted with venturing outside of Texas. "In New York or
LA, you are faceless. You rise to the occasion or you do not." Every
performer has questioned whether show business is the true calling.
Times get hard, money runs out, and rejection becomes a normal part of
Jade, who spoke five languages at the time, considered
becoming a linguist and even considered leaving the business altogether.
like any lifer,
Jade's concerns were quickly answered after a late night
performance of "Stormy Weather" in Greenwich Village. It was
about 1 a.m. and
Jade was at a piano bar, singing for the few people
gathered at that hour. After his song, a very serious looking stranger
with glasses made his way to
Jade, kissed him on the forehead, clutched
his hand and said "Go back. You belong on stage." With that, the
stranger walked out and disappeared from view.
Jade would never doubt
his calling again.
would eventually return to San Antonio. Living in New York was no longer
a necessity. With so many out of town performances, he quickly realized
that it didn't matter what city he was based in.
recent years, he has had tremendous success with his critically
acclaimed one-person shows, such as "Tortilla
Heaven" and the "ICONS" trilogy. In the
trilogy, he portrays a series of history's notable lesbian and gay
figures. The musical show is performed in the first person as each
character provides not only a history lesson of their contributions to
society, but also the fundamental human desire to love and be loved in
return, in a world that perpetuates prejudice and persecution. It's a
provocative interpretation that has turned
Jade into an icon himself.
Latin star created the series after a failed relationship. For him, it
was about self-healing. As he puts it, "creating something beautiful for
my own amusement." His intention was simple: to show the world the
accomplishments of gay people through ages with laughter and tears.
like any controversial subject, there are misunderstandings,
assumptions, and prejudgment. A fact of life that is incredibly
frustrating for an artist who wants to articulate a vision. "the biggest
misinterpretation about "ICONS" comes from the people who have never seen
it. Some people think it's a drag show and actually think I'm going to
do Cher, Liza Minnelli, Bette Midler and then for the big finale, Diana
Ross. "ICONS" is not a drag show." He's right. It's not.
"ICONS" is a
performance of equal caliber to any other musical headlining across the
country. And like any good story, it has one necessary characteristic -
it has a message.
approached it like a beauty pageant," he says about the selection
process. " I took a lot of people in history and narrowed it down until
I finally got o the six in the first volume. Greg Louganis did so well
in the swimsuit competition, I had to award him placement in "ICONS 3."
efforts have not gone unnoticed. NBC coined him America's Prince of
Pride. "At first I was shocked that NBC called me the prince of
anything. After the initial excitement wore off, I felt inspired to
represent the Pride events with dignity and higher entertainment
standards. Performing in aire libre is a lot harder that it looks."
Jade devotes much of his time to Pride events across the country. "Pride
events are to me, what MTV is to Madonna. They are home base. They put
me on the map. I owe them a lot."
Jade has headlined or been the Master
of Ceremonies at almost every major city in the world. In 2002, he
became the first American musical artist to ever headline the Pride
event concerts in Denmark and Iceland and he represented the United
States at Europride twice.
ambassadorship recently took an unexpected twist when he received a
phone call a few months back. He was contacted by an associate of a
colleague and was asked to be the spokesperson for MTV Networks'
Hispanic Heritage Month. So in mid-September,
Jade flew back to New York
despite it being his birthday. " I have wanted my whole life to enter
the sacred halls of MTV Networks, " he says of the thrilling experience.
"It was interesting that it was not my dancing, singing, acting, or
comedy that brought me there, but my activism."
Jade would fin out that
it wasn't only MTV who was interested in him, but also Logo, VH-1, Spike
TV, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon. Not a bad birthday present.
Only two weeks before
Jade had been onstage performing in San Antonio in
the time-based production of TheatreASAP. The event, which is
headed by the San Antonio Theatre Coalition (SATCO), takes place
over a period of 24 hours. Playwrights are given a phrase, a prop, and a
non-specific cast list starting at 8 p.m. They then must incorporate
those elements and hand their scripts over the next morning to directors
to be performed by actors on stage that evening. With only a few hours
for rehearsing, the project requires dedicated, skilled performers who
"The most challenging aspect of TheatreASAP was the need to adapt
to the script, the cast, the director, the space, and your role almost
immediately. I love situations like that. It's like a challenge to 'just
be good' any which way you can. It's also a great opportunity to
honestly see where your weaknesses lie."
on that September night, when the curtains rose to a jam-packed theater
at San Pedro Playhouse,
Jade stepped on stage to perform, "In My
Hands, The Stars, The Stars."
play focused on a group of brothers and sisters who had gathered after
their mother's death. But unlike most families, this one was different.
They were all adopted and with their mother no longer around, the now
grown children had to decide what to do with their adopted autistic
brother, played by
an actor, playing a disability can be overwhelming. With a delicate role
such as this, there is a fine balance that must be achieved. There is a
necessity to portray mannerisms and characteristics associated with the
disability. But if not done sensitively, it could be perceived as
mocking or insulting. "That was a challenging role for me, "he says.
"One of the actresses in the cast has a brother who is autistic and she
gave us many valuable notes on the facts of autism. The playwright
actually gave me a lot of information on the subject. I approach my
acting very mathematically. I put all the facts and circumstances in the
pool and then I close my eyes and jump in. All the work that happens on
stage take place during rehearsal. During a performance, it is the time
to just be.
night ended well and with adulation from both critics and theatergoers.
With six plays viewed that night, the success of everyone participating
is all the more exciting. "There is nothing like the feeling of
camaraderie; the sound and feel of blended talents."
Life has taught many lessons to
Jade, who has never forgotten his roots.
To this day, he lives surrounded by his family and his close friends.
"My circle, which is what I call people who are closest to me, are a
select few. They empower me, they support me and they know they can rely
on me to do the same for them."
Show business is like no other business. It has a reputation for
straining relationships and fueling bitter feuds. "I make an effort to
pay 100% attention to the people I'm with, when I'm with them. Time is
very precious and I will probably die one day having spent half my life
with people I've only met once."
With his diverse interests and multitude of accomplishments Jade has one
wish, "to be remembered s the greatest actress who ever lived." He's
also a realist and so with each new day, he reminds himself, "blessed is
he who knows that at any moment it can all be taken away."
more information on Jade visit
©2007 Southwest Actors Guide