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Tony Winner Lindsay Mendez On Why She Wouldn’t Change Her Name

Last night Broadway celebrated the best of the stage at the 72nd annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The love for Latino actors was certainly present as John Leguizamo’s “Latin History for Morons” was nominated for best play, and  he also received a special Tony Award for his body of work on Broadway. Legendary actress Chita Rivera was also honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. But it was another Latina that stole the show.

Lindsay Mendez won Featured Actress for her role in the musical “Carousel.” While she accepted her work, the actress talked about obstacles she faced as a Latina on Broadway.

“I just want to say when I moved to New York, I was told to change my last name from ‘Mendez’ to ‘Matthews,’ or I wouldn’t work,” Mendez said. “And I just want to say how proud I am to be part of a community that celebrates diversity and individuality. And to all of you artists out there, just be your true self and the world will take note.”

Backstage, Mendez elaborated a little more about her story to break into Broadway.

“I was going to change it to Lindsay Matthews, this is true,” she said. “At that time, when I moved here, there weren’t that many Latina actresses. I thought that my grandparents would be so devastated,” she said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “They worked so hard to get me here. I thought, either they’re going to like what I’m doing or what I’m not.”

Mendez added that she’s interested in playing parts that go outside the “Latina” box or are written for minority women.

“Just because you’re a minority doesn’t mean you have to play a minority,” Mendez said. “I thought I’d be playing ‘West Side Story’ or ‘Evita.’ Playing this New England girl, that’s an accent I never thought I’d have to hone. My ethnicity [in ‘Carousel’] wasn’t defined so don’t put yourself in a box. Open yourself up to possibilities.”