Amazing Asians in the Arts: Diana Huey
Diana Huey is a singer and actress based in New York City! She was the first Asian American actress to star as Ariel in the National Tour of The Little Mermaid in 2016-17, and is an active participant in new works in the Seattle theater scene! Keep reading to find out more about what makes Diana an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Name: Diana Huey
Hometown: Mukilteo, WA
Current City: New York City
I was supposed to currently be playing Julia in The Wedding Singer at the Village Theatre back home in Washington State, but due to Covid, it was cancelled. So now I’m remotely working on various virtual readings, workshops, voice over gigs, and filming a short film from home!
What are some of your favorite credits/projects?
Ariel in the National Tour of Disney’s The Little Mermaid
Kim in Miss Saigon (Signature Theatre, Flat Rock Playhouse)
Spider in the World Premiere of Pasek and Paul’s James and the Giant Peach (Seattle Children’s Theatre)
Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you’d like to share?
I had the time of my life playing Ariel in the National Tour of Disney’s The Little Mermaid in 2016-2017. Disney movies were what started my love of musical theater and as an adult today, I still will always be down to watch a Disney movie or listen to a Disney playlist for my music of choice. So getting to live out my childhood Disney Princess dreams was an actual dream come true for me!
To have gotten to play Ariel as an Asian American actor . . . it was truly beyond my wildest dreams (show pun unintended).
When news about some of the racism I was facing over my casting started to circulate on the internet, I suddenly found myself not just an actor on tour, but an activist fighting for diversity in the arts.
I will forever cherish the families I met across the country who would come up to me with tears in their eyes telling me how meaningful it was to them to see a person of color playing Ariel. Especially in some cities where there isn’t a lot of diversity – to have someone tell you how they wept watching their Asian daughter watch me play Ariel? Moments like that made every hard day beyond worth it. What a privilege and honor to experience something like that.
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
Believe in yourself! Love yourself! Be kind to yourself! This is a powerfully joyous but hard business. Be patient and kind to yourself when you’re feeling frustrated. You know that super great encouraging advice you’d tell your best friend if they were feeling down? Tell YOURSELF that same great encouraging advice! Be your own advocate and cheerleader. Believe that you are enough, because you ARE!
Who do you admire?
All of the artists who have come before me, especially the Asian artists who helped pave the way for people like me to even have a shot in this business. I know that there is still so much work to do, but we are where we are today thanks to all the work they did.
Did you always want to be in the arts or did you have another path before you got here?
The arts have always, 100% been what I wanted to do. I made up songs to narrate just about everything I was doing as a kid (apologies to my family, ha ha!), and then as I got older, the arts in school were my whole world. In high school you could find me at Zero Period Jazz Choir before school, in barbershop rehearsals or choir counsel meetings during lunch, and in rehearsals after school. I feel so, so grateful to get to have gotten to continue to do what I love for a living!
When did you know you wanted to have a career in the arts?
There is a “famous” Christmas from my childhood. I was 4 years old and we were spending the holidays with my Dad’s side of the family in North Carolina. That was the year I received my favorite present of my 4 years of life: a pink feather boa. I modeled, shouldered, and pouted my lips while singing and dancing around the rest of that Christmas. There’s a photo of me posing for the camera with my older cousin and Aunt lying on the couch behind me just trying not to laugh hysterically! Everyone says that after that holiday, they all knew I would be a performer.
Did you have any interesting “odd jobs” you worked at between shows to pay the bills?
When I was in college, I spent my summers working at the Seattle Space Needle, which for those who don’t know, is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Seattle, with a glass elevator that takes you up to the top of the tower with amazing 360 degree views of the city and the Puget Sound. The first two times I worked there, I worked for the restaurant, but the third and final time, I was an elevator operator! I spent most of my day in a glass elevator taking guests up and down and basically being a 43 second tour guide!
Most common joke from guests:
Them: “So, what’s it like to be an elevator operator? Must be a lot of UPS AND DOWNS!!” *followed by prideful cackling*
Me (silently to myself): “Just smile and nod, just smile and nod, just smile and nod . . .”
Do you have any other “special skills?”
One of my favorite learned skills from a show I have acquired is a no-handed pogo stick! I played Roberta in Zanna, Don’t! three summers in a row during Pride back home in Seattle. The first summer, they had me learn how to bounce on a pogo stick for one of the songs. When the show was brought back by popular demand the following summer, I felt like I had to up my new party trick, so I went to doing the pogo choreography with one hand! Then when we were brought back again for a third magical summer, I felt the pressure to up my game even more, so I figured out how to bounce on beat on a pogo stick with both hands in the air! It took a ton of inner thigh work . . . and completely letting go of the fear of falling in front of hundreds of people! ;)
Where did you study at?
I went to Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, WA and received a BFA in Theater with a Performing Arts emphasis
Cornish is like a conservatory program with intimate class sizes and teachers who are all working professionals in their field. My freshman Theater Department class had around 80 people and a little less than 30 of us completed the full four years and graduated. It was a very intensive program, but it’s exactly where I needed to be at that point in my life and I am so grateful for my experience there.
What are some goals you hope to achieve?
I LOVE working on new works and have been a part of so many amazing shows while they were in early development (most notably Pretty Woman before it went to Broadway). I would love to work on a show from its early stages, get to create my own character and voice, and go with it to a full scale production – or, if we’re talking “reach for the stars” dreams – to Broadway!
What do you love most about what you do?
The people. The people, the people, the people. There is, of course, nothing like the rush of being able to stand center stage, bear your soul to the audience, and belt your heart out – but those magical moments wouldn’t happen without the people. It truly “takes a village,” and it’s so gratifying to collectively create something and experience it come to life and work out in such a raw, personal, and exciting way.
Every show I work on, it feels like you get to meet a whole new round of people who instantly become your best friends. Who inspire you, challenge you, make you better. The arts community is so beautiful and powerful. I truly love and miss getting to create in person with everyone!
What inspires you?
My family, who have taught me so much about resilience and unconditional love.
If you could name one point in time when everything changed for you, what was it?
Before the tour of The Little Mermaid even started, I had received some hurtful and negative comments about me, an Asian actor, playing Ariel. For the first half of tour, I lived with the “water off a duck’s back” motto and decided that the best thing for me to do was ignore the bullies and focus on my work. Then, on a Monday off in Memphis, TN (almost exactly this time 3 years ago, actually!), I went with a couple of cast mates to the Civil Rights Museum. For hours, I walked through the museum while reading, learning, and feeling so much pain and anger about how all of THIS happened, and we were still dealing with so much racism in our country. Then, at the end of the museum, you walk by Martin Luther King’s room at the Lorraine Motel and then stand just feet away from where he was shot.
It was in those moments that I knew I HAD to speak up, that I too, had to do my part to combat and speak against racism. How could I not when I stood where Martin Luther King Jr. stood? When I was standing feet from where he died, fighting for justice? It was truly an eye opening, humbling, and life changing experience for me.
Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself?
I am an advocate for being kind. I implore all of us to lead with compassion, an open heart, and kindness to ourselves and to others.
To find out more about Diana, please visit her at:
Instagram and Twitter: @dianahuey