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July 23, 2022 4 min read


Kendyl Ito is an actress based in Queens! After her first exposure to theatre at the age of five and performing in her first show at 8, Ito decided to pursue entertainment professionally. Inspired by “making weird art,” she’s since appeared in projects such as Soft Power, Wild Goose Dreams, Half the Sky, and the limited-engagement tour of Broadway’s Waitress as Dawn! As an AAPI woman, she navigates working in an industry “not designed for [her] voice to be heard” and uncovering acceptance within her workplace and herself. Her three pieces of advice for young artists? “See everything and anything you can… don’t be afraid to ask questions… [and] trust your gut.” Read on to learn more about Kendyl Ito and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts! 

Name:   Kendyl Ito


Heritage:   Yonsei (4th generation) Japanese-American


Hometown:   Sacramento, CA


Current City:   Queens, NY


Current project:   Just finished the limited-engagement tour of Waitress as Dawn.


What are some of your favorite credits/projects: 

Soft Power, Wild Goose Dreams, Half the Sky to name a few.


Any advice for young people getting into the arts?

  1. See everything and anything you can. Broadway musicals, untitled dance pieces, your friend’s living room reading of a play… surround yourself with the infinite creative possibilities.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even the “dumb” ones … lean into curiosity with childlike wonder.
  3. Trust your gut.


How did you get your start?

When I was 5 years old, my parents took me to see Beauty and the Beast at the Community Center in Sacramento. They thought I wouldn’t make it through without falling asleep, but I sat on the edge of that booster seat mesmerized the whole time. Two years later, they signed me up to do a local children’s theatre production of Tom Sawyer and I’ve never stopped since then.


Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you'd like to share?

It’s a bit of a smorgasbord, beautifully stored away, but a couple immediately jump out:

  1. During Matilda, the first time I performed in front of an audience — we got to the number “When I Grow Up” with the iconic swings. I was swinging out to the audience. Time stopped and it felt like I was flying. To this day, it is one of the coolest moments I did onstage.
  2. During Soft Power (honestly, the entirety of Soft Power is a core memory), we always started our rehearsals with a warm up circle. Everyday. We had a song suggestion box where people could submit songs they’d like to hear during warm up. One person would start and lead the group, warming up whatever they felt inclined to, and then popcorn it off to someone else in the group. Some days, it turned into a spontaneous dance party — we’d huddle up, jumping up and down to Lizzo — and other days it became a massage train. The best days were when the entire room, creatives and stage managers included, would join in the warm up. Pure joy.


What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?

Advocacy and confidence. This business can easily break you down and you can lose sight amongst the chaos of it all. Especially as an AAPI grappling with the visibility of our people on the stage, I still struggle with this question: how do you speak up in rooms not designed for your voice to be heard? It’s not easy, but the more I try to turn off that little voice inside, cross the threshold and say “I deserve to be here” … the reward is worth the battle.


Do you have any organizations or non profits you work with you’d like to highlight?


I don’t personally work for these orgs, but the ones I like to highlight these days are: National Network of Abortion Funds, Thee Open House Project, For The Gworls, Trevor Project, World Central Kitchen, Transgender Law Center, AAPI Women Lead, Jewish Voice for Peace, Grassroots Law Project, Intersectional Environmentalist, The Okra Project, Advancing Justice (AAJC), Coalition for the Homeless, Broadway for Racial Justice


How do you deal with performance anxiety?

One of the big things I’ve learned about performance anxiety (and mental health in general) over the years is that our relationship to it is not linear, but more of a curvature. How we experience one day will not necessarily be the next. We really don’t talk about mental health enough in our business and I wish more rooms could be more empathetic when it comes to mental health in the workplace. For myself, I find little personal rituals beforehand help me mentally prepare (things you can keep for yourself). Breathing is vital, whether it be to ease something that could build into an anxiety attack or help you navigate if you’re experiencing one in the moment. Tuning into your senses is also helpful (music, scents, and visuals are a big flex). Also, your relationship to it is completely your own and should be catered to what works best for you.


What inspires you?

Witnessing people embody something full-heartedly without doubt or fear of judgment; Those who choose “unconventionality” to defy conformity in order to highlight a truth we may be too afraid to see — this is what inspires me. I’ve also been thinking a lot about Deidre O’Connell’s recent acceptance speech in reference to making “weird art”. It’s inspiring to know that even “the pros” don’t have everything figured out and we’re all on the same journey to artistic discovery.


To find out more about Kendyl Ito, please visit her at: 

Instagram:   @lil_kito


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