Kendyl Sayuri Yokoyama is a Rubik’s cube master, ramen enthusiast, and actress currently all over America with Hamilton’s First National Tour! She got her start at the prompting of her vocal coach and tap teacher, she auditioned for Aladdin Jr. and booked the role of Jasmine! Since her time in Agrabah, she’s gone on to join the Angelica Tour as the standby for all 3 Schuyler sisters, the cast of Allegiance, and to sing in the 90th Oscars performance for The Greatest Showman! Offstage, she’s a huge supporter of Go For Broke, “a nonprofit organization that supports and educates people about the Japanese American incarceration and the Nisei veterans who served in the 442nd regiment during World War II” that “remind [her] of how proud [she] is to be Japanese American. Her advice to young artists? “There is no one else like you. You are interesting and deserve to take up space. You are what people are missing.” Read on to learn more about Kendyl Sayuri Yokoyama and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Name: Kendyl Sayuri Yokoyama
Heritage: Japanese American, Yonsei (4th generation)
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Current City: touring around the US :)
Current project: I’m currently the standby in the Hamilton 1st National Tour (Angelica Tour). As the standby, I cover the Schuyler sisters: Eliza Hamilton, Angelica Schuyler, and Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds.
What are some of your favorite credits/projects:
Hamilton will always be very special to me, but working on a musical called Allegiance about my own Japanese American heritage was extremely special. The people were wonderful, and being able to share the Japanese American incarceration experience in a way that I love is irreplaceable. I also LOVED working on the 90th Oscars in the “This Is Me” performance for The Greatest Showman. To say that that was a surreal experience is an understatement.
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
There is no one else like you. You are interesting and deserve to take up space. You are what people are missing. Prove YOURSELF wrong; you have nothing to prove to other people, so try to stop caring about what other people think and do what you want instead. You are your own worst critic. Be kind to yourself and others because we are all scared and insecure. You never know how someone is struggling. Don’t regret anything, so if there’s something you feel like you’d regret not doing, then do it! Especially if it makes you happy. (Just a reminder: This advice is a lifelong commitment. I still struggle to remember these things, but I’m committed to exercising them to the best of my ability.)
How did you get your start?
I had two mentors, my vocal coach, Vanessa Townsell, and my tap teacher, Maggie Danielson. Both of them had careers in musical theater and encouraged me to start musical theater. I went to my first audition for Aladdin Jr. at a local theater per their recommendation. At the final callbacks, I had this guttural feeling that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. I ended up being cast as Jasmine, and then theater took over my life. I would absolutely not be where I am today if it wasn’t for the training and encouragement I received from Vanessa and Maggie.
Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you'd like to share?
I’ve been blessed with opportunities that have fulfilled me artistically and personally, but I would have to say that performing at the 90th Oscars was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I performed in the “This Is Me” performance from The Greatest Showman. Performing was incredibly fun, and I was also fortunate enough to be a part of the vocal recording that you heard during the performance where I had the privilege of working with Alex Lacamoire for the first time including Jason Michael Webb, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. I met many more incredible people on stage and off, and Viola Davis told me that I did a good job haha (Whether she remembers that or not is unrequitedly debatable but I will never forget it!!!!).
What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?
I DON’T LIKE BOXES. I don’t like it when people put me in a box, and am especially annoyed when I do it to myself. This is why I don’t just want to be seen for the Asian only roles, but also for the “all ethnicity” roles. YES, Asians absolutely need more visibility and need to be seen as exciting individuals that have the capacity to do absolutely anything and everything. BUT, when an audition breakdown says “all ethnicity,” I want to be seen for it. I want casting directors to see my Japanese American-ness and embrace it. I want to be seen for who I am and what I add to their project; not just because I “look the part.” I hate stereotypes. I completely understand that embracing a stereotype is the way many people get their foot into the door, but the ultimate goal is to smash those jobs to the ground and create new ones that break all of what we know down. We need to make room for stories that we haven’t seen before.
What are some interesting facts about yourself?
I have a beautiful twin sister, Jordyn. We are fraternal twins and are very different, but absolutely inseparable. Being away from my family, and especially Jordyn, is definitely the hardest part of being on tour. I also love to scrapbook and journal to keep my brain happy. ;)
Do you have any organizations or non profits you work with you’d like to highlight?
Go For Broke is a nonprofit organization that supports and educates people about the Japanese American incarceration and the Nisei veterans who served in the 442nd regiment during World War II. The organization brings light to a part of history that has been erased and forgotten in our history textbooks. Their goal is to especially educate and inspire the youth to ensure that future generations never forget this important history. I’m so proud of the work that Go For Broke does, especially for the Japanese American community. They remind me of how proud I am to be Japanese American.
Kendyl's grandfather, who served in the 442nd regimental combat unit
Do you have any other “special skills?”
I can solve a few different Rubik’s cubes, and am an excellent ramen eater.
If you come from parents who aren’t in the arts, what parts of them do you see in yourself that have helped you succeed in the business?
Neither of my parents are in the arts, but creative genes run in my blood. My grandmother on my mom’s side is very talented with arts and crafts and my grandfather on my dad’s side was a great artist and owned a movie theater. Although my mother is an optometrist and my dad is a chemist, they both have a great appreciation for the arts and have always supported me. I’m extremely grateful to have such a supportive family that instilled important values of work ethic.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?
Dear younger me,
I know you want to be a ballerina, but there is a reason why Singing In The Rain made you start singing and dancing as a baby. I know it looks seemingly impossible because you don’t really see yourself on screen or on stage, but trust me: it does work out. You don’t need to worry so much because you will find what makes you happy, and isn’t that all that matters? Try not to worry so much so you can enjoy not being 18 for a while longer, although I know you’re itching to get older.
I know you probably don’t even realize that you are forgetting this, but this is an important reminder: YOU ARE ENOUGH. You do NOT have to change yourself to be liked. Other people will see you the way you want to be seen, and it’s most important that you also treat yourself the way you would treat others. You can do it. You can stand up for yourself. You are strong and so capable. Also, hug Jordyn more. I’m proud of you.
What are some goals you hope to achieve?
There are definitely many career goals that I would like to achieve within the next 5 years like making my Broadway debut and working more on TV/film. Ultimately, I hope that I continue to work on my mental health and make decisions that make me happy.
What do you love most about what you do?
For many people, it’s their first time seeing Hamilton in-person, but they’ve seen the Disney+ version or at least know the original cast. I love that every time I go onstage, there are people watching a short Asian woman as Angelica for the first time. Every time I get to go on stage the audience for sure hasn’t seen this version of the show. I like knowing that I am helping people open their minds to seeing different kinds of people in different roles. I also LOVE that I get to play 4 completely different people at any given moment. It is NEVER a boring day at work, and always keeps things exciting and new!
What helped you most to rebound from what you considered your biggest failure or mistake in your career?
I’ve had some pretty bad audition experiences before, and sometimes they’re necessary. I’ve definitely grown thicker skin and know how to set myself up better for success whether that’s giving myself a boost of confidence instead of thinking of all the things I can’t do, preparing my audition material better, etc. Mistakes and failure always happen for a reason.
Do you have any self care practices you do to stay focused and sane? What was your self care routine before the pandemic and how has that (as well as your views of self care) changed throughout the pandemic?
I always have my journal, my AirPods, and my water on me wherever I go. Tour is a whole different life/lifestyle and sometimes I don’t know what to do with all the things in my brain, so my journal allows me to word vomit without any judgment. It truly does keep me sane. I also LOVE to scrapbook and plan. When I’m overwhelmed, it’s usually because I haven’t given myself enough “me” time to scrapbook. During the pandemic, I knew that I needed help before going back to tour, so I found a therapist. I’m the type of person that will say that I’m fine and don’t need help when I’m obviously struggling. Going to therapy made me realize that it’s okay to ask for help, and it doesn’t look “weak.” It takes a lot of bravery and strength to know you are not okay and then take the necessary steps to heal.
What tools have you found to be the most helpful in preparing for a project?
WORKING HARD ALWAYS PAYS OFF. Working hard can look like doing a lengthy vocal warm up and hydrating before a show, or keeping a good attitude when you could always find reasons not to, or staying up late at night going through your lines/lyrics because you need that one extra run-through in order to sleep, or sometimes it’s resting and doing something relaxing before bed. Doing what you need to do for yourself will always pay off.
What inspires you?
The people like Lea Salonga, Sandra Oh, Michelle Yeoh, etc. have inspired me since I was little, but what I find inspires me most is my family/friends. They inspire me to be better and continue to do the things that I love. They believe in me when I can’t see how they could, and they love me when I feel most unlovable. I’m inspired by my grandparents that served and were incarcerated for their bravery and sacrifice. One of my friends told me once that I’m living their wildest dreams. I can only hope to continue to share their forgotten experiences and continue to represent Japanese Americans through my work. My family taught me to “Gaman.” Gaman is a Japanese word that means to persevere; to endure the seemingly difficult and unbearable with strength, dignity, and patience. Everyday I think of this word, and I carry the love of my family with me.
To find out more about Kendyl Sayuri Yokoyama, please visit her at:
To follow the Japanese American incarceration that the people whose life mission it is to preserve that legacy and history:
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