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January 21, 2023 4 min read


Pia Manalo Hamilton is an actress and dancer (that hasn’t eaten chocolate since 8th grade) based in New York City. Inspired at 3 years old, she pursued performance and began dancing professionally at just 6, and acting at 8. Since then, she’s gone on to book Lion King on Broadway (including performing in the 20th anniversary with Elton John!) and the role of Min in Barney and Friends. Offstage, she founded her own nonprofit (Intrigue Performance Dance Company), which “raises over $10,000 each year for dancers with financial need,” has a red belt in Kung Fu, and earned her B.S. in Sports Medicine from Pepperdine University. Her advice to young actors? "Dream big, then dream specific.” Read on to learn more about Pia Hamilton and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts! 

Name:   Pia Manalo Hamilton

Heritage:   Filipino

Hometown:   Flower Mound, Texas

Current City:   New York, New York

Current project:   Actor, recently retired dancer from Lion King on Broadway, dance studio owner

What are some of your favorite credits/projects:   Lion King Broadway, Min on Barney and Friends.

Any advice for young people getting into the arts? 

My motto is "Dream big, then dream specific". Know your overall goal, then be specific with the thing/goal/job you know you want to obtain. I always wanted to be on Broadway, and specifically, in the Lion King. I worked hard to achieve my goal!

How did you get your start? 

I performed in my first professional dance industrial show when I was 6 yrs old. I starred in my 1st acting job at 8, and have been in the Arts ever since!

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

While I was dancing with a professional dance company in Chicago, I performed in a school show for incarcerated youth. We performed in a classroom with carpeted floor, in a less than ideal space for a 'stage'. It wasn't a performance in front of thousands, with professional costumes, lighting, etc. But I will never forget that shared experience with the audience, and being moved to tears from the emotion in the room that day. And another top 5 moment would have to be Lion King's 20th Anniversary Performance, and closing out the show singing with Elton John :)


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

The things you cannot change. You may not get cast because you are too short, you're Asian, you're not the 'right look.' On the flip side, I have received many jobs because of all of these same reasons, so challenges are also blessings. 

What are some interesting facts about yourself?

I haven't eaten chocolate since I was in 8th grade. I own my own dance studio in Chicago (shout out @intriguedancechicago), and have been married for 15 years! 

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

I started my own nonprofit, Intrigue Performance Dance Company (@ipdcchicago), alongside my dance studio, Intrigue Dance and Performing Arts Center. IPDC raises over $10,000 each year for dancers with financial need.

Who do you admire?

My Mom and Dad. They came here to America from the Philippines when they got married, and have created a wonderful and successful life for themselves and our family. I also really admire Michelle Yeoh and Sandra Oh for paving the way for Asians in film/TV. 

Did you always want to be in the arts or did you have another path before you got here?

Yes, there is a cassette tape (yes, cassette tape lol) of me when I was around 3 years old saying I wanted to be a “movie star” (lol)!

When did you know you wanted to have a career in the arts?

I can't remember a time I didn't.  

Is where you are now where you thought you’d be?

Yes! My next goal is to get back into TV/film, but I am very happy with my career. 

Did you have any interesting “odd jobs” you worked at between gigs to pay the bills?

Not really. I got my B.S. in Sports Medicine from Pepperdine University, so I worked as a physical therapy aide while I was in the concert dance world. I have been fortunate to always be able to work and provide for myself in the arts.  

Do you have any other “special skills?”

I am a red belt in Kung Fu! I love teaching dance and being a mentor for the future generations.

Do you have any side projects you’d like to highlight?

My dance studio! @intriguedancechicago. 

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?

Their hard work ethic, consistency and reliability.

What skills did you find to be the most helpful in your career?

Being a good person! Being reliable, and consistently staying a student myself. 

Where did you study at?

Pepperdine University.  

What are some goals you hope to achieve?

Becoming a series regular in a TV show, working on my acting career! 

What do you love most about what you do?

I love that I am doing what I love and can share that passion with others. As a teacher and studio owner, I want to share my craft and knowledge with future generations. 

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 love winding down with a good book or just spending time and watching TV with my husband. 

How do you think your creative process has changed over time?

I think I'm more reflective and also more particular with the work I choose to do. Time is so valuable, and I want to spend it working on projects that are important to me. 

What inspires you?

My family inspires me. Other talented and hardworking people in any field inspire me. 

If you could name one point in time when everything changed for you, what was it?

Professionally, when I got the call for my last audition for Barney and Friends, and when I got the call I booked Lion King. Personally, when I met my husband!

To find out more about Pia Hamilton, please visit her at: 

Studio Website: 

Studio Social Media:   @intriguedancechicago

Nonprofit Social Media:   @ipdcchicago

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