Amazing Asians in the Arts: Pilita Simpson
Pilita Simpson is a singer and President and founder of the non profit Positively Arts in Las Vegas! Originally a pre-med student, Pilita unexpectedly ended up having a career performing at Walt Disney World, and has sang with celebrities like Wayne Brady, and on some of the biggest stages on the Las Vegas Strip! She is also the President and Founder of Positively Arts, one of the featured charities of The Cre8sian Project. Positively Arts uses the arts to educate, empower, inspire and heal. Keep reading to find out more about what makes Pilita an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Name: Pilita Marie Simpson
Current City: Las Vegas
Current project: President and Founder of Positively Arts
What are some of your favorite credits/projects:
My 8 years singing for Disney. Singing songs with everyone’s favorite Disney characters was like a dream come true! No batter how bad of a day I was having, seeing little kids’ eyes light up when I stepped onto the stage as their favorite character made every negative ounce disappear.
What are some interesting facts about yourself?
I grew up a huge Chicago Bulls fan and loved living close to Grant Park during both 3-peats 1991-1993 and 1996-1998!
I love Fantasy and Sci-Fi and anything superheroes!
Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you'd like to share?
My band, Pop Rebels Band, opened up for KC and The Sunshine Band a few years ago and that was a crazy awesome experience! Those fans are super fun and danced all night long. It was also cool to sing “You’ll Be In My Heart” alongside Wayne Brady during the 2012 Walt Disney Christmas Day Parade on our Tarzan float!
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
Be kind, be on time, be prepared, and be professional. Kids nowadays get so hung up on talent alone that some forget to be good people with good work ethics. Getting into this business takes a lot of hard work and homework. Respect everyone you meet along the way and value what everyone brings to the table. And PLEASE keep studying and honing in on your skills. Just because you get a gig doesn’t mean you’ve “made it.” Continue to take lessons from multiple teachers, and humble yourself with the learning process. Be grateful for every opportunity you’re given and treat everyone as your equal.
Do you have any non profits you work with that you’d like to highlight?
Positively Arts! www.PositivelyArts.org
How did you get your start?
In 1999, I was at DePaul studying pre-med when a friend of mine asked me to go with her to an Equity call for Walt Disney World. At the time, I didn’t know what “Equity” meant. LOL While she was in the audition room, the proctor asked me if I was there to audition as well. I said no. He asked if I sing and I said “Yes! I sing at church and for fun!” He said “Well you’re the perfect type for the role we’re looking to fill, and we haven’t had much luck. Do you have anything prepared?” Long story short, I sang Bare Necessities, which I know now is a TERRIBLE song choice, but then they gave me music for “Colors of the Wind” when I was in the audition room. I sang almost the whole thing when they stopped me and said “Thank you.” Fast forward 2 months. I had just graduated DePaul and I’m about to start my career path towards medical school when I get a call from Walt Disney World Casting asking if I’d like to accept a 1 year contract to play Pocahontas at Animal Kingdom! The rest is history. Moral of the story, you NEVER know what’s going to happen at a casting call! Just be personable and ready for anything! I wasn’t even looking for this career…it just found me!
Who do you admire?
My mom is my superhero for raising 3 kids on her own after my dad passed away. She went from full time mom to full time nurse and still pursued higher degrees while nursing and raising the three of us! Having kids of my own now, I respect her more and more each day. I don’t know how she got the strength to do it, but I’m so thankful she pushed through and made a wonderful life for the three of us! I wouldn’t be who I am today without her.
Did you always want to be in the arts or did you have another path before you got here?
I wanted to be a pediatrician like my dad and was pre-med before leaving studies to sing for Disney. I went back to get a Masters in Child Development in the middle of my Disney career. I’d say I’m walking two paths now. Using my degree to help run my nonprofit and using my singing background to continue to entertain here in Las Vegas and teach the next generation of artists.
When did you know you wanted to have a career as a performer?
From the moment I walked into the costuming building at Walt Disney World and I saw all the different characters and themes and Disney “magic.” The idea of transforming yourself into different people in different situations became addictive.
What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?
The biggest challenge BY FAR was staying true to myself and not letting other people’s success define my success. I’ve finally gotten to a good place, but being a performer in my early 20’s was tough. It’s so easy to conform to whatever the cast mentality is around you. I should’ve spent more time figuring out who I was and what I believed in. I jumped into the arts and played so many different characters and roles that I forgot what my original role as Pilita was. If I could stress something again to our future artists, it would be to love yourself and don’t let other people affect you negatively. What you create is wonderful and right. What you feel is valid and true. Always work to get better, but know that it’s a process and learn from every mistake. If someone is succeeding around you, congratulate them and continue to work on your own craft. Multiple people can be successful in multiple ways! There’s enough spotlight for everyone!
Where did you study at?
I studied pre-med at DePaul and Child Development at Harvard. Singing . . . um, in church? It wasn’t until my 30’s that I took lessons. I WISH I would’ve started earlier. I would’ve been a much stronger vocalist. I enjoy teaching young students now all the things I wish someone would’ve taught me at their age.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
Being a good mom
What are some goals you hope to achieve?
I hope to inspire others to be better people first, and then great performers… and YES, in that order.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love that I founded a nonprofit that focuses on strengthening a child’s voice by building inner strength and confidence first. The arts are beautiful and inspirational, but the path to become an artist can be a brutal one filled with constant judgement and criticism, self-doubt, fear of not being good enough. . . the list goes on and on. You’re literally in the spotlight all the time and everyone seems to have an opinion about you, your talent, and where you’ll be in 5 years. I love that I can plant seeds of empowerment in youth that strengthen their roots as they grow in this tough business. I hope the tools we give them can carry them throughout their performing arts career and I hope they know we will always be here for them.
If you could name one point in time when everything changed for you, what was it?
When my father drowned, I knew I had to grow up fast and take nothing for granted.
To find out more about Pilita, please visit her at:
FB: Positively Arts