More than 2000 years ago, Cleopatra VII Philopator was the most powerful person in ancient Egypt as she ruled the land. Then, in the early 1960s, Hollywood honored her life by producing a big-budget film entitled Cleopatra – starring Elizabeth Taylor – which became the highest-grossing movie of 1963. And while Cleopatra Williams may not be a historian, she appreciates the significance of her first name and its connection to power and influence dating back to ancient Egypt.
“When I was born my mother wanted to give me a powerful name because she believed I would be a star, and that I would be able to make an impact,” said Williams.
Broadway,” she said. “It was such a blessing to be part of a show that is so well done and that everyone loves.”
Williams says one of her most challenging roles was playing Anita in Vancouver Opera’s production of West Side Story. Williams proved that she was a true triple threat as embodying the role of Anita required her to excel with her dancing, singing and acting.
“You have to be extremely strong in your dance technique to pull off Jerome Robbins’ original choreography. You have to have the singing chops to belt out Leonard Bernstein’s challenging vocal score. You have to have the acting range to be able to have the comedic timing the role calls for and also be able to go to a darker place with in to pull off the attempted rape that she experiences in the final scene,” said Williams about embodying the role of Anita.
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“It was one of my most challenging roles and also the most rewarding of my career.”
Williams’ portrayal of Anita in West Side Story garnered strong reviews from critics including the Globe and Mail which referred to her as a powerhouse.
The talented and respected entertainer has also been recognized with two Broadway World award nominations for her performances in Ross Petty’s Beauty and the Beast and for Mirvish’s production of Wizard of Oz as the understudy for the Wicked Witch.
“It was nice to be nominated and get that acknowledgement and recognition.”
Cleopatra Williams Sharing the Stage with Justin Bieber
When she’s not performing on the big stage, she’s entertaining audiences with live musical performances for private events.
Williams recalls a cool experience happened when a band she played in performed at a high profile wedding.
“It was Justin Bieber‘s guitarist’s wedding and while we were playing, Justin came on stage with our band and we performed Baby. That was a really cool experience to share the stage with Justin,” she pointed out.
Despite all her accomplishments and success, Crystal Stokes says her long time friend has remained firmly grounded over the years.
“What impresses me about Cleo as a person is her love for people and her desire to want to help everyone around her. She never wants to keep things to herself and always wants to share with others…..She’s so down to Earth,” said Stokes.
“Sometimes this industry can be very difficult, and she has been able to work through it, be successful and that in its own, is inspiring,” she added.
Keeping Positive During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The positive attitude that helped Williams overcome adversity and rejection on her journey to success in the entertainment industry, has served her well in dealing with the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.
During the initial lock down live in person shows were cancelled and restrictions were kept in place in Toronto until the summer.
Williams says she’s made the best of the situation and used the time to recharge and refocus. During the time off stage and away from performing live events, Williams spent some time recording music.
“I’ve always had a love for house music and dance music and during the pandemic I’ve had a chance to work with some producers.”
She’s also found creative ways to continue to share her musical talents with audiences.
“Now with the second wave, I guess we have all adapted a little to the pandemic and I’ve been doing shows through Zoom and also have done some curbside concerts outdoors,” she pointed out.
“It’s great to be able to entertain others and bring joy to them and brighten up their days during this challenging time.”
Powerful and Influential Words of Wisdom
With 2020 coming to a conclusion, Cleopatra Williams looks ahead to 2021 with cautious optimism.
Besides being hopeful of being able to perform on the big stage in front of large audiences again, Williams plans to dedicate time in the new year to recording music and pursuing her interest in film and television
“Hopefully things will return back to normal in 2021. I’m optimistic and expect it to be a busy year,” she said.
Having accomplished so much in her career, Williams was asked what her advice would be for young up and coming artists looking to follow in her footsteps and make their own unique impact within the industry – and beyond.
“Believe in yourself. You are talented and you can make anything happen that you put your mind and energy into,” she replied.
“You are here to make an impact and inspire people – so don’t doubt yourself. Just work hard, stay positive and keep going.”