Singer, actor and dancer Alton Fitzgerald White, who performed a recordbreaking 4,308 times as King Mufasa in The Lion King, brought Broadway to the stage of #ASAE19 for the closing keynote session.
The only African-American to star in six smash Broadway musicals, including Miss Saigon, The Who’s Tommy, Smokey Joe’s Cafe, Ragtime and The Color Purple, White brought a message about how he used his passion and found purpose throughout his journey.
Life wasn’t always easy for White. He told of growing up in the projects of Cincinnati, Ohio. His father was an alcoholic, and he was raised by his mother and older sisters to be polite, respectful and excel in school – something that unfortunately made him a target.
He was passionate about singing before he even knew what passion was, but he kept it a secret until a teacher helped him discover his talent. He went on to a performing arts college, but he was never cast in a show and was told there was no place for him on Broadway as a black man.
He set out to prove them wrong. As he did, taking on some of the most pivotal roles in musical theater, he also learned important lessons along the way, like the importance of first and last impressions, trusting his own instincts, humility, forgiveness, compassion and gratitude.
White said that while passion is the fuel and the energy that moves you forward, purpose is the why behind it all. In the stories he tells on stage, and in his own life, the happy ending is when passion comes together with a clear purpose.
He also recommended to the audience tools that have helped him align his passion and purpose and get through the challenges that inevitably come, such as practicing mindfulness, meditation, therapy, and reaching out for outside help and resources, because no one can do it alone.