Maria Lea Carmen Imutan Salonga, (born February 22, 1971), known as Lea Salonga, is a Filipina singer and actress best known for her roles in musical theater, for supplying the singing voices of two Disney Princesses, and as a recording artist and television performer.
At age 18, she originated the lead role of Kim in the musical Miss Saigon, first in the West End and then on Broadway, winning the Olivier and Theatre World Awards, and becoming the first Asian woman to win a Tony Award. Salonga is the first Filipino artist to sign with an international record label (Atlantic Records in 1993). She is also the first Philippine-based artist to have received a major album release and distribution deal in the United States, and one of the best-selling Filipino artists of all time, having sold over 19 million copies of her albums worldwide.
As Kim in Miss Saigon
Salonga was the first actress of Asian descent to play the roles of Éponine and Fantine in the musical Les Misérables on Broadway. She also portrayed Éponine and Fantine, respectively, in the musical’s 10th and 25th anniversary concerts in London. She provided the singing voices of two official Disney Princesses: Jasmine in Aladdin (1992) and Fa Mulan in Mulan (1998). She was named a Disney Legend in 2011 for her work with The Walt Disney Company. Salonga starred as Mei-li in the 2002 Broadway version of Flower Drum Song.
In 1989 Salonga was selected to play Kim in the debut production of the musical Miss Saigon in London. Unable to find a strong enough East Asian actress/singer in the United Kingdom, the producers scoured many countries looking for the lead. For her audition, the then 17-year-old Salonga chose to sing Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s “On My Own” from Les Misérables and was later asked to sing “Sun and Moon”, impressing the audition panel.
For her performance as Kim, Salonga won the 1990 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical. When Miss Saigon opened on Broadway in 1991, she again played the role of Kim, winning the Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Theatre World Awards and becoming the first woman of Asian descent to win a Tony Award. In 1993 and 1996, she returned to play Kim on Broadway. In 1999, she was invited back to London to close the West End production, and in 2001, at the age of 29 and after finishing the Manila run of the musical, Salonga returned to Broadway to close that production.
Tony Award Winner
In 1991, she was named as one of People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People. In 1992, she performed the singing voice of Princess Jasmine in Disney’s animated film Aladdin.