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Courtney Reed of Broadway’s ‘Aladdin’ on Being an Actor of Mixed Ethnicity: “They have a hard time putting you in certain categories”

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Most young girls have their favorite Disney princess character, but few of them have the opportunity to play that princess on the Broadway stage. Courtney Reed, who plays Jasmine in the Broadway version of Aladdin, is one of those exceptions. Reed managed to find a moment in between playing sold out show after sold out show to speak to Vanity Fair about how being of “mixed ethnicity” hurts and helps her career and about whether or not she gets scared during the production’s high-flying magic carpet scene.

Reed says she is of “mixed ethnicity,” but she doesn’t clarify what that mixture is. The reason for that is she does not want to be pigeonholed as an actress of a particular racial identity. She explains, “It’s tricky in this business, because when you’re someone who’s mixed ethnicity, they have a hard time putting you in certain categories, because maybe you’re not Latin enough, or Native American enough, or Asian enough, or white enough. It’s really hard when they’re looking for something very specific. So, a lot of times, for me, it’s better for them to guess, or want me to be what they see. I guess most people don’t identify me as one ethnicity very much, but then again I get cast pretty much Latin most of the time.”

Besides acting, starring in Aladdin requires stuntwork from the two leads in the stage version of the animated film’s famous magic carpet scene. While the stunt itself might seem scary or exhilarating to the audience, Reed admits that it’s not actually as scary as it seems. She reveals, “We’re totally strapped in. People ask if it’s scary. It’s totally fun, especially the first couple of times. We’ve never been able to just ride it. We always have to be singing and thinking about a million other things, where the lighting is hitting you in certain ways. It’s all pre-set and they just click go and then it does the whole thing. It was very rollercoaster-y the first time. Now that I’ve done it so much, it’s not scary at all. It’s sort of normal to ride a magic carpet every day!”

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