Mariana Jeronimo has worked tirelessly to achieve everything in her career so far. Working full summers to fund Musical Theatre School, balancing two jobs on top of auditions, acting and singing classes shows her dedication. To say Mariana understands the power of hard work is an understatement. She joins our zoom call, having just come off stage performing at a resort in Malaga where she currently works. The singer cites a desire to inspire others as her motivation behind taking part in this interview.
Moving from Portugal to England to pursue her dream, coping with rejection in auditions and consistently staying prepared for last minute opportunities are just a few of the topics we discuss.
Did you always know you were passionate about performing?
I have always been a very performing child. I always wanted to sing, always looking for cameras so it was always something that I wanted to do. But I am from Portugal and it is not like the UK where you have so many opportunities to do arts or Musical Theatre School. I studied normal high school in Portugal, like science and you never do arts. But I started playing piano and having singing lessons but just for fun and then I went to university. When I went to university I was in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal and things started happening so you have auditions.
Was it difficult to balance studying and work?
I was studying engineering in the morning and acting at night and I did this for two years. It became way too much. So I quit university and I went to study theatre again in another school and then I decided that I really wanted to do musical theatre because singing has always been what I would like to do. It was in that year that I decided I wanted to go to the UK. So I went to London to study musical theatre. Musical theatre schools in the UK are very expensive.
In the first year I just worked I didn’t study anything. I was working two jobs at the same time to get the amount that I needed, because I was a foreigner I didn’t get a chance to get the money that the government help you with for study. I kept working the two jobs which was actually nice. For me, when I have too much free time I actually do less than if I have less time, because I think“ I only have these three hours to study so I am going to do it.” When I moved to London I was already 22. I already had my years of experience so I was like “I really want to get this done.” On one side I’m really glad that I did the school a bit later than my friends.
“Make sure you use the time when you’re not working to prepare for when you are working. You need to be on the game, because you don’t know when a job’s going to come.”
What was your experience at Musical Theatre School like?
I did three years of Musical Theatre School from 2017 to 2019. And then I had to work for the summer to get the money I had spent. I got my first job in musical theatre in Portugal. It was really nice because I worked with really important people that I saw on TV when I was young. I stayed for two months in Portugal working.
Then I came back to London and that was when coronavirus happened. It was like a full year of just getting better. It was really nice as well because I had worked professionally so I already know what is needed. So I redid my CV and did so many dance classes. This was an amazing zoom opportunity like having the classes from America, just doing dance classes. I did the job with True Cadence which was really nice as well meeting and working with new people. I discovered what I wanted to do.
What struggles have you faced in your career so far?
Moving to the UK was hard. The main thing was actually the language. I could speak a little bit of English but speaking it for 24 hours is really tiring because of the process of translating in your brain. It was the accent that was hard, obviously with acting you need to have a proper accent to do characters. The first classes that we had, you go there to sing and you start singing and they stop you on the first word because they don’t understand your first word. It was really hard for me. I had accent classes out of school because I really wanted to do it. But outside of school they are really expensive. I understood what I was doing wrong and then with the material I could work on it myself and there are lots of tutorials online that help you with that.
It is also hard if you don’t have an agent to find auditions. And then how do you find an agent? When I finished school we did the showcase and I didn’t get any agent for my showcase and that really put me down. That summer I had to work as well. So it wasn’t like I quit, I was just thinking “okay, it is not always about you, maybe they don’t need a brunette right now.” The opportunities are still coming and I am really happy with the agent that I have right now. It isn’t a big agent but it is a personal agent so I can text him and talk with him. Maybe to start with a small agent is good and you learn so much. Accepting small jobs can be important too. It gives you more, you learn more, you have experience.
How do you stay confident when you face set-backs?
I am not always super confident. For me I need to keep working, keep doing my gym classes, my dance classes, keep doing my singing, try to learn a new thing. For example, something that I think I should have done during lockdown is creating a 20 music set. For example, we are doing a show here for people at the resort every night and sometimes we just need to do a cover and I’m like “I don’t have a song.” I have my musical theatre folder but I don’t have my pop songs, like 20 songs that I can just have ready.
Make sure you use the time when you’re not working to prepare for when you are working. You need to be on the game, because you don’t know when a job’s going to come. If you are confident with yourself, that you are doing everything you need that’s all. The only advice I can give to anyone in my situation is if you’re putting everything in then rejection is not your fault.
“There are so many things that came after that, so many different people, all the friends that I met all came with moving to London. I think everyone should go on a gap year or something like that.”
What inspired you to start a YouTube channel?
I always wanted to start a YouTube channel and then in lockdown I was thinking I want to inspire people which is why I am doing this interview now. Especially people that come from Portugal or Spain, because the questions that I had when I came here. I wanted to answer those questions for people. For example, “how do you look for agents?” Showing them how I did my job and helping them with the process. I didn’t go further with that and the channel but I did get a few messages from people saying “I want to come to the UK and study musical theatre.”
I wanted to keep going but I don’t really have time. Instagram is a bit easier than YouTube because with YouTube you have all the editing and I had to learn how to edit. It was a struggle to look at your face and hear your voice. But it is actually good because now I actually know my face and know my voice.
What is your biggest achievement so far?
I always say the fact that I moved to London is a big achievement. There are so many things that came after that, so many different people, all the friends that I met, all came with moving to London. I think everyone should go on a gap year or something like it. You might not enjoy living abroad, but the fact that you tried and experienced different mindsets is important. Because you think that yours is correct and there are so many different religions and cultures. I go home twice a year to visit my friends and family. You can really see that your different and you have a different mindset because you’re living in another country.
How do you prepare for auditions?
In my experience I never have a long time to prepare for auditions, maybe sometimes when they send you the material you might have like two or three days. But you might have no auditions for a month and then one week you might have five auditions. That’s what happened to me for this job, in one week I had five auditions. It is being ready when you are not working. Don’t be a perfectionist, I’m having to do self-tapes at the moment and it will never be exactly as you want. For example, I’m a belter so imagine belting the same song ten times, it isn’t going to be better by the tenth time.
What is your biggest dream?
My dream is to be on the West End In the Heights and be Nina. There is lots I need to do to be in the position to get that role. I’m 26 so I am a little bit late, because these roles are always for younger people, it is still a dream though.
What advice would you give to other young people, pursuing their passion in the arts?
I always say go and have singing lessons, If your problem is “I don’t know if I sing well enough,” you can have two or three classes and build your confidence from there. Because I have found when I don’t have confidence it is because I am not 100% about the material. Try different things as well. There may be so many other things that you like because the arts is really hard.
You may want to be on the West End but that is not the only thing that exists. You can work in entertainment at hotels, cruises, there are so many different things. You can still be a performer and be a singer even if you don’t reach Broadway. Sometimes I regret that I didn’t finish Environmental Engineering. It is nice to have something to fall back on in your free time. Because you are going to work for three months or six months and then be off and you need to have something to do.