By Dan Beeson
Special to the Daily World
Trinidad's Tramaine Lamy is a classically trained singer and actor, and quite the Disney "character." Along with Mickey and friends, Tramaine, 27, is a main-stage performer with Walt Disney Company Cruise Lines. She found a free moment recently from her many on-board duties to talk about how her dreams came true aboard the Disney Wonder.
DW: Well, let's start in the beginning. You're in Trinidad, a small Caribbean island, and you want to be a singer.
TL: Well, I've been singing for about 20 years now, so I started from an early age. I realized that I wanted to sing professionally when I was 16 years old. So I entered competitions, talent shows and music festivals to gain experience and prepare for my career. I remember telling my dad I was going to be singing and that my major was going to be theater. He said I should be doing something else, like working in the family catering business. But he left it open to me. So I double majored in Theatre Arts and Communication Studies at the University of the West Indies. I worked as a teacher to support myself, and since Trinidad has a wonderfully rich and indigenous theater community, I taught during the day, and rehearsed and performed at night and on weekends in The Lion King, Fiddler on the Roof, and so many other so fulfilling shows.
DW: How did Disney get wind of you in the Caribbean?
TL: When school was out, I would fly away for 3 to 4 months, to New York and to England. I had an agent, and finally in 2010, I decided I could not keep going back and forth from Trinidad to New York - it was expensive - and that I needed to do something different to pursue my dream. So I took a break from shows and teaching - I was performing at weddings and had other gigs - to sort of assess it all. It was during that time that I got a call from my agent, who said Disney Cruise Lines was auditioning in Trinidad, and would I be interested. I thought it was strange that I had not heard about this in New York, but as a performer, you're never on vacation. You never know when and where your next job might be. And I was sort of in-between gigs, so I said OK. I'll never forget it rained so hard that day, and I kid you not, there must have been a thousand people there, and that's a lot from a small island at one audition. I was set to turn around, but I went through with it.
DW: And they discovered a diamond in the rough?
TL: Well sort of, but it wasn't that simple. I got a call back, and a funny story ensued. All performers have what they call their "book." A book contains all your audition music, everything that you've compiled over your career – my book had my first piece of audition material from when I was 14-years-old - and it was all online in my laptop. It was stolen. So I didn't have anything with me for the call back, and I freaked out. But I went anyway, and they were so nice. I didn't hear anything for 3 months. And by then 2011 had rolled around, and then I got a call for an offer to join Disney Cruise lines.
DW: And I guess at that point pure joy took over?
TL: At the very moment I got that call I knew I would dedicate everything to performing. No more teaching. From there, I went to Toronto, where Disney's training facilities are, and where all the cast goes, for two months of intense training.
DW: You appear to play a leading role with different characters in all the shows and on the Disney Wonder ship. That can't be by accident?
TL: In Toronto you're given specific dance routines and songs to learn. And you are matched with specific roles that are a fit. It has a lot to do with finding your niche, and chemistry. Fast forward to now, and I believe the most time I have between costume changes in a scene in a show is a little more than one minute. It's pretty intense, but it's become second nature. And I love it.
DW: To be continuously on the move while on a cruise, from one show to the next, and to handle all the dancing, singing and guest interaction, you've got to more than a performer, an athlete as well.
TL: It takes a lot of stamina and endurance to do all the work necessary. But performing with Disney is something I've wanted to do since I was a little girl. And being as versatile as I can be is part of the role of being a performer. You've got to be ready for one roll today and a different one tomorrow. When you have a passion for performing, and you know there are people out there waiting to be entertained, that definitely fuels you.
DW: Cruises are notorious for all the food they offer, round-the-clock. How do avoid the temptations?
TL: In this line of work, you know what you have to do to stay in shape. For me, going to the gym is just as important as vocal warm-ups. You have to keep your body in order for your performances to be the best they can be. You have to suck it up some times, and do the spinach and salads, and avoid the chocolate cake. You know at the end of the day it all adds up to a great performance.
DW: You mentioned your Dad. Have your parents seen you perform on a cruise?
TL: Yes! I had to make certain at the show they attended that I did not look at them. I knew if I saw them I might break down. So the show ended, and the curtain came down. And right away my phone rang. And I said "Dad, where are you guys?" And I saw them, and my dad didn't say anything but hugged me really, really tightly. That moment brought home a lot for me. My dad had doubts early on about my career ideas, and now I was working for the biggest entertainment company in the world, and my parents were so proud of me. He didn't have to say anything. It was very special.
DW: So you are performing on a cruise line for months on end. Don't you miss auditioning? How do agents who might see you, for example, off Broadway in New York get to see you in action on a cruise?
TL: Well, the last night of each cruise, we have something called "Until We Meet Again," where everyone on the ship gathers to say goodbye and such. During this meet-and-greet time, you have agents and managers introducing themselves, and asking for contact information. While I'm contracted, I can't accept any offers. But in-between Disney contracts, I can make as many connections as I wish.
DW: What do envision doing 5-to-10 years from now? I'm sure Disney doesn't want to lose you.
TL: Interestingly enough, before I got this job, I got a job offer from Disney Hong Kong. So that is pending. And I was offered a role in The Lion King in Madrid, Spain. So the immediate future looks bright. When you find a good thing, you want to stay with it. And Disney is a good thing, you know? You want to stay where you're treated well, and with family.
DW: There don't seem to be too many African Americans on Disney stages, though the company has more than proved itself in terms of multiculturalism. How do you feel about that?
TL: Many times I'll be in a show and be the only African-American. But you just go with what you know, and remind yourself that you are where you are for a reason, that they want me here. I mentioned chemistry, and it's so important. If you don't click with the cast, it's going to show on-stage.
DW: What advice would you give a young black performer trying to break in to the business?
TL: No matter what your origin is, get formal training. Don't think that singing in your bathroom will get you anywhere. Get as much experience as you can get. There's always someone who can do something better than you can. But there is a light inside of you that only you can shine. But you need formal training to find that, and bring it out of you. The other important thing is take nothing personally. It doesn't matter what you look or sound like. You are either right or you're not for a particular part. I've had casting people tell me "sorry" at an audition before I open my mouth. There's nothing I did wrong. I just wasn't what they were looking for.
DW: What do you and your cast mates do when you're not on stage performing?
TL: Well, when you're on stage in New York, you do the show and maybe go out, but probably just go home. One of advantages of being on a cruise line is that you get to see places you visit. At various port-of-calls, there's a group that likes to hike, a group that likes to lunch, a group that likes movies, and such. It's comforting to be with people that share your experiences. We're like teammates, and we slide into activities easily together.
DW: Tell me something about you that no one knows?
TL: I consider myself mature, but I still travel with my pillow from back home. I have that one special pillow with me everywhere I go. It reminds me of where I came from. It's a little embarrassing, but true.