By Janice Malone
NASHVILLE, TN — It’s barely been three short years since singer/actress Cristina Rae won the hearts of viewers and judges, when she made her debut on Season 15 of NBC’s hit variety show America’s Got Talent (AGT). The Nashville native’s backstory of going from being pregnant, homeless and living in her vehicle, to the stages of Broadway, The Apollo Theater and beyond, is truly what dreams are made of. And now, Cristina is back where it all began. She’s one of the AGT alumni contestants who competed on the new America’s Got Talent: All Stars 2023 on NBC. The new “all-stars” series premiered earlier this month and features contestants from previous seasons of America’s Got Talent and its franchise of shows.
In addition to singing and acting on Broadway and beyond, Cristina is also spreading the message of body positivity through modeling and dance, and she recently launched her own sneaker collection. She previously delivered a mesmerizing performance of “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone at the Center for Nonprofit Management of Nashville. Today, she divides her time between Atlanta and NYC.
TRIBUNE: What was it like to return to the America’s Got Talent stages again?
Cristina: “It’s been really exciting to be able to come back and not just come back as a new contestant but an all-star contestant. I’m going up against some great talent. When the producers first contacted me, I thought it was spam (she laughs). It was more of a surprise. Then it became exciting.”
TRIBUNE: Give us a little highlight of what’s been happening for you since first appearing on AGT.
CRISTINA: “It’s been unbelievable. I’ve done Little Shop of Horrors in New York. I was able to perform for the cast party for the movie Black Panther 2, which was amazing. I got to meet Ms. Angela Bassett and Winston Duke. I’ve been on Good Morning in America in New York, which was so much fun. Was on E! TV with Gloria Esteban, as she was talking about her new movie Father of the Bride. And I was cast in the opera Porgy and Bess in Little Rock, Arkansas. I was in the role of ‘Effie’ in Dream Girls the Clubhouse edition during the pandemic. It’s just been a lot of great things, too numerous to list. with other opportunities coming this year.”
TRIBUNE: When Season 15 of AGT was over, what did you think the next day after everything was over?
CRISTINA: “The next day my son (Jeremiah) and I flew back home. It was kinda like the fairy tale was sort of over. During the competition we were in our own space for three months in California, which was amazing because we were in like, our family spaces but to have our own space was really great. That was what I missed the most. So, it was like some sadness. But then going back home, I didn’t know what to expect. Did I do a great job when it comes to people back home in Nashville? Will people want to work with me after this because I didn’t win? Is AGT going to want to work with me again? But still, deep down inside, I just knew something great was going to happen.”
TRIBUNE: Before AGT, what are some of your strongest memories about being homeless?
CRISTINA: “So, back then, here I was — a pregnant woman, who was homeless. Sometimes I was sleeping in my vehicle, between singing background on some tours. But sometimes I was also sleeping on the floor at somebody’s house or on a couch at somebody’s house. There were days I would speak to my unborn son still in my belly and say things like, ‘Baby, I know that mommy doesn’t have it all together right now, but it’s going to work out.’ I believe those talks in my truck at that time to my belly, still registered to my baby today because sometimes he says things like, ‘Mommy, it’s okay…We’re still going to be great.’ I had every reason to give up when I was pregnant and sleeping in my truck. But I didn’t. I never envisioned that my story of homelessness would later be a story of victory.”
TRIBUNE: Do you still live in Nashville?
CRISTINA: “Unfortunately, not. I was living in Nashville right after the AGT. We actually had a two-bedroom townhome and everything that I wanted for Jeremiah. But unfortunately, the entire place had black mold, so we had to leave. We had a whole lawsuit and everything going on. So, it sort of broke my heart that I couldn’t stay in Nashville because that is home. But I love my hometown.”
Editor’s Note: You can listen to this interview in its entirety at www.Tntribune.com