Jacqueline B. Arnold defies expectation. At 46, she is battement-ing and plie-ing like she’s in her teens, she exemplifies beauty, sex appeal, and passion in a quartet that "represent, what I think, culturally we know as the Moulin Rouge,” she says in her episode of Playbill’s exclusive five-part documentary series that focuses on the actors who bring The Lady Ms of Moulin Rouge! to vibrant life.
In the video above, which was filmed in February and subsequently seven months into the pandemic, Arnold discusses her passions on and off stage, including her role as La Chocolat in the critically acclaimed Moulin Rouge! The Musical and her side business, The Kitchen Chemists. We get a closeup look at the treatments that keep her body healthy, her process transforming into La Chocolat (warmups and makeup galore!). The triple threat also ponders what she has in common with La Chocolat; the effect of a live audience; equality, inclusion, and representation; and what it will be like to return to the stage of Broadway's Al Hirschfeld Theatre when Broadway re-opens.
Below, Playbill checks in with Arnold, who made her Broadway debut in Priscilla Queen of the Desert and also starred in the tours of We Will Rock You, Hairspray, and Rent.
What is your typical day like now?
My typical day now is ever-changing. I usually start with walking my dog Rocko for at least 20 minutes. Then I do my best to continue with some kind of physical workout. That can be anything from riding my Echelon bike, taking a class online, or just dancing around my house. I then make sure that I tend to my other business, TheKitchenChemists.com. Filling orders, getting them packed and ready for shipping. I've definitely done my share of binging as well.
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
During this time I've made it my business to continue with the things I enjoy, as well as things that are good for me. As a huge Prince fan, I've been reading The Beautiful Ones. It reads as a memoir, mostly, and as an account of the making of the book. For a little social awareness and prospective, I've been in and out with Amanda Seales’ Small Doses: Potent Truths for Everyday Use. It's got what we need these days: truth and a little giggle. I just finished an online acting for the camera class with Heidi Marshall, so I’ve watched a lot of movies. I especially enjoyed an indie film called Egg. Super great for a scene/character study.
During this time of reflection and re-education regarding BIPOC artists and artistry, particularly in the theatre, what do you want people (those in power, fellow actors, audiences) to be aware of? What do you want them to consider further?
During this time of awareness, I think it's super important for people to realize and acknowledge that these are not new issues. Systematic Racism has always been extremely prevalent in this country. Some are just now seeing it because we all now have phones, and able to record the brutality that has plagued this country since its inception. If we truly sit down and have real discussions about this, you'd have to admit that the buying, selling, and trading of human beings is the actual foundation of this country. America needs to admit that the success of this country did not happen magically. As an artist, I would hope that audiences will start to demand a more true and realistic depiction of daily life on stage and screen. No longer should it be "against the norm" to hire the right person for the job regardless of the skin color or aesthetic.
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation and/or the current unrest?
In these times of a double pandemic, the isolation and fear can really destroy the happiest of people. I was unsure how to help, so I made an Instagram post offering to listen to people via DM. And I sent out a virtual hug to whoever needed it. I know that there are many sites with free online therapy. I have always believed that when you randomly think of a person, call them or text them. Something simple: “just thinking about you,” “just saying hey,” whatever you want them to know. It helps me to reach out, and I know it helps them. People just need to know that someone has their back. We aren't meant to be alone.
How, if at all, are you keeping your creative juices flowing? Has that been helpful to you?
I've been keeping busy as an artist with classes, creating new products for my other business, practicing on-camera work, and sometimes coloring. I've also been asked to sing in a few online concerts [like Playbill’s Women in Theatre special]. I'm currently working on lending my voice to a new podcast from the creators of “The New Potato,” and I just recently did a little singing for Reed Luplau’s most recent video “HELP!,” an effort to get people to vote. And, I'm actually preparing for a concert with my fellow DIVAS from Priscilla Queen of the Desert on October 16 at 8 PM ET. You can get tickets at Stageit.com.
Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
At this time, I'm not working on any theatrical projects. But soon!
What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
If you want to help support your fellow humans, consider donating to NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Health.