Photo of Yana Perrault taken by Marcus V. Richardson
Yana Perrault (they/she) is a 24-year-old musician/actor stemming from Southfield, Michigan, and though that may be where they are from, Yana has taken the stage across the country. Identifying as an “all-around artist”, music being at the base of that, Yana (pre-quarantine) was making her living as an actor on Broadway, ramping up to debut in the “Angelica” tour of Hamilton as ‘Peggy’. That would not have been her first appearance on Broadway, seeing that not so long ago she wrapped her appearance as ‘Frankie – Swing’ on Broadway’s Jagged Little Pill, a story “of the Healys, a suburban family whose serene Connecticut lives collide head-on with some of the most burning issues of today”.
Yana’s familiarization with tech week and photo calls dates back before she could even set foot on stage herself. Her parents met in theatre, paving the way for their daughter to follow a similar path, and lucky for all, Yana’s heart was right there with them. “I was doomed to do this, but it hasn’t been doom at all,” Yana says.
Growing up in theatre has given Yana a second family and community. Having friends older than her, from all walks of life, created a rich experience that most of us may not have been able to experience at such a young age.
“Theatre is my school… it’s teaching me in other ways I don’t think I could get,” Yana says. When Yana was gearing up for the Hamilton tour, she noted that the prep work you go through “shapes you” as a person. Traditional schooling just didn’t seem like the fit for her. Even when college appeared as an opportunity, Yana tried their hand at it and just could not connect with it nearly as much as being on the stage. “Why am I trying to fit in this box of academia that doesn’t work for me anymore!”
Yana did drop out of college to continue her pursuit of Broadway. She feels that if they had kept going to college, and not kept the close connections and friendships created through theatre, she doesn’t know if “Broadway would have happened, at least not this soon”.
In the past, Yana has not only performed on Broadway but also at Stagecrafters Baldwin Theatre, Sofar Sounds Detroit, on TV as an extra on Comedy Central’s Broad City, as well as performing at the Apollo. One of Yana’s fondest memories of performing on stage was at The Detroit Opera House. She was invited to sing for an award ceremony recognizing those in the community and their charitable acts. That moment sticks out for many reasons but being able to sing a cover of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ at The Detroit Opera House felt like a “checkpoint” for her younger self. Performing on Broadway felt not only like a dream of theirs but also a dream that she was also able to fulfill for her parents. Yana mentioned that this is a path she sees herself doing, until “the music catches fire”. Seeing that Yana finds solace on the stage, it is not surprising when they describe that touring with their own original music is a major goal. “I can’t wait to have my own version of church with my listeners. I can’t wait to damn near have praise and worship at my concerts.”
Singing other’s songs is something that Yana enjoys doing, and nearly 10 years ago they put up a cover of Sweater Weather by The Neighbourhood on YouTube which ended up garnering 356k views. When asked what inspired putting a cover on the internet, they mentioned that it was a mixture of boredom and wanting to “be heard by people I’d never met”. Yana continues to put out covers, with Redbone by Childish Gambino being her most current viewed video (4M views). Yana not only puts out covers, but has been known to do some sit-down vlogs for her viewers as well. “Anything I’ve ever posted on the internet (to this day), I’ve had something to say” whether that be a long caption directly voicing what she is trying to articulate or a cover that speaks for her when her own words seem like not enough.
When her own music career started to catch on, it seemed like it all began with pen and paper. “I was always writing, whether it was a journal entry… or what would’ve been poems, those turned into songs (mainly for myself)”. This was the way that felt most appropriate to continue speaking up, for herself or on behalf of others. From the beginning of it all, Yana knew that they weren’t alone, and she wanted to be able to express that in the best way she could, through music.
Yana’s range as a musician is not one to ignore. She herself produces, writes, and sings most (if not all) of her songs, where she began with GarageBand and her own instruments at the infancy of her journey. Yana holds artists like Nai Palm from Hiatus Kaiyote to high regard for personal inspiration, “she feels ethereal, almost godly to me.” She feels this close connection to Nai Palm because at the end of the day there is this base connection of holding music to them as “sacred”, and “building a connection” through it. When there are moments of doubt or fear as to whether what Yana is writing or about to release is not digestible or “too different”, she finds herself turning to Nai Palm for comfort. Another artist Yana finds themselves turning to is James Blake, mentioning that his “tender boy King” energy is one she herself wants to emulate. “To talk about the most intimate feelings and to put it under some underground club bop really has you crying in the club,” she says.
These two sources of inspiration give us insight as to who Yana is as a person. Growing up as a biracial person, discovering her queerness, felt like they have had “the weight of the world, and so many worlds” upon her shoulders. Wanting to pursue her own path, the looming feeling of “disappointment” appears often. She finds herself wondering, how many lives, how many worlds she is going to disappoint when taking leaps of faith. Unable to see themselves in many other examples in the world, there is this slight pressure of not being able to mess up, so that they can be that example for others, an example she did not always have growing up. Yana is aware of her privileges, living in this world of “in-between”. She finds it challenging to advocate for herself at times, but at the end of the day understands that her “gut” will speak up.
Throughout the years, Yana has been constantly changing, whether that be their appearance, their style, or what kind of music they put out. She finds it essential to stay true to herself as a person. And staying true to yourself sometimes means not fitting into one strictly labeled box. Leaving school was the beginning of it all, soon after Yana cut all of their hair off, wanting to let the world know “whatever you expected, think again”. Yana finds expression through not conforming to the world’s view of what femininity or masculinity is. They are constantly changing their hair. “I used to shame myself for having so many selves.” Now, they’re practicing kindness towards themselves noting that, “if this was my friend, I would never shame them for being a chameleon.” In the age of social media, in a world saturated with seeking fame, it is refreshing for an upcoming artist to have a message of authenticity; “I want people that feel ridiculously human when connecting with me and my music… I want to honor honesty as much as I can”.
You can find covers and originals that Yana has released on her Spotify. Yana also has her first album releasing this year. To keep updated with the release date and support all of their future projects follow her on Instagram @YanaPerrault.
About the Author:
Nancy Azcona is a 25 year old Salvadorian/Dominican New Yorker living out in Los Angeles since 2017. Queer and first-gen American, the intersections are truly endless. She has been working in the entertainment industry since 2016 and is currently a Production Coordinator at the digital company SMOSH. Her articles have been featured on Funknvibe’s previous blog platform and her spoken word has been performed at their live events. In her spare time she enjoys taking care of too many plants, working on her imperfect ceramic pieces, watching any and all reality TV shows, and using her voice to tear down systematic oppression.