BY ANGELA BARBUTI
At just 19 years old, Laurissa “Lala” Romain has a maturity and joie de vivre that goes way beyond her years. Raised in Hell’s Kitchen by parents in show business, she started her career as an actor, but being the multitalent that she is, went on to pursue makeup artistry and singing, which is her main focus now. “I stopped because I found something I was more in love with.” It is therefore quite fitting that on Valentine’s Day, she celebrated a career milestone with the release of her debut single “Wasn’t Love.”
On April 30, she will be gracing the stage of The Bitter End with both original work and covers from artists like Christina Aguilera, Lady Gaga, Adele and Amy Winehouse. As for her future plans, audiences can expect to see a lot more of “Lala” performing at iconic venues throughout Manhattan. “Music makes me so happy. It gives me so much life that I don’t think anything else has before or can.”
How did you get your start in the business?My mom is an actress and my dad works in film as well. I never wanted to have things handed to me, but they definitely guided me and pushed me in that direction, which I was very happy about. I’m very grateful for the opportunities and they led me to music and finding my own voice. It helps having an acting background for sure.
You just released your first single. Take us through the process of writing and collaborating. I wrote it at Cove City Sound Studios out in Glen Cove, Long Island, with Aaron Cannata, the producer on it. John Arbuckle was mixing and recording it and Richie Cannata, it’s his studio. I wrote most of the lyrics and Aaron chipped in, because I don’t really play anything, so he helped me with that. I just went in there and said, “I want to write something that kind of got this classical feel, like this really old-school vibe, but then adding in some modern-day almost like hip hop, R&B style.” And that’s what we did. We wrote it in one day. We recorded it the second and I went in on the third day and just listened to it and tweaked little things here and there. So it was all really fast. It was one of those things that just kind of was so perfect and just happened. I knew I was going to the studio and couldn’t write anything and didn’t have anything I wanted to write about. And then the night before, at one in the morning, I couldn’t sleep and just wrote the whole song. Inspiration just struck at the perfect time. I’m really happy with it.
Did you ever take any formal voice lessons?No, actually. I always just kind of sang on my own. I’ve only just recently started to go in and check that I’m using everything correctly and see how I can improve. I definitely feel like you can always get better, so I’m working towards performing more and really taking it seriously. So I really want to make sure I’m doing it safely and as best as I can.
Who are some musicians you look up to? You sang backup for Mariah Carey. What was that like?That was amazing. She was really, really sweet and great to work with. I mean, how could you not love Mariah? Her music is amazing. Her voice is amazing. I definitely look up to her. Amy Winehouse is a huge inspiration to me. Jessie J is just my idol since I was in seventh grade. When she came out with “Who You Are,” that really helped me get through a lot of things. I love Adele, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, India Arie. I really like listening to old jazz. Julie London is great.
How did you get the nickname “Lala?”I also call it my name too, because it really kind of is. I basically have had it since birth. My real name is Laurissa, but my cousin who is two years older than me, I was days old and he was two years old and couldn’t say Laurissa. And everyone said, “Say Baby Laurissa,” and he said “Baby Lala.” And we lost the baby part, but Lala stuck. And it’s been that way since I was literally born. I like to go by Lala. My original name is the name I was using when I was acting, but I really want to go just by Lala.
You were in the “South Pacific” revival for its entire run at Lincoln Center Theater. What was that experience like?I played Ngana, who was Emile de Becque’s — the main character’s — daughter. We only spoke, acted and sang in French. She was a little island girl. She was sassy and tough, kind of like me. I did that show for three years; we closed on our thousandth show. I did every show, eight shows a week, every week. Mondays were the only day we had off, but we would do two shows on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and then matinees on Sunday. That’s not normal, because usually kids rotate. I feel like I really grew up and lived a big part of my life, 9 to 12 years old, there and you change a lot. I grew up backstage.
How did you balance school with that?I was homeschooled for all of it. There were two other kids in it, but they went to regular school. I was the only one who was homeschooled. I just work better in that environment and I ended up doing it even when I wasn’t in shows. We did homework backstage every day.
You also work as a makeup artist. How did you get your start in that and who are your clients?I mostly do beauty, like editorial fashion. I’ve done Fashion Week, “Vogue Mexico.” I’ve assisted the makeup artist for Zoe Kravitz, Naomi Campbell, FKA Twigs for the Met Gala. And then I also do body painting. I went to school for that. And special effects a little bit too. I got into that because I stopped acting for a little bit. I actually got really sick four years ago with Crohn’s and lost all my mobility. I was painting on canvas. I really always loved art and the only things I could really use were my hands, since I was bedridden. So I would always paint and draw. I was really fascinated by body painting and the second I could start walking again, I wanted to do that on people.
What can we expect from your show at The Bitter End? How are you preparing for it?I’m preparing for it just by singing and trying to go to as many lessons as I can go to and afford. I’m going to probably be singing Christina Aguilera, Lady Gaga, Adele, Amy Winehouse. I only performed one of (Winehouse’s) songs once, but I really love her stuff. I just never have the right show to perform it at. So I’m going to be really excited for that. I’m also singing my debut single, “Wasn’t Love,” and two other originals that aren’t released yet.