Hamilton’s Renée Elise Goldsberry: Why I Believe

Renée Elise Goldsberry against a white background. Photo taken by Karilyn Sanders.
At a September 2017 concert at BYU, Broadway star Renée Elise Goldsberry, a Christian, shared her faith through song and spoke of her relationship with God. After the concert, BYU Speeches reached out to her to learn more about her journey of faith.

You may know Renée Elise Goldsberry from her Tony Award–winning performance as Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton. She’s also lit up the stage in The Lion King and starred onscreen in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. But Goldsberry says she hopes to shine in other ways too. Quick to recognize God as the source of her success, she tries to live her life as a light for Him.

Q: How did you become a believer?

A: Unlike so many other people of faith that I know, I very much felt connected to God while I was young. My identity as a Christian, as a believer, started as a very young child, and of course, it continues to mature and evolve as I move through life.

I feel that my faith is bigger than a place or a building or a specific denomination. I definitely feel that speaking about belief and being able to fellowship and praise in a group setting is extremely important, but I also feel that the root of it—my soul and God and the Bible—is essential.

Q: It can be difficult to go through life’s experiences and keep on having that faith. What has kept you a believer as an adult?

A: I believe that the more I live, the more impossible it would seem to me to not have my belief. I don’t think it is harder. Actually, the idea of not having my belief seems more frightening to me as I get older.

Every single moment of my life is either something so amazing that I am so grateful that I know who to thank or so humbling or scary that I desperately need help—one or the other.

There is rarely a moment that I’m not grateful to have this support, this source of power and comfort.

Q: Why is your faith important to you?

A: It’s always hard to answer that question because the question itself minimizes the importance of my faith in God. “Important” really isn’t a word that can contain my faith. “Important” is something I have to do today or something that is prioritized or something that I recognize as beneficial. But my faith is not an accessory or a goal or something to be valued as something that is apart from me. My faith is the creator, the creation of me, the purpose of everything.

It is deceptive to think that my faith is something else that is there that is separate. That’s really a lie. The truth is that everything that I am and everything that I’m doing is really about serving God and praising God and moving forward whatever His will is. It is really bigger than anything I can ever see.

If I’m starring on Broadway in Hamilton or getting a Tony or doing something that seems like the achievement of a lifelong goal, even that is really just a means to an end. The end is being light in this world, really for Him.

To take credit for the things I’ve gotten to do is useless. It’s just by the grace of God that I ever had those opportunities.

Q: What does your faith look like day to day?

A: I fall into the trap of being so busy and so hectic that I don’t stop.  I don’t have a period of time set aside every day where I meditate, or pray, or just formally check in. And I’m sure I suffer for that in ways that I’m not even aware.

But at the same time, the beauty, the grace of God is that He’s always there. I feel that I’m always aware of His presence, and I’m grateful that even in my rushing and my craziness I feel protected. And I feel that my bumbling has some divine design that leads me where God wants me to go.

Q: What is it like to live in the theater world and be surrounded by diverse opinions and beliefs?

A: I think it’s beautiful! One of the most miraculous things about it is the people: the family, the brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles. These families are created around the idea of bringing some piece of light, some art, into the world. I love the diversity of the people there, I love the spirit of the people that I meet, and I see God in the light that surrounds me through the other people in theater.

Q: How do you show your beliefs in the way that you perform?

A: Most of the time I ask myself what’s the message here? Does this support what I believe or is this a subversive message that is eroding what I believe God’s message is? I try to have a group of people around me who speak my spiritual language, and I’m grateful that they help me figure it out.

As I was considering the options for a recent decision I was making about doing a role, my cousin said to me, “You make the best decision that you can, and then you believe that God will protect you, even if you get it wrong. He will protect you, and He will always protect Himself.”

We are all on the journey trying to figure that out. And I’m definitely on it! I’m definitely on it, and I’m constantly second guessing myself and third guessing and fourth guessing. But I’m grateful that I’m on the road, and I’m grateful I’m doing the dance and in the struggle. That is the way forward. We can’t not live, we can’t not try, we can’t not be light in places that might seem dark.

That’s my message. I’m still figuring it out, I’m still on the path, and I’m grateful to be here.

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