After nearly a year-long delay due to theater shutdowns in 2020, In The Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning musical, finally got its theatrical debut. The film stars Anthony Ramos as Usnavi de la Vega, the role played by Miranda in the Broadway show. But it’s Leslie Grace, who plays Nina, the neighborhood “good girl” who has just dropped out of college after being the first in her family to attend, who fans will really fall in love with. The role is set to make Grace a household name, and these facts about Leslie Grace will have In The Heights fans stanning her in the same way you stan Nina.
In The Heights is not the typical boy-meets-girl love story found in most musicals. It’s an ensemble piece, with Usnavi interested in Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), a neighborhood girl who works at the local salon. Nina, meanwhile, falls for Benny (Corey Hawkins), who works for her father (who disapproves of Benny).
Grace’s story isn’t exactly a stereotypical Hollywood success story. At 26, she’s been working away at mainstream fame since she was 14; her past works include a Christian album and a stint with Disney. But with In The Heights about to be her big break, here’s why fans should have this fantastic singer and actor on their radars:
1. In The Heights Is Grace’s Acting Debut
Although she’s been performing since her breakthrough in 2012 on Univision’s Premios Juventud, In The Heights marks the singer’s big move from making music to acting.
2. Like Nina, Grace Was Born in NYC
Like her In The Heights character, Grace — who is of Dominican descent — was born in New York City, in the Bronx, to be exact. But unlike Nina, she moved away when she was 10 and spent her formative years in South Florida.
3. Her “Will You Still Love Me” Cover Set Records
Grace’s career started early, with an independent album released while she was still in middle school. But the single that caught everyone’s attention was her bilingual cover of the famous Motown classic by The Shirelles, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” With its black and white classic video, the single shot to the top of the charts, including the Billboard Latin Airplay charts, making her the youngest female artist to top that particular ranking.
4. Grace Now Records “Bachata Pop”
Despite her first significant hit being a cover, Grace has since focused on bachata music, a Latin American music genre specific to the Dominican Republic with influences from its indigenous Taino population. Her fusion of it to the more Americanized pop sound has helped her music hit the mainstream, with her single “Nobody Else Compares To U (Nadie Como Tú)” featured on Radio Disney.
In The Heights premiered on HBO Max and in theaters on June 10, 2021.