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Diva impressionist Christina Bianco speaks to Attitude

By Attitude Magazine

Even if you’re not familiar with the name Christina Bianco, there’s a good chance you’ve watched, laughing in amazement, at one of her videos. A seasoned performer, Bianco’s got a particular skill for impressions. More to the point, she can nail the ‘gay divas’ – from Barbra to Britney, from Broadway stalwarts like Patti Lupone to pop idols like Gwen Stefani.
It’s a talent that’s seen her tour the world, appear on Ellen and The Paul O’Grady Show – and this month she returns to London for a string of shows, bringing her playbox of incredible impressions along for the ride. Here, she speaks to Attitude’s Thomas Richardson:

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When did you first figure out that you could do impressions?
My mom and dad tell me that I was always “doing voices”; I would come home and I would tell stories about what happened in school and I would sort of mimic the teacher or the other students and they got a kick out of it. And then as I got a little older I remember my mom saying to me, ‘you know Christina when you sing along to that, don’t sing it like you’re recording, sing it like you,’ so I think I’ve always had a knack for mimicry but I didn’t realise it, I didn’t walk around saying oh yeah this is my impression of Judy Garland. When I would listen to her and sing ‘Over the Rainbow’ I would sort of inadvertently take on her tone and her phrasing and as I got older I wanted to sing just every style of music I could get my hands on, I just wanted to sing everything.

Who is your favourite person to impersonate?
One of my all time favourites is Celine Dion, for many reasons. It’s great when there’s somebody that everybody knows like that, she’s known by the young, by the old and by everybody in-between all over the world. She’s a great go-to for any audience. I think she does have probably the most spectacular voice of our time so of course for me it’s a personal challenge and a bit of fun to actually try to sing what she sings. And she’s so full of funny little nuance in the ways that she speaks, the way that she sings, the way she pronounces certain words and of course her mannerisms, so she certainly gives me a lot to work with.

Is there anyone in particular that you can’t impersonate?
We all have our limitations. There are some people who I can impersonate if I have a cold – lets say Stevie Nicks, she’s a lot raspier than I am! Same thing goes for someone like Tina Turner, if I do her would really damage my voice a lot of the time just because she has rasp to her voice and I don’t. I’ll never be able to do Mariah Carey’s whistle tone, and if you can impersonate Mariah Carey most people want to hear that. I stick with what I have.

Have you ever met anyone that you impersonate?
No, it’s unbelievable. I have always wanted to meet, of course, Celine Dion, Bernadette Peters, but the person I’ve come closest to meeting is Kristin Chenoweth. We have a lot of mutual friends and apparently she’s well aware of what I do and really gets a kick out of it. In fact she tweeted once that someone said ‘have you seen this video, someone impersonate you,’ and she wrote back like ‘that’s fabulous, fantastic,’ so I’m taking that one to the bank!

Do you ever worry that you might offend any of the targets of your impressions?
I hope that everybody knows that imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery and so I try to tell the audience in my live shows that every time I do impressions I really do them with love. Even if it’s someone that I do more of a caricature of, I know example people have said ‘oh she’s seems like she’s so hard on Britney Spears’ or ‘she’s so hard on Idina Menzel.’ Well, I’m choosing to exaggerate certain things that get a certain reaction from the audience or the fans so it’s not always going to please everybody. But I hope that they realise that if I don’t like somebody, if I really didn’t like a performer and found nothing about them worth emulating or impersonating then I wouldn’t do it, so everything’s done with love.


Are you ever worried that some of your impressions, people like Alanis Morissette, could be lost on British audiences?
Yeah, I try not to lead on these people. I don’t do every impression in every show that I’m in, it would sort of be impossible. I think I now do about 70 impressions and half of them wouldn’t be applicable here in the UK. Now Alanis has become sort of a fan-favourite, I’ve done her in the UK a few times, people seem to like it, so I always sneak her in but I cant spend a lot of time on someone like that, not just because she’s American but also because she hasn’t really put anything out in a very long time, you know, that puts her immediately in your mind. So I have to be careful but you know. I always have a few tricks up my sleeve, I mean I can’t do a Paloma Faith impression in the US but certainly can here.


So your Julie Andrews and your Adele is a big hit with us Brits, do you have any other British divas up your sleeve?
Well the big one that I love doing the most; Shirley Bassey. I also do Duffy. I do Leona Lewis. And you know the speaking impressions of course I do Kathy Parkinson, everyone likes my Keira Knightley, I like Keira. I do, this one is so funny and silly but this is one of the first impressions I ever did here in the UK for my British friends and they all laughed, so I do Bubble from Absolutely Fabulous. She’s in every show, she shows up in every one of my shows because why not? So I’m always looking for more and it’s sad in particular because I don’t live here and I can’t watch television, I don’t get to really know who’s out and about and contemporary and a new personality that I might want to impersonate. I mean I know Sharon Osbourne, I know Cheryl Cole, so I do them, but I know that there are plenty of other people that I can do, so I try to ask my friends and if you have any suggestions I’ll take them too.

Have you thought of doing Jessie J?
Oh, I am actively trying to do Jessie J because she is one of my all time favourite singers and she has such a powerful voice. Trying it at home is one thing but trying it in front of an audience and seeing what gets a reaction, seeing if they recognise it, how your voice sounds with particular mic styles. I have to learn. And so the daunting thing is I have to do it in public eventually, so we may sneak in some Jessie J in my new show at the Hippodrome, it’s all I’m saying – and it will be my first time doing it.

So you have a fantastic voice yourself, but do you ever struggle to be identified as Christina Bianco and not just an impressionist?
That’s another thing that I talk about in my show. I think for a while when I first was becoming known for doing the impressions, I struggled with it a little bit. You see I had been working in New York doing lots of theatre and then when I had been cast in Forbidden Broadway all of a sudden I was reviewed as this person who did impressions, and thankfully really well reviewed. I even got an award nomination for it, the Drama Desk Award nomination. And all of a sudden I was being asked to sing at all these huge fancy events with all these big celebrities and they all said can you come and do some impressions? And so at first you’re just like ‘yes, this is wonderful!’ And I thought, well wait a minute no one’s ever going to remember me. I always ask if I can do one song in my own voice and then do an impression number.

So with you performing a lot of musical stars, such as Bernadette Peters, Bette Midler, Kristin Chenoweth, you must notice you’re attracting quite the gay following?
Yes and I’m very grateful! Listen, I’m a musical theatre girl and also growing up in Rockland County, New York, it’s about 40 minutes outside of the city, I was always going to New York and seeing theatre and it’s silly for me to say that growing up most of my male friends were gay. I mean they’re apart of my life, my culture and I am very much aware of the power of the gay fan base and the fact that I now have some of that is so incredibly cool. Because when you think about the big icons, Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, yes they are world famous but they’re also gay icons and part of the reasons they are world famous are because of all those gay fans. I’m trying my best to please that demographic of my audience.

Christina Bianco performs her show ‘Party of One’ at London’s Hippodrome from May 14-24. Check her website for her full solo dates.


Photos by Kevin Thomas Garcia (blue dress) and Darren Bell (chair)