Two of this fall’s most anticipated movies—one good (Widows), one bad (Bad Times at the El Royale)—feature Cynthia Erivo, an actress and singer whom the casual, non-musical-theater-obsessed viewer has probably not encountered before. But on the big screen and off, Erivo is a generational talent, effortlessly belting out impossible songs and holding her own in scenes with Viola Davis and Jeff Bridges. In the spirit of Erivo Season—and in a shameless excuse to rewatch every performance she’s ever done on YouTube—I present the Everything Guide to Cynthia Erivo. Turn up the volume.
A Brief Journey Through Cynthia Erivo’s Greatest YouTube Hits
After starring in the U.K. production of Sister Act, Erivo was cast as Celie Harris in the 2013 revival of The Color Purple in London; she made her Broadway debut in 2015 when the revival hit New York City in 2015. I vividly remember seeing her in a video for the first time, shortly after Prince died; The Color Purple cast did a tribute performance of “Purple Rain” after a show one night. I clicked on it to hear Jennifer Hudson, and then Erivo opened her mouth and I forgot Jennifer Hudson existed.
Erivo went on to win a Tony for her role in the musical, and her performance at the 2016 show that year was equally jaw-dropping. It’s one of those videos you send to everyone you know, whether they like musicals or not ... and if they don’t appreciate it, you cut them out of your life. (The whole clip is wonderful, but skip to 2:50 for Cynthia. Then watch it again 1,000 times.)
As seen with the Prince cover above, Erivo doesn’t settle for crushing her own songs; she tends to master (and often improve) everyone else’s songs, too. For example, this fabulously melodramatic cover of Taylor Swift’s “I Did Something Bad” with fellow broadway star Shoshana Bean. I feel like this could have served as a makeshift Widows audition—she’s wearing black, staring daggers at the camera, and giving strong “men are garbage” vibes.
There are a thousand more videos one could share here, but we’ll end with this bizarre, off-the-cuff performance she did at a bar, among a bunch of people who don’t seem to realize how lucky they are. The girl next to her may have permanent hearing loss. Worth it.
WITNESS GREATNESS, FRAT BROS.
We Should Also Talk About the Acting ...
Erivo has had bit roles in a few TV shows before this year, including Broad City and Chewing Gum, but 2018 represents her real big-screen breakthrough. In quick succession, Erivo landed roles in Bad Times at the El Royale and Widows, stealing scenes in both. The movies also seem to realize the kind of multitalented performer they’ve got: The best (er, only good) parts of Bad Times at the El Royale were her multiple musical numbers, and while she doesn’t sing in Widows, she’s so intimidatingly ripped that she makes Michelle Rodriguez look positively dainty. (More on that in a moment.) As Erivo’s acting career progresses with Harriet and Chaos Walking next year—and I’m sure many other projects to come—let’s hope Hollywood continues to recognize the rare talent they have on their hands. If she’s not a lock for the lead in Steven Spielberg’s musical remake of The Color Purple, there is no justice in this world.
And the Red Carpet ...
Cynthia Erivo knows how to dress. I respect nothing more than a celebrity who consistently shows up in wacky outfits and somehow makes them look effortless. For your viewing pleasure, here is a series of outfit photos, ranging from flawless to bizarre, and all iconic.
This first look from the 2017 Tonys is about as boring as she gets, and it’s still perfect.
Doing promo for your gritty, violent heist movie? Time for Barbie vibes.
And I would be remiss not to include some of her past Met Gala choices—we love commitment to a theme!
It takes a special level of style, confidence, and sheer DGAF-ness to pull this shit off. We stan a risk-taking queen!
And the Gymstagram
Those last few photos probably made it obvious just how ripped Erivo is, and it’s both inspiring and terrifying to behold. I guess it’s not enough to outsing every single person on planet Earth—she can bench-press them, too. Her workout videos alone are Oscar worthy, and they will also make you feel like your body is fragile and useless. Please enjoy.
EGOT Watch: Cynthia Erivo
This year, John Legend became the youngest EGOT winner ever, at age 39. That gives Erivo—currently 31—seven years to break his record, and her odds look pretty damn good. After her Tony win in 2016, Erivo won a Grammy in 2017 for Best Musical Theater Album, also for The Color Purple. Then she won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding On-Camera Musical Performance in a Daytime Program for her performance with The Color Purple cast on the Today Show. In no time, Erivo went from breakout star to near EGOT winner, all for the same role. Just imagine if, in a perfect world, she plays the same role in Spielberg’s remake and wins an Oscar for it. Forget EGOT—she’d be a Jeopardy! answer until the end of time.