Living ‘Color’: Fantasia Tells Oprah She’s Already Learned From Celie

Like character she'll play on Broadway, singer has struggled with sexual abuse, illiteracy, poverty.

A week ago, Fantasia Barrino appeared on “American Idol” to announce her new gig: playing the central character, Celie, in the Broadway production of “The Color Purple.” On Wednesday (February 28), she showed up on “Oprah” to talk in-depth with Winfrey, the show’s producer, about the role.

Not only will “The Color Purple” mark Fantasia’s Broadway debut, but as she revealed on the daytime talk show, it was also the first musical she had ever seen. “I had seen the movie,” the season-three “Idol” champ said, “but it’s such an inspirational play. I was crying. I was saying, ‘Oh, Lord, I hope I’m not the only one crying!’ ”

She wasn’t alone — Fantasia noticed that “even the men were crying.” “It’s one of those plays that … when you leave, you will have your head up, and you will be like, ‘You know what? I’m going through some things, but that’s all right.’ ”

Fantasia said she relates in many ways to Celie, the character Whoopi Goldberg played in the film adaptation of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel. The singer said she has struggled with sexual abuse, illiteracy and poverty, but like her character, she has kept her faith. “I look at where I come from and my past and some of the things I did in my past,” Fantasia said, “and I look now and I say, ‘Wow, you can’t tell me God ain’t any good.’ ”

Since her rise to fame and fortune, Fantasia’s biggest struggle has been saying no to her extended family members looking for a handout. Life got “a little crazy,” she admitted. But now, she’s looking forward to the challenge of becoming Celie, despite a grueling performance schedule that starts April 10.

“It’s such a powerful role,” Fantasia said. “She went through so many things. She had people telling her she wasn’t this, she wasn’t that, she was ugly. But she still kept a smile on her face. And at the end, she said, ‘You know what? I may be poor. I may be ugly. But I’m here.’ And I’m ready. I’ve got so much to let out, and I feel like I can take all of that and put it out there on the stage.”

After the interview, the singer gave a powerful rendition of “I’m Here,” a selection from the production. Fantasia’s performance brought both women to tears. “I’m honored and proud to have you cast as the lead,” Winfrey told her.