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Rachel Zegler, ‘West Side Story”s New Maria, Made Her Met Gala Debut

When Rachel Zegler, then a 17-year-old high school student, posted a tweet of her singing a pitch-perfect cover of Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s “Shallow” back in 2018, she went viral. To date, the 30-second clip has over 86,000 retweets and 374,000 likes. A month later, the teen was chosen to star opposite Ansel Elgort as Maria in Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story.

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Wondering who Rachel Zegler is before you hit the theaters? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered: Here’s everything you need to know about the budding actress before she makes her film debut in the remake of the 1961 classic.

Who is Rachel Zegler?

Rachel Zegler, who is Columbian American, is a 20-year-old singer/songwriter and self-professed theater kid from New Jersey. She has a YouTube channel with over 200,000 followers that has videos of her singing covers of her favorite songs and clips from her life in the theater. “Musical theater has always meant expression to me. It makes me sit back in my seat and say, ‘How did they put all of that into words?’” she recently told ELLE.

Her first produced single, “Let Me Try,” was released in April 2021.

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And, to further prove her rising star status, she made her Met Gala debut in September 2021, months before West Side Story‘s release.

Zegler wearing Dior haute couture at the 2021 Met Gala.

Mike CoppolaGetty Images

What other work has she done prior to West Side Story?

According to her YouTube page, Zegler’s previous roles include Belle in Beauty and the Beast, Cosette in Les Miserables, Mimi Marquez in RENT, and other local productions. Coincidentally enough, she also played Maria in West Side Story, which will now be her first role on-screen.

Before West Side Story is released, Zegler has already landed another big-ticket movie role: starring in Disney’s upcoming live-action remake of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. “Rachel’s extraordinary vocal abilities are just the beginning of her gifts,” director Marc Webb said of Zegler to Deadline. “Her strength, intelligence and optimism will become an integral part of rediscovering the joy in this classic Disney fairytale.”

She’ll also star in the Shazam: Fury of the Gods in a mysterious part but “key role in shazam 2 era,” Variety reports.

How did she get cast?

Spielberg began casting for the role back in January 2018 while he was filming the fifth Indiana Jones installment. Dedicated to keeping the movie as “ethnically authentic” as possible, the production put out an open casting call for Latinx actors. Zegler responded to the call with a video of herself singing “Tonight” and “Me Siento Hermosa,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

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Zegler filming scenes as Maria in 2019.

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west side story

Natalie Wood as Maria in the 1961 West Side Story.

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Who will she be starring alongside?

Ansel Elgort will be starring opposite Zegler as Tony, a former member of a white gang called the Jets, while Zegler plays the younger sister of a Puerto Rican gang leader. Ariana DeBose (Hamilton, A Bronx Tale: The Musical, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical) will star as Anita, David Alvarez (Billy Elliot: The Musical) as Bernardo, and Josh Andrés Rivera (Hamilton) as Chino.

How does she feel about securing the role?

“I am so thrilled to be playing the iconic role of Maria alongside this amazing cast,” Zegler told The Hollywood Reporter. “West Side Story was the first musical I encountered with a Latina lead character. As a Colombian-American, I am humbled by the opportunity to play a role that means so much to the Hispanic community.”

When will West Side Story come out?

December 10, 2021. Mark your calendars now, and check out the trailer above.

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