Unmasked: Getting To Know The Marvel Universe’s Newest Batgirl, Leslie Grace

Leslie GracePhoto Credit: Nox Media

Remember this name: Leslie Grace. By 27, the Bronx-born multihyphenate has starred in Lin Manuel Miranda‘s In the Heights, has collaborated with Meek Mill, has received three Latin Grammy nominations, and is now appearing as the title cape-wearing superhero in HBO Max’s Batgirl. We caught up with Grace while she was promoting Häagen-Dazs‘ #ThatsDazs mission to aid underrepresented creative communities with its City Sweets campaign. This is what we learned.

Photo Credit: Krista Schlueter

Why did you team up with Häagen-Dazs to introduce the City Sweets collection?

Häagen-Dazs was the perfect collaborative partner because there are so many synergies between the company and my family life. As someone who pursued her dreams and creative passions while being raised by hard-working immigrant parents in New York City, I really resonated with the story of the Häagen-Dazs founders, Rose and Reuben. Truthfully, I saw my parent’s and even my grandmother’s story in theirs: incredibly hard working immigrants with a dream for something bigger than what they were leaving behind. Also, anyone who knows me knows how essential Häagen-Dazs is to my life and general happiness so how could I say no?!

What does the campaign stand for, from your perspective, and why is it important to you?

Well, I definitely see my parent’s story in the campaign. Outside of that, for me, it’s about paying it forward to the next generation of aspiring artists and tastemakers. The #ThatsDazs campaign mission really focuses on supporting underrepresented communities through purpose-driven work, and so it feels like a dream come true to help amplify a company doing such amazing things for communities that would typically go unheard and unseen.

What advice would you give to young aspiring artists throughout the country right now?

The biggest thing I could tell them is, ‘Keep. Going.’ There are a ton of obstacles that come up in life when you are pursuing your dreams, whether it’s to be an actor, singer, singer, dancer etc. There are even more obstacles when you don’t have the same access that a lot of other people have. As a result of this, it’s so important to really believe in yourself, your talents, and your dream, and just keep pushing for what you want. Leslie GracePhoto Credit: Krista Schlueter

You starred in Lin Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights” last year. What connections can you make between the premise of the movie and the #ThatsDazs X City Sweets collection?

There are SO many connections that can be drawn between the #ThatsDazs campaign and “In the Heights.” For one, the focus that #ThatsDazs puts on underrepresented creatives is a super strong through line to almost all of the storylines for the characters in In the Heights. All of them have a dream, a little sueño, that keeps them going. My character, Nina Rosario, is a first generation college student which means a lot in her community. Her story really represents the idea of opportunity outside of “the Heights” to them. She is the physical embodiment of all of their dreams. The #ThatDazs campaign is really helping to make little sueño’s across the country come true by giving back to those communities that sometimes have a harder time achieving them.

What are your top 5 sweet spots in NYC?

I love me some NYC foodie finds! As I write this, I’m sitting at one of my favorite spots in the East Village called MUD – GREAT COFFE, SERVICE, AND BOMB BRUNCH! I also love getting my fill of Dominican food when I’m in the neighborhood! Beans and Vines is a yummy spot in the Heights! So is El Malecon. Can’t go wrong with a night out at La Marina or if you’re up in the Bronx, Zona de Cuba for amazing live music and a good dance night!

How would you describe your “City Sweet Moment” in just a few words?

Just a carefree, living in the moment type experience… letting yourself taste a bit of luxury in life — as defined by you on your own terms.

Leslie GracePhoto Credit: Krista Schlueter

Later this year, you will be starring as Batgirl. What do you plan on bringing to the role? How are you making it yours?

I just finished shooting Batgirl out in Glasgow and embodying her allowed me to harness a newfound power within myself that I’m so incredibly grateful for. I hope every young woman and person in general can experience that level of coming into oneself at some point their life. That is the heart of our movie and I’m excited for people to watch the emergence of this fun, capable, and very layered female superhero for the first time in her very own live action origin story film!

Would you have said Batgirl was the superhero who you most embodied prior to landing the role?

I have come to discover that Barbara and I have tons in common. Much more than I imagined! Especially emotionally and the place we both find ourselves in life, barring some kickass physical capabilities LOL we are very similar. I have definitely had to rise to the occasion when it comes to Batgirl’s ‘badassness!’

If not, who? Has that changed since you put on her cape?

It definitely has! Thanks to our incredible stunt crew, I’ve learned so much more about martial arts, defense, and even harnessing emotional strength than I never thought I’d be capable of thanks to putting on that cape.

Leslie GracePhoto Credit: Tinseltown/Shutterstock.com

What do you feel when you put on that costume?

It was a moment of realization that I am actually Batgirl! It is still strange to write or say because it is truly such an honor and so other worldly that I feel like I have to whisper it as some sort of secret or something. Even after having lived the entire experience of shooting for half the year. Guess I’m still wary of my secret identity!

Can you share what it was like to work with Meek Mill, on your latest single “CONGA”? How did that creative experience differ from some of your previous music or acting pursuits?

You know, every project is totally different from the last. For this one in particular, I really had to tap into my musical and lyrical side. On a project like “In the Heights,” I’m focused on memorizing lines and performing choreography, but working with Meek Mill (who is absolutely amazing to work with by the way) challenged me in a different way. I think working on different projects that challenge the different aspects of myself, keeps things super interesting and exciting for me.

Where do you see yourself in five years, and do you have any dream projects on your radar? Dream collaborators?

I look forward to continuing to meet other like-minded creators in the pursuit of projects that move me and feel important and/or fun to me in all mediums. I definitely want to move into writing and producing projects when the time is right. I’ve spent a little over a decade in front of the camera as a music artist and now as an actress (crazy to say), and from in those years have, I’ve had the blessing of learning from incredibly talented humans who all love what they do. I’m itching to put some of that experience I continue to soak up from my collaborators into new projects from other angles – and acquire new skills that will inevitably inspire me in new ways when I am at the forefront of projects ahead.