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If Lea Salonga were your best friend, she would remember when you had a big presentation scheduled at work and call you beforehand to offer some much-needed encouragement. She wouldn’t actually say anything, but you’d know it was her the moment she began to sing “To dream the impossible dream” with just the right touch of vibrato.

If Lea Salonga were your best friend, a solid half of her voicemails to you would be in song, and you’d never delete any of them. Your nonstop text messages would be laced with show tune lyrics, things you were too shy and/or polite to tweet, and the occasional dreamcast prediction for the live-action Mulan. 

If Lea Salonga were your best friend, you would have the ability to harmonize — spontaneously, effortlessly — on any song, even when you were slightly tipsy at karaoke. You’d be the Marius to Lea’s Eponine in your “A Little Fall of Rain” duet; Mame to her Vera when you belted out “Bosom Buddies.” The two of you would break into “A Whole New World” frequently and without warning, to the delight of children everywhere.

If Lea Salonga were your best friend, the two of you would share a joint Kindle library, but on your birthday Lea would give you beautiful new titles in hardcover — the books you were most eager to read, the books whose release dates you marked on your calendar — because she’d know that getting real books is one of your love languages.

If Lea Salonga were your best friend, strangers would ask if you were sisters (you know, because #alllooksame), and you’d look at them very seriously and nod and not even feel offended.

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If Lea Salonga were your best friend, you would be the sort of person who wakes up early each day with a good attitude, boundless energy, and the ability to immediately get shit done even without drinking half a pot of coffee. (You would still drink half a pot of coffee, but only because you wanted to.)

If Lea Salonga were your best friend, you’d never be rejected by or so much as notice another clique ever again. Your nemeses, if you had any, would just have to acknowledge that with Lea Salonga in your corner you are unstoppable.

If Lea Salonga were your best friend, you would have a pact that every other year or so, you would travel together to a place neither of you had ever been before and eat all the local delicacies and signature dishes. Your combined wanderlust and bottomless-pit appetites would lead you from Nashville to Quito to Nagoya, from po’ boys to chicken sashimi to escargot. And even though you’d need some alone time once in a while — to check in with your partners and kids, or just to catch up on your reading — most of the time you’d be stuck to one another like glue, full and laughing and just really happy to have a best friend who shared your longing for adventure.

If Lea Salonga were your best friend, your cozy study would be filled with beautiful hand-picked items from all your trips around the world, and there would be a wonderful story behind each one.

If Lea Salonga were your best friend, you’d be able to wear the hell out of any outfit you chose. Yes: even that romper your mom told you was “ridiculous.”

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If Lea Salonga were your best friend, one night she’d throw a dinner party and Lin-Manuel Miranda would show up. You’d tell him that you finally, finally got Hamilton tickets for October 17, 2039, and he would whip out his calendar and create a reminder to come back and perform the title role that night. You know. Just one last time.

If Lea Salonga were your best friend, you’d never have to buy or rent a formal gown. “Why would you ever?” she’d exclaim, after you told her you had two days to find and purchase a ball gown for a fancy work function. “Just come raid my closet!” Her rack of Tony gowns would always be fair game, and she’d offer to throw in some statement jewelry, too. That’s how you’d learn that you really can pull off a tiara.

If Lea Salonga were your best friend, she would know all about your black thumb and how sad you got when your orchids died. She’d send you a giant pot of them sometimes, just to show you that she believed in you, and each delicate bloom would be like a personal “You can do it!” from Lea herself.

If Lea Salonga were your best friend, you would be Sufficiently Adult to appreciate rather than resent the fact that exercise actually does improve your mood. The two of you would work out together, getting stronger every day until you were both confident you could throw any man who had it coming clear across the room.

If Lea Salonga were your best friend, you would never have to make smalltalk with strangers again. You just wouldn’t. All of your conversations, wherever and with whomever they took place, would have meaning and purpose.

If Lea Salonga were your best friend, white musical theatre fans would finally stop congratulating themselves for South Pacific.

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If Lea Salonga were your best friend, on days when you were feeling like a professional failure — when you lost that big interview to someone else, or missed out on an assignment you thought was made for you — she would know better than to launch into any inspirational speeches. She wouldn’t burst into your gloom full of forced smiles, insisting that what you really needed was to go out and just forget all this. She would sit down next to you, bump her shoulder up against yours, and settle a comforting arm around you, listening while you poured out all your frustration and disappointment — no matter how long it took. And when she sensed that you were absolutely ready to put it behind you and move on, she would bring out a platter of spicy chicken wings, turn up the music really loud, and start dancing along to her own high-pitched Justin Bieber impression, not stopping until you were doubled over with laughter.

If Lea Salonga were your best friend, you’d always be thankful to have her in your life, but you’d also be great at making new friends. When meeting someone, it wouldn’t even occur to you to worry about whether you were coming off as too full of yourself, too insecure, too friendly, too cool, too meek, TOO MUCH. You’d never again dread a party or spend hours trying to pep-talk yourself into going — you’d have the ability to enter any space and talk with any group of people feeling perfectly at ease, while also helping others to relax and be their best selves.

If Lea Salonga were your best friend, she would name her daughter after you. Okay, you and her mother-in-law. But you’d get the first name.

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If Lea Salonga were your best friend, one day her habit of singing your writing drafts back to you would make you wonder if the two of you could write a show together. And even though the whole thing would start out as kind of a joke, you’d both grow more serious as you discussed the kinds of roles that were historically available to actors of color in musical theatre, and how much you wish you could collaborate on something different — something better — in this genre that means so much to you.

If Lea Salonga were your best friend, you’d wouldn’t have to worry about encountering too much cilantro when trying a new restaurant, because she’d always remember to tell the waitress about your “allergy.”

If Lea Salonga were your best friend, you’d dress up as the Schuyler Sisters for Halloween. When someone asked where Peggy was, you’d explain that you were supposed to be the Schuyler Sisters, circa Act II.

If Lea Salonga were your best friend, your kids would never lack for a brilliant, strong, talented female role model. When you told Lea that, though, she’d remind you, “They have you.”

If Lea Salonga were your best friend, you’d know a life free from the fear of showing others who you truly are, because you would know that no matter what mistakes or missteps you made, no matter what losses you suffered, no matter who turned their back on you, you’d never, ever be alone.

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Nicole Chung is the Managing Editor of The Toast.

Karissa Chen is the author of Of Birds and Lovers, a chapbook of short fiction. She is the fiction & poetry editor at Hyphen magazine, and her work has appeared in Guernica, PEN America, PANK, VIDA, and other publications. She is a currently a Fulbright Scholar in Taiwan and is at work on a novel.

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