Architect-actress-singer-dancer-producer Roberta Jafet '10 leads a double life. When she is not working as a retail experience architect at Estúdio Jacarandá, where she designs for clients such as Natura, Unilever, Lindt, and Bradesco, Roberta performs in Broadway franchises such as Wicked, School of Rock, Annie, Les Misérables, and The Addams Family. Recently, she has also been producing her original show, Era Uma Vez, in partnership with Lab Cultural and Fundação Bachiana. In this edition of the Graded Gazette, the second-generation Graded alumna speaks to us about the impact Graded had on her life – both personally and professionally.
1. What does Graded - The American School of São Paulo represent to you as a second-generation alumna and Graded lifer? What does it represent to your family?
Graded is my home. My father Douglas '75, twin brothers Felipe '21 and Rafael '21, and I take great pride in being Graded lifers. My uncles and aunt also studied at Graded for a few years, so it definitely left a mark on our family. Not only do we regard Graded as the place that has provided us with the foundation to be successful in life, but also as the institution that has molded us, allowed us to forge lifelong friendships, and given us some of the best memories we will ever have.
2. How and when did you discover your passion for theater?
Ever since I was a little girl, I have had a strong connection to the artistic world. Broadway soundtracks, sing-along songs, and Disney movies played in our home. My parents sent me to dance and piano lessons where I was immersed in classical music. I always knew I wanted to pursue a career in the arts, but I remember the exact moment when that desire was cemented. On April 23, 2005, in São Paulo, I watched the Broadway franchise The Phantom of the Opera. I recall being so enchanted by the performance that I knew, from that moment on, that THAT was what I wanted to pursue.
3. Which class or teacher at Graded had a significant impact on your life?
Mrs. Thomas, my first-grade teacher and director of the Lower School annual plays, had the biggest impact on me. I recall her having a piano in her classroom and being musically inclined. In fifth grade, she cast me as Mrs. Teavee in the Lower School production Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. That was my first important role in a play! I remember being surprised to see my name on the cast list when it was posted.
4. Which Broadway franchise role has been your favorite?
Of the characters I have played, Wicked's Elphaba, aka the Wicked Witch of the West, has definitely been my favorite. This green-skinned protagonist is known to be one of the most challenging and coveted female roles in musical theater. Having had the opportunity to perform this role more than 30 times is a blessing and has greatly influenced me both personally and professionally as a performer.
5. What is one thing people may not know about you?
I am a Disney freak to the core. My parents took me to Disney World every year when I was a kid. When I was younger, I loved the parks, movies, and princesses, but as I grew older and learned more about the man behind it all, I became more of a Walt Disney fan than anything else. His story inspired me to pursue my dreams. To think his idea started with a mouse, Mickey, and evolved into what it is today makes me believe that anything is possible.
6. Despite your interest in theater, you opted to pursue architecture in college. How and why did you make that choice?
That was a decision I made together with my parents. I applied to study music in the United States and was accepted to the University of Miami's Frost School of Music. However, my family and I concluded that I should seek another degree as a backup plan and continue pursuing performing art during college. It turned out to be a great decision since I now work in both areas and have grown to love architecture. Working in retail design allows me to create store experiences for several clients and develop my creative side, ultimately benefiting me in the theater industry.
7. How do you balance your dual career as an architect and actress?
Balance? What exactly is balance? Yes, I do try my best to keep everything afloat, but occasionally, one aspect may demand more than the other, and vice versa, and that's ok. I've been working weekends for the past ten years, so it has become a part of my routine. The most challenging part is deciding when to take a break or go on vacation since I never believe I need or deserve time off. As a result, I end up pushing myself to the limit. Furthermore, being an overachiever (as any good Graded alum is) makes it extremely tough to say "no," which I have recently been trying to learn to do. I guess the perfect word is “balance.” Knowing when to push and when to slow down without becoming frustrated is all about knowing yourself and focusing on your work rather than comparing yourself to others.
8. What is your all-time favorite movie?
Titanic. Leonardo DiCaprio was my first crush EVER. (If you asked all of my friends, they would tell you the same thing, that’s how annoying it was.) I know every single line in the film, and I could watch it again and again as if it were the first time… and cry. A lot. And for those who have seen the film: Yes, there was enough space for two!
9. Do you still keep in touch with your friends from Graded?
My Graded friends are still my best friends to this day. Some went to college in the United States and came back to Brazil, while others still live abroad, but we have never lost contact.
10. What advice would you give to current Graded students?
“Making it” is an illusion. Don’t wait for something “big” to happen to be happy, or else you will get incredibly frustrated. Consider every challenge as a new opportunity to improve. Be humble, but stand your ground. Never forget that you are the only one responsible for pursuing your dreams and, most importantly, enjoy your journey!