Some people are just born to be entertainers, and Cheaza Figueroa is one of them. The native Puerto-Rican is the reigning Peep Diva in Planet Hollywood’s sexy burlesque show “Peepshow.” From the moment she steps onstage, Figueroa owns the role once inhabited by guest stars Mel B, Shoshana Bean and Aubrey O’Day. But this former-backup-singer-turned-lead isn’t just a great smile on top of a wicked sense of humor. She’s a single mom to Mariana (who just turned 16), a calendar girl and a recording artist in her own right.
Earlier this month, the Boricua beauty celebrated the production’s 1000th show with cast mates Holly Madison and Josh Strickland, and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon—despite a recent injury that kept her from performing for nearly three months. Now back onstage and better than ever, the saucy señorita talked with the Best of Las Vegas about touring with the greats as a child, her own very talented daughter and what new challenges she can’t wait to conquer.
BOLV: You have been with “Peepshow” since day one, moving from a principal singer to arguably the best Peep Diva in the show’s history. How has the experience been from your perspective?
Cheaza Figueroa: I came from Wayne Brady’s show to do “Peepshow,” and it’s been a great experience. I moved out to Vegas to do exactly what I’m doing now and it’s really exciting and liberating to live out one of my dreams, especially a dream which some people said I was crazy to think could even happen. And (the role) is teaching me so much as well. I’ve never been in a production like this, so it’s teaching me a lot about discipline and working with a big cast. All in all, it’s definitely been a learning tool and a fun, fun journey.
BOLV: There have been comparisons of your vocal style to other divas like Tina Turner and Whitney Houston. How were you affected by Houston’s recent passing?
CF: It still hasn’t really hit me. She has been a true idol of mine. I remember when I was a little girl I wanted to be Whitney Houston. She helped sculpt and mold me as an entertainer, along with other great artists, but she was a great role model of mine growing up. She’s still a lot of who I am today. A lot of people tell me I sound like her, and to hear that throughout my life then to have that tragic event of her passing. Well, her legacy will live on through a lot of people, and definitely myself.
BOLV: I know you were working on your own album, and even had a single, “Live for Tonight” ready to go. Is there anything to report on that project?
CF: Yes, actually. We’re working with new producers right now.
BOLV: You recently suffered a fairly serious injury. Can you give us an update on your condition?
CF: Well, I fell exiting the stage during my show, and it took me out for about three months. But I’m healing, I’m back in the show now. (The producers) are allowing me to do the show according to what’s comfortable for me. I’m very lucky, because a lot of shows won’t allow that. I’m in rehabilitation right now for my shoulder, so I just have to be patient and go through the process.
BOLV: Your fans can now purchase a calendar featuring 14 months of Cheaza. How was the experience of shooting a calendar?
CF: It was a lot of fun. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing and we got it done in a couple months. Due to my injury, it pushed the calendar release back a bit, but better late than never. I can’t wait to do next year’s. Sherrie Hill was one of my sponsors for the calendar, I definitely love wearing Sherrie Hill dresses.
BOLV: You’ve also been known to shop for lots of new footwear. Any favorites?
CF: I’m simple, but I love shoes! I love Louboutins, of course. Gianmarco Lorenzi, those have become my new favorite. I don’t get those on an every day basis, though. I also shop at Baker and Wild Pair, usually on the way into work or out from work at the Miracle Mile Shops. I just bought some new Betsey Johnson’s the other day, too.
BOLV: I keeping with the devil-may-care spirit of your character, you are a big fan of motorcycles. How did you get turned onto that hobby?
CF: I’ve been riding motorcycles since I was 16 or 17 years old. My uncles always owned a motorcycle and as babies we would be around them so it kind of just rubbed off on me. I have my own street bike, a YZF1000, and I love it. Right now, I can’t ride because of my shoulder, but as soon as it’s healed I’ll be back up on it, riding someplace like Lake Mead.
BOLV: You are a big user of social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. As the mother of a teenage daughter, do you find yourself monitoring what you put out there or what she is seeing?
CF: You know what? I do, actually, but there’s really nothing that I would put out there that I wouldn’t let my daughter see. It just comes down to character. My daughter is an entertainment child, she’s been exposed to a lot. I’m very protective over her and just make sure she understands that the world is the world and people are people and everyone is different, so the things you see and hear are other people’s opinions and views, but what you get at home you can take to the bank.
BOLV: When you were a child, you were traveling with your mom, who was an Ikette with Ike and Tina Turner, and a backup singer for Chaka Kahn, among other gigs. How did being around such great musicians at a young age help shape you as an artist?
CF: That was everything to me. I look back and think that, as a child, I really didn’t realize the (impact of the) people who had such an influence on me as an artist today, just by sitting in the other room, listening to them sing or rehearse with my mom. I was exposed to Rick James to Johnny Otis to Chaka Kahn and Smokey Robinson, so may great artists, but not knowing as a child that “these are the greats, the soul of music.”
BOLV: Your life story is so fascinating. If Hollywood came calling, would you ever consider doing your own reality show?
CF: You know, I said no to it a lot of times, but we actually have a show in production right now. I think it will provide a lot of opportunity for my daughter, so she can get her feet wet in the business as well, because she sings and acts and dances. We were approached by a really good production team, and I think (a reality show) would be a positive insight into what we’re trying to do in my life and my daughter’s life right now.
BOLV: So Mariana has inherited the performing bug as well?
CF: She loves it, she absolutely loves it. She comes from a very musical background. Her father, my ex-husband, is in the boy band, All-4-One, so as a small, small child, in the belly really, she was exposed to music. She was also on a show called “Hip Hop Harry” on PBS Kids, and is going to start recording (an album) this summer.
BOLV: You were a backup singer for Wayne Brady, who is also known for his comedy. Recently you also tried your hand at improv comedy. Do you have a future as a comic lined up, too?
CF: Yes, I love it! Wayne used to pull me up on stage with him to improv, and he was one of the first people to tell me I really needed to try this, because I was good at it. He believed in me more than I believed in myself when it came to comedy. I mean, standing next to the best… what can I really say? He is amazing. It’s just like a whirlwind of experience, being onstage with him. Everything that I’ve learned, I’ve been able to incorporate into (“Peepshow”,) which is a blessing. Improv has become another love of mine thanks to Wayne and I’d like to venture a little bit more into that side of things.
BOLV: You’re a singer, a dancer, you do comedy, sports. Is there any field you haven’t tried yet that you would love to explore?
CF: You know what? There is. I really want to try opera. I know I can do it. It’s very disciplined, and that’s the reason I want to try it, to give my vocal chords that chance. I was thinking about going to Nashville, maybe the U.K., someplace that’s a different environment. I know Nashville is a really cool place to take opera (lessons.) I just want to try to do something farfetched that I’ve never done.
Published on BestOfLasVegas.com