This month, we caught up with singer, actor, dancer, wife, and mother (that makes her a quadruple threat, right?) Desirée Roots. A bright light on regional stages and beyond, she got her start in professional theatre at thirteen and is going strong thirty-five years later.
Born and raised in Richmond’s Church Hill, Desirée’s musical versatility keeps her busy performing concerts, festivals, cabaret, and in musical theatre, most notably as the lead in Virginia Rep’s Dreamgirls in the summer of 2016. She is also an invited local standout in SPARC’s annual Live Art show.
Ask Desirée about her favorite musical genres, and she’ll answer, “classical, gospel, and definitely, jazz.” Odds are good, however, that she’ll shift the conversation quickly to the true favorites in her life: her husband of fifteen years, Axel Centeio, and her three children.
“My husband is, as I like to call him, a driver of the stars!” says Desirée. “He drives those huge star coach tour buses for a living. He’s toured with everyone… Janet Jackson, Miranda Lambert, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Sarah McLachlan, Justin Bieber, and Dancing With The Stars On Tour – just to name a few.”
Combining all her passions, Desirée graduated from Virginia Union in 1990 after studying education and performing arts. She worked in the corporate world while performing on the side for twelve years, then transitioned to the nonprofit sector before leaving that post for a gig with a national touring company.
“After that, I came back to the nonprofit world in Richmond because it afforded me time off to perform,” says Desirée. “For the past seventeen years, I’ve been fortunate to perform whenever and however much I can while raising a family full-time. My babies have grown
up in the wings of the stage!”
Ultimately, family is what matters most to Desirée, who says she was inspired by her father, also a performer. She sang in church with him at the age of four. Her children, ages twelve, fourteen, and thirty-four, are all arts lovers, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“All of my kids are musically inclined and have beautiful voices, however they don’t want to do what Mommy does,” says Desirée. “My daughter is a dancer and closet comedian – she’s really hilarious! My 14-year-old is a violinist and guitarist, and my oldest son plays drums and has his own DJ-ing business. All are in the arts in some form or fashion!”
With more than three decades as a professional performer and a thriving parent, we wanted to know if Desirée had any advice for young people regarding a career in the performing arts. “I would advise any young and blossoming star to keep trying and never accept ‘no’ for an answer or let that word defeat you. If one part isn’t for you, it’s because there’s an even better part around the corner,” says Desirée. “College will enhance your skills and build upon your craft. If you have the opportunity to pursue higher education and sharpen your craft, go for it!”
Learn more about one of the area’s most admired and talented performers in our Q&A on the facing page. And look for Desirée in the Legends on Grace performance series at Dominion Energy Center, presented by the Richmond Performing Arts Alliance.
Mountains or beach?
Dogs or cats?
Well, considering the fact that my family has three cats and two dogs, I may have to say cats. But, for the record, growing up in the Roots family, we always had a cat and a dog in the house.
What book is on your nightstand right now?
Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance
What is the last series you binge-watched?
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
What’s the last play or concert you attended in Richmond?
I never get to go to any plays/concerts because I’m always doing a concert!
Favorite Richmond restaurant for the family?
My house – because my husband is an amazing cook! We keep saying he needs to come off the road driving and cook for a living. A close second is Tarrant’s on Broad Street.
Favorite family outing in Richmond?
Visiting any area park that has water!
What is your favorite vacation spot?
There are two, really, and on opposite sides of the spectrum: Boston and Tampa.
What is your favorite way to spend a rainy Sunday?
Listening to jazz in my Florida room.
What is your energy source?
COFFEE and MUSIC!
Readers will be surprised to know…
I’m an introvert and huge homebody. My home is my utopia!