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Zoy Frangos on growing up Greek Indigenous and how it inspires his singing

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Singer and actor, Zoy Frangos, has performed at theatres across Australia and in front of acting royalty such as Hugh Jackman and Naomi Watts in New York. But despite his globetrotting ways, he’s never forgotten his roots.

Zoy grew up in the small Victorian city of Ballarat and is the son of a Greek migrant father and Indigenous Australian mother. His father migrated to Australia in 1952 from Mytikas in western Greece and ended up owning a fish shop in Ballarat, where he met Zoy’s mother who is also part Scottish.

Growing up with such a unique cultural background would be confusing for many people. But Zoy tells The Greek Herald exclusively that when he was younger, he actually didn’t even know much about his Indigenous heritage.

Zoy (centre) with his mum and dad at his cousin Bill’s wedding in the 80s. Photo supplied.

“I’d never really known much about my Indigenous heritage because growing up, my grandma had to sort of deny it and hide it. She wasn’t allowed to speak the language either. It was in that stolen generation era,” Zoy says.

“So I’d grown up in such a Greek family and at school, I was the Greek kid because I didn’t even appear Indigenous at all. I look Mediterranean. People would also always make fun of my family because we owned the “typical Greek” fish shop.”

Zoy says he didn’t let these stereotypes bother him.

In fact, he rose above them and worked hard at being a high achiever in athletics, competing internationally and winning 10 events on the Victorian Athletic League circuit. His heart was set on running at the Olympics for Australia but an injury forced him to take a new path of the musical kind.

“I was a really good sprinter and I started training really hard to make the Olympics. But then I injured my hip and all that training meant nothing because I lost one second in my running straight away. Once you lose that amount of time, it’s sort of game over,” Zoy says.

“At the same time, my friend had started singing lessons and I was like, ‘If you can sing, I can.’ So I jumped on SingStar and when I heard my voice in the playback I thought, ‘that sounds in tune.’ I went to see my friend’s singing teacher after that and she says, ‘yeah, you’re a tenor’.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

‘Greek and Indigenous cultures are founded on storytelling’:

After performing in some local theatre productions, Zoy moved to Melbourne to pursue a career in performance, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Music Theatre from the Victorian College of the Arts.

Zoy performed in New York in 2019 at the Australian American Awards in front of Hugh Jackman, Noami Watts and Simon Baker, to name a few.

Whilst studying, Zoy made his professional opera debut as Jimmy in Pecan Summer, the world’s first Indigenous opera composed by Indigenous Australian soprano singer, Deborah Cheetham. This is something Zoy says helped him embrace his Indigenous heritage more than ever.

“I started getting gigs and celebrating who I was and celebrating me. It allowed me to learn more about that Indigenous side of my culture and I’m really indebted to her for that,” Zoy explains.

From there, Zoy played Feuilly/Enjolras in Les Misérables and understudied Jean Valjean, he was Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, and performed alongside Tina Arena in Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, EVITA. More recently, he sang in Greek for Taxithi 2: The Immigrants and performed in the Arts Centre Melbourne’s Big Night In.

In all these performances, Zoy says he loves to get in touch with his Greek and Indigenous heritage, especially the idea that both cultures are founded on “storytelling, song and dance, community and family.”

“The thing I love about Greek culture is that you dance on tables and have a lot of passion. It’s not caring what other people think. It’s just about living in that moment and giving your all without being like, ‘look at me, look at me’,” Zoy says with a laugh.

“That’s what I’ve always strived for in theatre and when I feel like I’ve lost my way is when I’ve gone away from that kind of idea.”

Time to rethink and find comfort in cooking:

Speaking of losing one’s way, many would think Zoy would be in that exact predicament right now, especially as theatres around the world closed down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Luckily, that’s not the case. Although Zoy and his Italian wife, Elisa, did have to put their dream of performing on the West End in London on hold, they’ve decided to launch food blog, ‘An Italian and a Greek,’ instead.

“Performing is one of the biggest sources of joy we have but… we looked at what else we can create together. We love cooking so we decided to launch ‘An Italian and a Greek’ and share Greek and Italian cuisine with people. It’s been really good and quite motivating,” Zoy says.

Motivating enough to give Zoy a chance to finally sit back and get his creative juices going again. Something he says he hasn’t always been able to do before due to his usual hectic theatre schedule.

“I think when you’re in something like music theatre, it can be all-encompassing and… then when it’s all sort of taken away, you have that time to reflect and go, ‘What do I really want to do? What impact do I want to have? and What’s my legacy going to be’?”

“So I’ve just been re-calibrating and this food blog has given me something else to focus on. I’ve now got this new sort of drive and passion.”

A passion we can’t wait to see on stage when Zoy is able to perform once again.

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