Performing in front of a large audience has always come naturally to newcomer Zulay Henao. Whether it was taking a ballet class as a child or modeling as a teenager, the spotlight is a place Henao has always felt comfortable.
In “Feel the Noise,” only the second feature film of her career and Jennifer Lopez’s third as a producer, Henao is cast as Carol “C.C.” Reyes, a Puerto Rican dancer known for her sexy moves in local clubs. As the love interest of Rob (Omarion Grandberry), an aspiring rapper from Harlem, C.C. decides to take the first step in introducing him to the world of reggaetón.
Although Henao is not originally from Puerto Rico, the country where most music historians would say reggaetón originated, she was raised in New York City after moving with her parents from their home in Colombia at the age of 4.
“I am very into the whole reggaetón movement,” Henao said during a phone interview last week. “I think it was one of the things that drew me to the script. I knew the music and it was really something I wanted to try and do.”
Because the film was only auditioning cast members in Los Angeles, Henao, who attended the School for Film and Television in New York, had to go about the process in a slightly different way: she had to mail in her dance audition.
“I ended up putting up myself on tape,” said Henao, adding that she is not a trained dancer, but loves to get on the dance floor whenever possible. “I had to film myself dancing, which was not fun. It’s just weird putting yourself on tape dancing and sending it across the country and having people critique it, but it worked out.”
So far, Henao says, the best part of starring in a new movie is the support she is getting from friends and family. Even when she sees herself on “Feel the Noise” movie posters, which are plastered around New York, she gets the most satisfaction from the excitement of those closest to her.
“When I’m on the street and I see the posters all over the place I think, ‘Wow! That’s me!’” Henao said. “It’s a good feeling, especially when your family sees it and they call you and they’re really excited for you. It’s kind of like a reminder of all the hard work you did.”
Now, with her second film wrapped up, Henao hopes to continue to evolve as an actress and learn from those in the industry – like J. Lo – who have any advice that will help her move forward to bigger and better things.
“I want longevity,” Henao said. “I want to do this for a very long time. Making smart choices now is the way to do that. A lot of things have happened in a short period of time and I hope that God continues to open these doors for me.”