The rise of 11-year-old Milanis Clark is the sort of stuff modern fairy tales are made of. It isn’t a fairy tale, however. It’s a rare confluence, instead, of youth, energy, superb adult guidance, and prodigious skill, but it’s potential is still unrealized as well. It’s arguably the most thrilling part of Clark’s presentation. As great as she is already, she hasn’t even scratched the surface of her full talents.

Our first prolonged exposure to her gifts came with Clark assuming the role of Young Alline, Young Anna Mae’s older sister, in the Broadway production of Tina – The Tina Turner Musical. The unexpected hit has charted legendary singer Turner’s life from her hardscrabble childhood, the tumultuous yet successful early years of her career, and her later remarkable comeback. Clark’s role in bringing the joys and challenges of the aforementioned childhood to life made her an invaluable asset to each performance.

It wasn’t her first taste of performing, however. Singing came before anything else and her appearances in school talent shows and local restaurants became a staple of her life by her fourth birthday. She began acting six years ago in School House Rocks and the popular Michael Jackson vs. Prince collections. Her mother Yeimis, a longtime professional dancer touring with the iconic Lisa Lisa from 1980s legends Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, and has wisely kept her daughter’s talents with a camp who cares for her development as a professional and a person. Clark’s stepmother Toni Menage, Lisa Lisa’s musical director and personal manager, has demonstrated tremendous care plotting a path forward for young Milanis.

Other recent appearances have complimented her Broadway run. Milanis appeared in the Disney+ movie Better Nate than Ever directed by Tim Federle and starring Lisa Kudrow, Joshua Bassett, and Rueby Wood, among others. She continues developing her vocal and dance talents, the latter another natural outgrowth given her mother’s co-leadership of the non-profit Designed 2 Dance Inc. and has even launched her own Youtube channel called Mila Tales.

It has carried Clark to this moment in her young life when the opportunities get bigger. Ella: An American Miracle, written by Anna Deavere Smith and exploring the full range of Firzgerald’s catalog, stars Tony award-winning performer Dee Dee Bridgewater and Charity Angel Dawsome playing the role at key points in Fitzgerald’s r life.

It isn’t a regurgitation, however, of the aforementioned work about Turner – audience goers are remarking about the unique qualities of the production, and observers across the board singling out Clark’s small but meaningful contribution to the piece. It isn’t a stepping stone. She’s already “made it”. Instead, consider an appearance such as this another mile marker posted in fresh earth as Milanis Clark continues blazing a trail into an incandescent future. No one can or will deny her. She’s far too talented and smart to not revel in the future waiting ahead and it will be joyful watching her get there. 

Garth Thomas