By: Laura Moreno
Lady Zen is one of the best singers you may never have heard of. With operatic training and a natural feel for jazz, country music and the fusion of all three, she has been called a “shockingly good” singer.
Incredible vocal talent like hers is not easy to come by. If you love k.d. lang, you’ll love Lady Zen. She sings with a raw power and strength that also dares to be vulnerable. By the age of 12 she was already a master showman and won competition after competition.
As often as she can, she makes a big splash performing in Mexico. Last year, she performed with Tony Bennett in Puerto Vallarta and she periodically plays the artists’ colony San Miguel de Allende in Mexico where she has lived since 2016.
Born Alzenira Quezada in Brazil, she has no idea how she ended up being adopted by American missionaries even though her parents were still both living. After being given a new name by her adopted family, she eventually went back to her own Brazilian name, from which she began calling herself simply Zen.
Growing up she was told absolutely nothing about her biological heritage. In fact, her mother was a South American Amazonian Indian, and her father was half black from Bahia on the northeastern seacoast, the birthplace of samba.
Unbelievably, her conservative missionary Christian parents actually kicked their adopted daughter out of the house when she came out as gay.
“I didn’t even have words for how I was feeling then,” Lady Zen said. “My parents tried to pray the gay demon out of me.”
Many difficulties followed on the long road to becoming Lady Zen, including a stint as a caterer and top chef. But the bottom line in retrospect was that in their ignorance her adopted family gave her an opportunity to go from victory to victory, and provided plenty of great material for the film about a multi-talented woman who found herself and is unafraid to share who she is with enraptured audiences.
Her life story is equally incredible and was recently turned into a feature-length motion picture called What’s In a Name? What makes a person worth loving? This is one of many fascinating questions posed by phenomenal singer Lady Zen in her introspective film about her extraordinary life. In a hypnotically beautiful speaking voice, she confides in us, the audience. Watching the film is like being in an irreverent confessional with her.
Lady Zen with a dress in the style she wore as an orphan in ‘What’s In a Name?’
Born in Brazil, she was given away by an abused teen mother, and was adopted by Arkansas missionaries. In retrospect, a major life’s trauma occurred when she was 11 or 12 when her born-again Christian father told her she looks like a dyke and to stop it. This particular form of child abuse is yet to be recognized by the far-too-new field of psychology. But through the power of her art, she manages to heal her life.
Directed by Jon Tracy, filmed in Guanajuato, Mexico, the film What’s In a Name? is streaming on
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