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Afro-Tuned: Interview with Lion King's 11 Year Old Shannon Tavarez
Featuring personalities from around the world who are fusing
African music + art with Pop-Culture
by Muhammida El Muhajir
Until very recently, the beautiful and talented 11-year old Shannon Taverez played ‘Young Nala’ in Disney’s The Lion King on Broadway. In April, Shannon was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, an aggressive form of blood cancer and her entertainment career has been on hold.
Shannon, who is of Dominican and African-American heritage, desperately needs to find a bone marrow donor to stay alive and continue her career on Broadway and dream of one day traveling to Africa! Only 15% of registered donors worldwide are African-American or Latino, which makes finding a match extremely difficult. You could be the match to save Shannon or someone’s life! Becoming a registered bone marrow donor only requires a mouth swab, which takes a few minutes. There are no needles or blood samples.
Join friends, family and cast members of The Lion King at one of the upcoming bone marrow donor drives.
Sunday, July 18th 2010
10:00 AM-4:00 PM
St. Malachy’s – The Actor’s Chapel
Encore Senior Center (downstairs)
239 West 49th Street, New York, NY
Friday, July 23rd 2010
10:00 AM-3:00 PM
Minskoff Theatre (home of Disney’s The Lion King)
200 West 45th Street, New York, NY
Shannon is receiving chemotherapy to delay the growth of the cancer but her only chance of survival is finding a bone marrow donor.
I caught up with Shannon in the hospital to talk about her role as Young Nala and what she has learned about Africa + music from the experience.
Muhammida: So before you were cast as Nala in The Lion King, how much did you know about Africa?
Shannon: Before the production, I didn’t know much about Africa. But since then I have learned a lot. The Lion King supposedly takes place in South Africa and I learned that there are three main languages spoken there; Xhosa, Zulu and one other that I can’t remember now. There are also 3 different tongue clicks in the dialect that I had to learn. In one of my songs, The Lioness Chant, I have to do some of the clicks. (she demonstrates)
Muhammida: Do you think that after people see the show they are inspired to learn more about Africa?
Shannon: Yes for sure. Africa has such wonderful culture. Many of the cast members are from Africa. The actress, who plays Rafiki, is from South Africa and she always tells me stories about her life growing up there. I definitely would like to visit = one day!
Muhammida: You recently met one of your idols, Alicia Keys. She does a lot of work in Africa. Did she talk about that with you?
Shannon: No. We mostly talked about music and sang for each other.
Muhammida: What song did you sing?
Shannon: I sang my favorite Alicia Keys song, “Superwoman”.
Muhammida: What do you love most about being in The Lion King?
Shannon: I really love my costume and getting made up. I wear a beaded corset that is hand painted and very tight. Wearing it makes me feel really tall and graceful. With my makeup and costume, I feel like a real lion!
Muhammida El Muhajir is a global brand marketing and media consultant and filmmaker who has traveled, worked and studied abroad extensively throughout Europe, Asia, Latin America, The Caribbean, and Africa (Ghana, Senegal, Kenya, South Africa). She pursued graduate studies in International Relations at The University of Ghana and directed the highly anticipated documentary, Hip Hop: The New World. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY
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