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‘Elvis’ Actress Shonka Dukureh Found Dead In Her Apartment

Shonka Dukureh, who played Big Mama Thornton alongside Austin Butler in the Elvis biopic, has died, according to the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department. She was 44 years old.

According to a police press release, Dukureh was discovered dead in the bedroom of the Kothe Way residence she shared with her two young children. One of them saw she was not breathing and sprinted to a neighbour’s residence. 9:27 a.m., the neighbour dialled 911. No suspicion of foul play is expressed in the news release, but an official cause of death has not yet been determined by the Davidson County Medical Examiner’s Office, according to Nashville Metropolitan PD.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper said in a statement to Fox17, “My deepest condolences to the family of Shonka Dukureh. Shonka graduated from Fisk and called Nashville home for many years. Her powerful voice and artistry will live on through her music, and we honour her memory on this sad day.” Dukureh, a well-known gospel singer in the Nashville region, was just starting out as an actor.

Though she had a passion for the arts, her first love was teaching, according to WPLN, a local Nashville news site. “I taught second grade for a little while over at Buena Vista Elementary in Metro Schools, and then did a lot of work with inner city youth doing after-school programing, summer programming those programs that we need during the break so that kids can have a positive place to be,” Dukureh once shared.

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Dukureh told the newspaper in June that several of her classmates approached her after seeing her in Elvis. “They’re blown away, like, ‘Wow! Miss Shonka! Really?’ “she said, laughing. “I said, ‘I’m still Ms Shonka, you know!'” Dukureh played live with Doja Cat at Coachella this year, in addition to his role in the Baz Luhrmann-directed film. Doja and Dukureh collaborated on the Elvis soundtrack “Vegas.” “Somebody asked, ‘Are you nervous? It’s like 70,000 people out there,’ ” she told WPLN.

“I said, ‘I have come too far now to be nervous because it’s the showtime now! I can’t turn around!'” In an April interview with Shadow and Act, the singer talked about getting the chance to see her aspirations come true not just on the big screen, but also on stage. “It’s been amazing and I’m looking forward to doing it all over again,” Dukureh said. “It’s just been a dream. I didn’t even know it was a dream [of mine] until I really got there and experienced everything, but it has really been a chance of a lifetime, this life-altering experience.”

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