Notes on Erivo

Tony Award-winning actress, Cynthia Erivo started her acting career on television. She starred in the British productions, ‘The Tunnel’ and ‘Chewing Gum’. But it is on stage that Erivo has made a mark as a performer of note. Her first main stage role was in ‘Marine Parade’ at the Brighton Festival. She then went on to play Deloris Van Cartier/Sister Mary Clarence in Sister Act.

In 2013, Erivo played Celie Harris in ‘The Colour Purple’ at London’s Menier Chocolate Factory n 2015, she reprised the role in her Broadway debut, starring alongside Oscar-winning actress, Jennifer Hudson.

Erivo was born to Nigerian immigrant parents in Stockwell, South London, on 8 January 1987. After her parents divorced, she and her younger sister, Stephanie, were raised in social housing by their mother, a health visitor.

Read: British-Nigerian actor, John Boyega nominated for Bafta Rising Star Award

Erivo enrolled at the University of East London to study music psychology but dropped out after a year to train at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, a decision she does not regret. It wasn’t long after graduation before the jobs started coming in.

Erivo (L), with a fan. Photo: Sarah Ellacott/ Flickr
Erivo (L), with a fan. Photo: Sarah Ellacott/ Flickr

Erivo wins a Tony

She credits her strong Catholic upbringing and her mother for her work ethic.

“Watching mum work hard made me do the same,” she says, quoted in the Daily Mail. “I’ve watched her since I was little and I’ve picked up on how hard she works, and the fire she has in her belly.”

Erivo’s hard work has paid off. She was nominated for a Drama League Award, and has won an Outer Critics Circle Award, a Drama Desk Award and the biggest of them so far, a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance in the Broadway revival of ‘The Colour Purple’.

Read: Tony Awards- it won’t matter if Danai Gurira wins or not

The 2016 Tony Awards was historic in that for the first time ever, black performers took home all four musical acting awards. Erivo, who is outspoken about the lack of opportunities for black actors in England and America, has expressed hope that the Tony wins would mark a turn towards recognition of talent regardless of colour or background.

We hope so too. Meanwhile, listen to the power and range of her voice in the video below.

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