Elvis actress Shonka Dukureh dies aged 44: 'Very sad'

Rising star Shonka Dukureh, who recently made her film debut in Baz Luhrmann’s biopic Elvis, has been found dead in her apartment, aged 44, police have confirmed.

Metro Nashville PD confirmed the death of the gospel singer to People, revealing she was found dead in the bedroom of her apartment that she shared with her two children.

Elvis actress Shonka Dukureh
Rising star Shonka Dukureh has died at just 44, only weeks after she made her debut film appearance in Elvis. Photo: Warner Bros

The publication reports that one of the young children found her unresponsive and ran to a neighbour's apartment, with the neighbour calling emergency services at 9:27am.


Metro Nashville PD told the publication there is no foul play suspected, however, the authorities are waiting for autopsy results for an official cause of death.

"My deepest condolences to the family of Shonka Dukureh. Shonka graduated from Fisk and called Nashville home for many years," Nashville Mayor John Cooper shared in a statement via Fox17. "Her powerful voice and artistry will live on through her music, and we honour her memory on this sad day."

Baz Luhrmann and Shonka Dukureh
Baz Luhrmann has previously described Shonka as 'so full of joy'. Photo: Instagram/Shonka Dukureh

Shonka starred in the Elvis biopic as Big Mama Thornton, with her vocals appearing on Doja Cat's 'Vegas', which has gone viral on TikTok.

She joined Doja Cat onstage at Coachella and appeared in the music video for the song.

Baz Luhrmann previously shared a photo of Shonka as Big Mama, writing, "Here is the wonderful Shonka Dukureh, who answered a call to do vocals when I was recording with maestro Dave Cobb in Nashville. Her performance was so great she seemed the perfect person to play the all-important role of Willie Mae 'Big Mama' Thornton in Elvis."

In a chat with Buzzfeed, Baz described her as "so full of joy", with Austin Butler adding, "She's so soft spoken and then you watch her perform and this fierce animal comes out, it's just unbelievable".

In an interview with Shadow and Act in April, Shonka opened up about getting the opportunity of a life time, saying it's been a dream to perform onstage and on the big screen.

"It's been amazing and I'm looking forward to doing it all over again," she 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."

Taking to Twitter, one user wrote, "She was so excited about being in the movie as we’re her children. Thoughts with the family."

"So sad," another said. "Just when her career was about to blow up."

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