In very sad news today, Shannon Tavarez, an 11-year-old girl who played young Nala in “The Lion King” on Broadway has died after a battle with leukemia.
Shannon Tavarez died of leukemia Monday at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, on New York’s Long Island.
A native of Queens, Tavarez landed the role of young Nala in the hit musical “The Lion King.” She won the part of Young Nala in her first open audition.
That is a true fairy tale for any aspiring Broadway star.
Shannon’s sickness drew the attention of many stars including Alicia Keys, Rihanna and 50 Cent, who campaigned to help the young star find a bone marrow donor. Her Lion King cast members even held donor registration drives.
Sadly, a perfect match wasn’t found.
Tavarez was forced to quit the show in April, and received an umbilical-cord blood transplant in August.
Apparently, Shannon Tavarez’s ethnicity played an role in her lack of treatment. Shannon was bi-racial, of African-American and Hispanic descent. And, apparently, both groups are hugely underrepresented in the donor pool.
According to the National Marrow Donor Program, only 7 percent or 600,000 of the 8 million registered bone marrow donors are African-American. Added to that is the complexity of African-Americans diverse tissue type. That means that only 17 percent of African-Americans in need of a transplant will actually receive one.
Still, that didn’t stop 385 New Yorkers from attending a bone marrow drive promoted by Rihanna and Alicia Keys. So there’s some good news to all of this.