7 Things You May Not Know About ESSENCE Cover Star Audra McDonald
Dennis Leupold

We all know that Audra McDonald is a queen. 

Our April cover star, who is also currently slaying in the Broadway revival of Shuffle Along, walked us through her tumultuous life. From her creative childhood to her battle with depression to becoming an internationally acclaimed actress, here are seven things you might not know about Queen Audra.

1. Growing up, she was a self-proclaimed “drama queen”
McDonald is not ashamed to admit that she would cry at the drop of a hat. “If it was raining, I’d freak out and think it was a monsoon,” she said. “I was a very dramatic child.” However, her parents were able to channel that energy into an art. And what’s more fitting for a dramatic child than the theater? We’d have to say it worked out!

2. She attended Julliard, but it wasn’t for her
Her love for the stage led McDonald to apply to Julliard. However, after getting there, she quickly realized that it wasn’t a good fit for her. She said that the musical program in which she was admitted placed an emphasis on opera; however, her passion lied with Broadway. “Viola [Davis] was there when I was there, down on the third floor studying acting, and we became friends,” she said. “Yet here I was upstairs on the fifth floor in this program studying opera. I was no good at it, and I didn’t want to do it.” 

Six-Time Tony Award Winner Audra McDonald Graces First ESSENCE Cover!

3. She tried to commit suicide
McDonald’s displeasure at Julliard ended up turning into a deep depression. Two years after arriving at the performing arts school, she attempted suicide. McDonald credits the Black student affairs director for eventually getting her the psychiatric help that she needed. After recovering, she took a year off from school and joined a touring company before returning to Julliard to get her degree.

4. She won her first Tony only a year out of college
After receiving her degree in 1993, she snagged her very first Tony award for her role in Carousel the following year. No days off! 

5. Her latest Broadway project is history-making
Shuffle Along is based on the hit 1921 musical of the same name, which starred Josephine Baker and Paul Robeson. The original musical made history as one of the first African-American musicals ever staged, and nearly a century later, history is about to made again—it will be the first Broadway musical written, directed, produced by and starring only African-Americans. Yasss! 

VIDEO: Audra McDonald Talks Billie Holiday and HBO Special on Lady Day

6. She’s not jaded by her six (!!) Tony awards
Queen Audra has done what no actress has ever done before—she has won an astonishing six Tony awards. But, she says, that’s not excuse to slow down. “I thought I would suddenly feel different—that I would finally figure out how to organize my underwear drawer,” she said. “I’m grateful and blown away by it all, but I’m still me. I still have work to do.”

7. She lives for her 15-year-old daughter
McDonald prides her daughter on being racially aware and active in the Black Lives Matter movement, and she’s glad that she has raised a socially conscious child. But more so, she hopes to leave behind a legacy for her daughter. “If I can make my daughter proud,” she said, “I will have done okay.” We love it! 

For more on Audra McDonald, pick up a copy of our April issue, on newsstands now!

Loading the player...