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Meet 17 Year Old Ugandan Actress Who Has Made It To Forbes

The Forbes recently published a list of 30 under 30 celebrities turning fame into a force for change.

Madina Nalwanga, 17 year old Ugandan made it to the list of these stars set to who a great future in 2018. But who is she?

Born in Kampala, Uganda, Nalwanga was discovered by a casting director in a community dance class before landing her lead role in Disney’s “Queen of Katwe.

Nalwanga received numerous accolades for her acting debut, including an NAACP Image Award, a Women Film Critics Circle Award and Critics Choice Award nominations.

Nalwanga’s past is relatively unknown, as the young actress had never acted before her role as Phiona Mutesi in Disney’s Queen of Katwe.

Madina Nalwanga acted in Queen of Katwe film

Her only connection to the arts before the film was that she was a dancer in Uganda. When casting the character of Phiona, the film’s director Mira Nair claimed that finding an actress to play the role was difficult, and they auditioned nearly 700 girls. However, the film’s casting director found the then 15-year-old Ugandan dancer Madina in a community dance class, and took her to meet the director.

The character of Phiona is an impoverished young girl who lives in the Ugandan slums. It is not until she encounters coach Katende (David Oyelowo) that she discovers her natural talent for chess. In interviews with Queen of Katwe‘s Lupita Nyong’o, the actress said that Madina had a similar life to Phiona in many ways.

Madina too, grew up in a slum, and also sold corn when she was younger. When Lupita asked Madina to take her and the cast to the market, Madina taught them how to buy ingredients for a typical Ugandan meal and how to cook it. That experience was what Lupita said had started a natural familial dynamic with the entire cast.

She has six siblings and lived in a dormitory in Kibuli near Kampala.

At the age of four Madina followed her neighbour to dance school and from then started watching dancers from the veranda.

The dance school agreed to pay for her school fees as long as she participated and she eventually lived in the school away from her mother.

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