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Belizean actresses win Tony Awards

FeaturesBelizean actresses win Tony Awards

Photo: Belizean American, Kara Young (Courtesy Tricia Baron)

by Kristen Ku

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. June 27, 2024

Belizeans at home and abroad are celebrating the historic wins by two Belizean-American actresses, Kara Young and Maleah Joi Moon, of their first Antoinette Perry Awards, commonly recognized as the Tony Awards, in the United States.

The 77th Tony Award Show, which was held on Sunday, June 16, at the Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theatre in New York City, recognizes excellence in live Broadway theatre. Young, a celebrated Broadway actress, won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her powerful portrayal of Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins in the revival of Ossie Davis’ Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch.

This role also earned her the 2024 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Featured Performer in a Broadway Play. Young’s win is historic, as it marks the first time a black woman has been nominated for Best Featured Actress in a Play for three consecutive years.

Born to Belizean parents, Vanessa Jenkins and Klay Young, Sr., in Harlem, New York, Young attended Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, the City College in New York, and the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts.

Following her win, Young commented in a lengthy Instagram post, “This award is the makeup of many, the hard work & love of many. This is For Harlem. For Belize. For COMMUNITY, the ANCESTORS, my tribe, the village that raised me and has supported my dreams. It’s the cosmic brew of many spirits. Both past and present. Every teacher. I am honored I get to honor black women on stage.”

On the same night, Maleah Joi Moon won the Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical for her debut role as Ali in the new musical Hell’s Kitchen, inspired by the life of fifteen-time Grammy winner Alicia Keys.

At just 21 years old, Moon captivated audiences with her performance. She credited much of her success to her Belizean mother, Fabia Jefferies, who moved to the US at the age of 17, and to her father’s unwavering support.

In an emotional post-victory interview, Moon described the surreal nature of her win. “It feels like a dream come true. It feels like I’m still dreaming. It feels like a prank. It feels fake. It real. It feels awesome. It feels unnerving. It’s all the things at once,” she shared. Moon also spoke about the importance of encouraging younger generations to follow their dreams, stating, “Hell’s Kitchen is about following your dreams and remembering where dreams begin. It means a lot to me that kids that look like me can look up on stage and see themselves reflected in art and know that they can make this happen too.”

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