Popular Culture

Broadway Actress Shannon Tavarez Getting Bone Marrow Transplant


The 11-year-old actress who played Young Nala in the Broadway production of The Lion King is getting a potentially lifesaving procedure just months after her leukemia diagnosis prompted a national call to action from celebs like Rihanna, 50 Cent, and Alicia Keys.

Shannon Tavarez was diagnosed with cancer last spring and quickly found that her mixed hertiage as an African-American and Dominican would make it increasingly difficult for her to find a donor to provide the bone marrow that she desperately needs to survive. Minorities are underrepresented in the national bone marrow registry. Tavarez’s heartfelt plea for donors attracted the attention of Broadway lovers and music stars alike. Cast members from Broadway’s The Lion King and Wicked held a bone marrow donor registration drive for Shannon last month. More than 700 people showed up for the drive. It seems their hard work in getting the word out about Shannon’s fight has paid off.

The young star will get an umbilical-cord blood transplant Tuesday. The blood-producing stem cells used in transplants can come from cord blood, bone marrow or blood.

Shannon beat out hundreds of other hopefuls last year to earn her spot playing Young Nala, the girlfriend of Simba. For six months, she performed four shows a week, rushing to the theater after school each day. The actress was forced to quit the show following her diagnosis in April.

Shannon’s mom, Odiney Brown, says she’s praying the surgery will send the actress’ cancer into remission.


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