Shonka Dukureh died on Thursday, July 21, 2022. She was a singer and actress who played Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton in the Baz Luhrmann movie “Elvis,” which came out recently.
She turned 44. Dukureh’s body was found in the apartment she shared with her two young children in Nashville. Police said there was no sign of a crime.
BREAKING: No foul play is evident in today's death of actress Shonka Dukureh, 44, who portrayed Big Mama Thornton in this year's Elvis movie. Dukureh, a Fisk Univ graduate, was found dead in the bedroom of her Kothe Way apt that she shared with her 2 young children.
— Metro Nashville PD (@MNPDNashville) July 21, 2022
Thornton, an R&B singer who was the first person to record the song “Hound Dog,” which Elvis Presley made famously, was Dukureh’s first major film role.
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She is on the soundtrack for the movie “Elvis,” and the song “Vegas” by Doja Cat, which is also on the soundtrack, has a music video with her in it. Also, Dukureh and Doja Cat played together at the Coachella music festival in April.
Dukureh talked about her first big role in “Elvis” in an interview she posted to Instagram last week. She wrote, “Gratefulness is where I live because my grandmother, great-grandmother, mother, and family showed me how to be grateful and taught it to me. It’s not a sign of weakness or begging for scraps.
Instead, it’s a recognition that good things don’t always happen and that when they do, being thankful is the least we can do.”
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