Audra McDonald, My Motivation

I would love to say that classic plays like A Raisin in the Sun led me to pursue a degree in theatre. In all actuality it was the Brandi version of Cinderella and the 1999 version of Annie featuring Audra McDonald as Grace that sealed the deal. For years, I thought theatre was intriguing. I even dabbled in it as a child. However, there were a couple thoughts that never left my mind. Would there ever be roles for me to play? Would there ever be roles for women that looked like me?

It’s no secret that golden age musicals were created for white audiences and typically had all white casts. So the thought of me standing a chance just blew my mind. Enter Brandi & Audra McDonald. Brandi made me realize (pre-Princess and the Frog) that I could be a Disney princess. Audra McDonald made me realize that unless written otherwise, any female role was fair game.

There were plenty of men in theatre but women like Audra McDonald gave me hope. My very first sheet music book had a fabulous photo of Audra with natural huge curly hair on the cover. I believed I could make it one day because I had watched Audra succeed. I watched her break records. I watched her snag Tony after Tony. I even watched her venture over to TV and have success in that arena too. She gave me the courage to defy odds, tell stories in a non-traditional way and be excellent in my craft.

I drove to Virginia Tech of all places to see Audra McDonald perform live earlier this year. I had been trying to catch her in NYC for years and I finally an opportunity I see her perform live. She gracefully walked the line between poise and goofiness, ordinary and regal and sang like no one I’d ever heard in my entire life. Audra proved it could be done and that kept me going since the moment I watched her in Annie on ABC. Just because someone hasn’t walked your exact path in the past, does not mean you won’t have a future.

It’s so important for women to find other women who creatively stimulate you, women who challenge you and inspire you to pursue a life of excellence in your craft. I have Audra. Look around, who motivates you?

LaShonda is a local film producer & entrepreneur. Each week she seeks to motivate women by sharing a story and photo shoot of a local woman for #MotivationMonday. Her slogan is “There’s Something Inside You That Motivates Us All” Feel free to join her in mini-blogging on the hashtag #gomotivatemonday or visit her blog at