Gospel singer Shonka Dukureh, who made her acting debut in the Elvis biopic as Big Mama Thornton alongside Austin Butler, has died.
Dukureh was found dead in the bedroom of her Nashville apartment that she shared with her two young children, a news release from police stated.
One of the children found that Dukureh was unresponsive and ran to a neighbor’s apartment. The neighbor called 911 at 9:27 a.m.
She died at 44 years of age, one month after her big screen debut.
RIP to singer and actress Shonka Dukureh, who portrayed Big Mama Thornton in "Elvis," and recently performed “Vegas” with Doja Cat. pic.twitter.com/0ySIvwiZLw
— Female Rap Room (@FemaleRapRoom) July 21, 2022
Rest in Peace Shonka Dukureh. Your cover of “Hound Dog” and portrayal of Big Mama Thorton was beautiful. 🕊💕 pic.twitter.com/wOunwjBVZ0
— isaac (@goftue) July 21, 2022
in tribute of Shonka Dukureh who sang Hound Dog so perfectly, you’ll never be forgotten🕊🤍 pic.twitter.com/SEkbKWowk8
— cla saw Elvis x9 (@shannarabutler) July 21, 2022
No foul play is suspected, according to the news release, though authorities are awaiting autopsy results from the Davidson County Medical Examiner’s Office for an official cause of death, Nashville Metropolitan PD tells PEOPLE.
“My deepest condolences to the family of Shonka Dukureh. Shonka graduated from Fisk and called Nashville home for many years,” Nashville Mayor John Cooper said in a statement via Fox17. “Her powerful voice and artistry will live on through her music, and we honor her memory on this sad day.”
A celebrated gospel singer in the Nashville area, Dukureh’s career as an actress was just beginning. Though she had a passion for the arts, her first love was being a teacher, local Nashville news outlet WPLN reports.
“I taught second grade for a little while over at Buena Vista Elementary in Metro Schools, and then did a lot of work with inner city youth doing after-school programing, summer programing — those programs that we need during the break so that kids can have a positive place to be,” Dukureh said.
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
My deepest condolences to the family of Shonka Dukureh. Shonka graduated from @Fisk1866 and called Nashville home for many years. Her powerful voice and artistry will live on through her music, and we honor her memory on this sad day. https://t.co/0rjZ0lLWCg
— Mayor John Cooper (@JohnCooper4Nash) July 21, 2022
Dukureh’s passing comes shortly after tragic reports of the death of 28-year-old stand-up comedian, writer and actor Jak Knight.