Ugandan teen star, Pearl Waligwa, who graced Disney world channels as a chess whiz in the 2016 Disney film Queen of Katwe, has died, according to multiple outlets. She was 15.
Waligwa had been diagnosed with a brain tumor prior to her death, according to Deadline. The BBC reported that she was first diagnosed with the tumor in 2016, when Queen of Katwe director Mira Nair reportedly helped raise funds for her treatment in India, as Ugandan doctors said they did not have the necessary equipment.
Waligwa recovered in 2017 after the treatment, according to BBC, but another tumor was found last year.
The teen star has exchanged scripts alongside Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo in the film, which told the real-life story of Phiona Mutesi, a young girl living in the Ugandan slum of Katwe who became a chess champion.
Nyong’o played Mutesi’s mother, while Oyelowo played her chess coach, Robert Katende, who helped her become one of the nation’s top chess players.
Queen of Katwe, which was filmed entirely in Africa, highlights Mutesi’s training and determination to lift herself and her family out of the slums and create a better life through the opportunities chess provided.
In 2016, Katende told PEOPLE of the film: “It’s not only us, there are many other people who find themselves in different states or hopeless situations and I think this can be a movie that will cheer them up and show them that however much things seem to be not moving right, there can always be a way, you just have to hang in there and hold your hope.”
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