Nikita Pearl played Gloria in the film - also staring Lupita Nyong'o.
Star of Disney’s Queen of Katwe Nikita Pearl Waligwa has died aged 15 after being diagnosed with a brain tumour. Nikita Pearl played Gloria in the film - also starring Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o - about a chess prodigy from a Ugandan slum. Doctors first discovered a tumour in 2016 and, after radiotherapy, she was told she was cancer-free a year later.
Shortly after the youngster’s initial diagnosis, her mother Rachel Asiimwe Waligwa was diagnosed with cancer and given just two months to live. But she survived against the odds and dubbed her recovery a ‘miracle’.
Her family told of their heartbreak when Nikita Pearl later developed another tumour. She died at hospital in Naalya, Kampala, last night, Ugandan media reports.
After her initial diagnosis, the film’s director Mira Nair asked the public to help cover the cost of her treatment in India, The Mirror reports. Gayaza High School, where Nikita Pearl was a student prior to her death, shared a tribute to Twitter.
They wrote: ‘Fare thee well Nikita Pearl Waligwa. ‘You were a darling to many and we have lost you to brain tumour at such a tender age. Nikita was in S.3. Rest in Perfect Peace dear.’
Fans also took to social media to share tributes to the star. Matics wrote: ‘Oh my, oh my. May God grant her eternal peace. She was my best actress in the movie.’ Mukiga added: ‘Rest in peace Pearl Waligwa. You’re in a better place. You will be remembered for the great work you did in Queen of Katwe.’
ikita, known as Gloria in her role in Queen of Katwe.‘My favourite part of the movie was when she shouted in the tournament playing hall, “He took my Queen” May her soul find rest.’ DJ Denzel UG wrote: ‘Without a doubt, news on the passing of someone is sad. ‘It is especially sad when that someone is a 15yr old with so much potential. Rest in Peace Nikita Pearl Waligwa aka Gloria.’
In the 2016 biographical film, Phiona Mutesi is introduced to chess through charity worker Robert Katende, played by British actor David Oyelowo, who encourages Katwe uneducated children to play the strategy game - likening it to their inherent survival instincts learned in the slums.As Phiona starts to beat all her challengers, Katende takes her and the Katwe children to compete in tournaments with players from wealthier backgrounds and education.
The young girl often doubts her abilities, but her coach keeps guiding her to believe in herself. Oscar-winner Nyong’o plays Phiona’s fiercely protective and indefatigable mother, Harriet.