Nikita Pearl Waligwa, who starred as Gloria in Disney’s ‘Queen of Katwe’, sadly died at a hospital in Naalya, Kampala at the age of 15 after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. Here are five things you should know about her.
Nikita Pearl Waligwa, a young Ugandan actress who gained recognition for her impressive role as Gloria in Disney’s 2016 film Queen of Katwe, died at the age of 15 on Feb. 15 after being diagnosed with her second brain tumor in three years. The young talent passed away at a hospital in Naalya, Kampala, Ugandan media reported and shortly after her death, tributes on social media started pouring in, including one tweet from Gayaza High School, where she was a student at the time of her passing. “Fare thee well Nikita Pearl Waligwa. You were a darling to many and we have lost you to brain tumor at such a tender age. Nikita was in S.3. Rest in Perfect Peace dear,” the tweet read.
Here are five things you should know about Nikita and her short life.
1.) She gained international fame by starring in Queen of Katwe. The film was directed by Mira Nair and told the true story of Phiona Mutesi, a young girl who started playing chess at the age of nine despite not going to school and being from a Ugandan slum. She went on to become a chess prodigy after competing in many international competitions. Nikita played the role of Gloria, Phiona’s friend who explains the rules of chess to her. The film also starred Academy Award winning actress Lupita Nyong’o as Phiona’s mother and David Oyelowo as Phiona’s chess teacher.
2.) She was diagnosed with her first brain tumor in 2016. Shortly after the devastating diagnosis, Mira reportedly started a fundraiser and asked people to donate to help pay for Nikita’s treatment in India because Ugandan doctors didn’t have the necessary equipment to treat her. After reportedly undergoing radiotherapy, Nikita was given the all-clear by doctors in 2017, but another tumor was found at the beginning of 2019.
3.) Her mother reportedly also had cancer. Shortly after Nikita’s initial diagnoses, her mother, Rachel Asiimwe Waligwa was also reportedly diagnosed with cancer and given just two months to live. She beat the odds, however, and considered her ultimate survival a “miracle.”
4.) Her brain was reportedly swollen at the time she was diagnosed with the second tumor. “The brain was swollen and it is exerting a lot of pressure,” one of Nikita’s family members said about her second diagnosis, according to The Sun.
5.) Social media tributes after her death proved she made a positive impact despite her short life. “We have lost a big talent. It’s not easy being 15 and making an impact. I’ll always miss you!” one tweet about her read. “Nikita Pearl Waligwa was a brilliant talent. Rest in Peace Queen of Katwe,” another read.
We’re sending comfort and healing wishes to all those affected by Nikita’s tragic passing.