Shonka Dukureh, an actress and singer who recently portrayed Big Mama Thorton in the Elvis biopic, has died, according to authorities in Nashville. She was 44.
The Metro Nashville Police Department confirmed that Dukureh was found dead in her apartment on Thursday (July 21). One of her two children found her unresponsive in her bedroom and went to a neighbor for help, according to HuffPost.
Dukureh, who's a Fisk University graduate and Nashville native, was a popular figure in the area thanks to her powerful gospel singing. She was also a second-grade teacher before landing her first major film role as iconic blues singer Big Mama Thornton in this year's Elvis movie.
“I was very aware and wanting to really be intentional about making sure I was paying respect, respecting her, respecting her legacy, respecting her spirit, respecting everything about what she brought to music and understanding that I’m able to do it because she’s done it and laid that foundation,” she told The Tennessean.
Police don't suspect foul play, and the cause of her death hasn't been revealed yet.
People flooded Dukureh's most recent Instagram post, hoping she rests in peace and sending condolences to her loved ones.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper even spoke about Dukureh's influence in the Music City.
"My deepest condolences to the family of Shonka Dukureh,” he said in a statement, per FOX 17. “Shonka graduated from Fisk 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.”