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This lioness inherited her singing power

As Nala, Holloway wants to be fearless
Nia Holloway, photo by Joan Marcus

Nia Holloway comes by her big singing voice naturally as the granddaughter of Loletta Holloway, whose disco chart toppers included "Hit and Run" and "Love Sensation," and the great-granddaughter of Sylvia Shemwell, who was one of the original members of the Sweet Inspirations.

“My grandmothers were a huge inspiration to me. Both contributed to the drive and fire I have for entertaining,” said Holloway, who is starring as Nala in the current tour of The Lion King. “They both truly showed me the right path to take.”

As adapted by award-winning director Julie Taymor, the Tony Award-winning musical may be nominally about a pride of lions and other creatures, but it’s much more about family ties and having the courage to take your place in the world, themes that Holloway finds very much mirrored in her own journey to her current role. “My family is my biggest inspiration because I do what I do for them. They believed when nobody else did,” she said.

Holloway got her performing start by appearing on the reality show “Majors and Minors” (Hub Network). But the jitters of competing for a recording contract were nothing compared to going out for a major Broadway musical.

The Lion King was one of the hardest auditioning processes I have ever been through,” said the 18-year-old actress. “But when I got to my final audition, I told myself that if it’s for me, then it's for me. Therefore I let my worries go, I went in and did everything I could. I believe they could see my passion.”

While her family has supported her career decisions, they have also encouraged her to keep her options open.

“My parents always told me never put all your eggs in one basket,” she said. “Down the line I would like to pursue a career as a journalist or writer. I love expressing myself through art and I feel like writing is just another type of art.”

As she takes the stage around the country as a young lioness, she hopes her passion for the show and for singing will inspire other girls to push their boundaries. Her personal motto is “No Fear” and she counsels all young artists to be fearless in pursuing their dreams.

“I believe we share our talent because we have a desire for our story to be heard,” Holloway said. “It’s simple. Someone's story inspired me and I want to do the same for others.”


The Lion King opens tomorrow (March 12) at The Paramount in downtown Seattle and runs through April 6. For information on times and tickets, see the Seattle Theatre Group website.

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