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AP Breakthrough Entertainer: Joaquina Kalukango, in paradise

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Winning a Tony Award as best lead actress in a musical cemented Joaquina Kalukango's place in the Broadway firmament. But it also, surprisingly, cemented Kalukango´s belief that she could actually do musicals.

"It was truly a powerful moment, especially for me, because I had such a fear of doing musicals for a very long time. I was an actor at heart," she says. "I think it was a great moment in my trajectory of owning a new side of myself that I wasn´t that comfortable with sharing for a while."

Kalukango's show-stopping performance in "Paradise Square" and especially her heart-felt searing second act song "Let It Burn" routinely drew audiences to their feet, a triumph of the 2021-2022 season.

Kalukango's astonishing acting and vocal outpouring has made her one of AP´s Breakthrough Entertainers of the Year alongside Stephanie Hsu,Sadie Sink, Tenoch Huerta, Iman Vellani and more.

The Tony win capped an intensely creative period for Kalukango, who earned a 2020 Tony nomination as lead actress in a play for her work in the harrowing "Slave Play," a ground-breaking, bracing work that mixed race, sex, taboo desires and class.

On film, she played Betty X opposite Kingsley Ben-Adir in Regina King´s directorial debut, "One Night in Miami." She also had a recurring role on the HBO series "Lovecraft Country" and appeared in Ava DuVernay´s Netflix series "When They See Us."

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