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BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Making it big in the US, the girl from south London who is up for two Oscars

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BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Making it big in the US, the girl from south London who is up for two Oscars (and she owes it all to mum)

She has described herself as ‘a little black girl from south London who wants a big career’.

Cynthia Erivo is well on the way to achieving her ambition, with Oscar nominations for Best Actress and Best Original Song, both for the film Harriet.

But the great shame is that her extraordinary talent was never properly rewarded in her home country, and was only fully recognised in America. 

Her snub in this year’s Bafta nominations was perhaps the clearest illustration.

Centre stage: Cynthia Erivo is pictured with Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron this year. Should she win an Oscar she would become the youngest of the rare ‘EGOT’ club – having Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards

Centre stage: Cynthia Erivo is pictured with Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron this year. Should she win an Oscar she would become the youngest of the rare ‘EGOT’ club – having Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards

The 33-year-old actress was raised in Stockwell by her single mother Edith, a health care professional who came to Britain from Nigeria when she was 24.

Miss Erivo attended the strict La Retraite Roman Catholic Girls’ School in Clapham Park, during which time she would sometimes attend local acting workshops.

Beyond roles in school and local productions, she could not imagine taking up acting so went to the University of East London to study music psychology.

The lead role as slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman has catapulted her into the limelight, not only for her moving depiction of a remarkable historical figure but also the song she co-wrote and performed, Stand Up

The lead role as slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman has catapulted her into the limelight, not only for her moving depiction of a remarkable historical figure but also the song she co-wrote and performed, Stand Up

Then she bumped into an acting teacher she had worked with who couldn’t fathom why she hadn’t taken it up – and soon she was at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. She graduated from Rada in 2010 but doors still weren’t opening for her.

One day she asked to audition for the main role in the musical The Color Purple at the Menier Chocolate Factory. She was a hit and when the show transferred to Broadway she was the only member of the cast to go with it. 

Miss Erivo took New York by storm, winning a best actress in a musical Tony. She presumed, wrongly, she would be offered great roles back home.

She knows who to thank for her drive and work ethic. Miss Erivo is pictured with her mother at the Tonys. Her mother joined her at her apartment in Brooklyn over Christmas

She knows who to thank for her drive and work ethic. Miss Erivo is pictured with her mother at the Tonys. Her mother joined her at her apartment in Brooklyn over Christmas

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So she stayed on Broadway before moving into film with roles in Bad Times At The El Royale and in British director Steve McQueen’s acclaimed Widows.

The lead role as slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman has catapulted her into the limelight, not only for her moving depiction of a remarkable historical figure but also the song she co-wrote and performed, Stand Up.

The 33-year-old actress was raised in Stockwell by her single mother Edith, a health care professional who came to Britain from Nigeria when she was 24

The 33-year-old actress was raised in Stockwell by her single mother Edith, a health care professional who came to Britain from Nigeria when she was 24

Should she win an Oscar she would become the youngest of the rare ‘EGOT’ club – having Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards. 

She knows who to thank for her drive and work ethic.

‘My mother worked non-stop to help me,’ she said. 

‘My mother came to Britain when she was 24. She was supposed to do a catering degree but she knew she wanted to do nursing.

‘She doubled up and did the nursing degree at night. Whenever she needs something to happen she just does it and I followed her example. We both have a streak of stubbornness.’

Her mother joined her at her apartment in Brooklyn over Christmas. Miss Erivo’s next appearance is in eight-part TV thriller The Outsider, and she will appear as Aretha Franklin in a ten-part TV series about the late soul singer.

Cynthia Erivo is well on the way to achieving her ambition, with Oscar nominations for Best Actress and Best Original Song, both for the film Harriet. She is seen playing Harriet Tubman, above

Cynthia Erivo is well on the way to achieving her ambition, with Oscar nominations for Best Actress and Best Original Song, both for the film Harriet. She is seen playing Harriet Tubman, above

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