Laiona Michelle, a native of Springfield, MA added writer to her resume with her double bill as writer and star of the critical and box-office smash, Little Girl Blue, The Nina Simone Musical, which launched its world premiere engagement at the George Street Playhouse on Feb 1, 2019. Now, she takes on the mantle of book writer, for a new project, Mandela -- a musical based on Nelson Mandela’s life; from his days as a leading activist against Apartheid, to his imprisonment and eventual release to become the nation’s President.
Laiona Michelle began to gain national notoriety when she made her Broadway debut in 2015, in the musical, Amazing Grace, which opened at the Nederlander. Cast in the principal role of Nanna, a woman stolen away from her family by slave traders, she delivers one of the stand out musical moments of the play.
Laiona credits William Shakespeare as the reason that she fell in love with theatre. As a child, she was taken to see a Shakespearean production and knew immediately, “This is what I want to do.” Since that time, she has been developing her skills as a writer, actress and singer, constantly working on expanding the full range of her natural vocal abilities.
Laiona Michelle has been nominated for numerous awards including the Independent Reviewers of New England, Best Lead Actress award (2001, Stonewall Jackson’s House); and is the recipient of the Barrymore and Carbonell Awards (2004, Constant Star); The NAACP Hollywood award (2005, Constant Star), and she was nominated for the Helen Hayes Award (2005, Yellowman).
Before joining the cast of Amazing Grace, Laiona was part of the First National tour of The Book of Mormon. And prior to that, she had honed her skills, performing at some of the most renowned regional theatres in the United States including the Arena Stage, Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, The Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Goodspeed Theatre Company, Westport Country Playhouse and many more.
Laiona has also written several children’s plays/musicals for Dream Studios, a non-for-profit arts organization providing access to the performing arts, and located in her hometown of Springfield, Ma.
As a writer, an actor, and a Black woman, Laiona believes in the importance of “owning our stories.” She champions the idea of breaking down stereotypes that would box her in or type cast her, therefore limiting her ability to grow.
Laiona Michelle resides in New York City. She is a graduate of Brandeis University (MFA), and did her undergraduate work at Alabama State University in Theatre Arts.
For more information, visit www.laionamichelle.com.