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Shonka Dukureh, Big Mama Thornton in ‘Elvis,’ Dead at 44

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Elvis actress and blues singer Shonka Dukureh was found dead in her Nashville apartment Thursday, ET can confirm. She was 44.

According to the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, Dukureh, who played Big Mama Thornton in the Baz Luhrmann production, was found dead Thursday morning, in the bedroom of her apartment that she shared with her two young children. One of them found her unresponsive and ran to a neighbor’s apartment, where police said, at 9:27 a.m., the neighbor called 911.

While foul play is not suspected, Dukureh’s cause of death is not yet known, and is still under investigation, pending autopsy results from the Medical Examiner’s Office.

In addition to landing her first major film role in Elvis, Dukureh appeared in Doja Cat’s “Vegas” music video, where she played the Big Mama Thornton role as well.

Dukureh spoke to Memphis’ ABC24 News about her role in the film, and the “magical” experience of working alongside Luhrman and the rest of Elvis‘ cast and crew.

“They got it down. I mean, they replicated the whole thing,” Dukureh said of the Beale St. set, used to depict Memphis’ bustling hub, in the film. “Baz was very, and his team, was very intentional about being detailed, and making sure that everything was done right, and I thought I was on Beale St. Of course, I knew I wasn’t ’cause I was in Australia, but the way everybody came together to re-create it, it was magical. It was magical.”

Dukureh said the film helped bring a whole new generation to Elvis and some of the other music greats featured in the film.

“I find, even as I’m looking at different people’s reaction online, that a whole new generation is talking about Elvis, and talking about some of the characters in the film,” she shared. “They’ve got people really talking. And so I’m glad to bring — if Big Mama’s name is mentioned more than myself, then that’s fine, because she’s due that. She’s due those flowers. She’s due that recognition. And so, I’m very honored to honor her.”

According to Dukureh’s website, the teacher turned Hollywood star, who lent her powerhouse vocals to the film, was set to release her first studio album this summer.

 

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Chicken Salt Beer Exists And I Can’t Decide If It’s An Act Of Patriotism Or High Treason

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But you tell me, Aussies — would you be willing to try chicken salt beer?

  1. Absolutely, sounds like a taste sensation!

  2. Hell no, this is a crime against the nation.

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Viral Joshi talks her conversation-starting ‘Indian Matchmaking’ date

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Viral Joshi joined the cast of Season Two of “Indian Matchmaking” because she was hungry. The 31-year-old once was an extra in “Iron Man” movies and said she had the best crepes of her life on set. One day, over brunch, she remembered those crepes — and looked up casting calls. Season Two of “Indian Matchmaking” came up in the search results.

Coincidentally, she was single and looking to meet someone of South Asian descent. But maybe it’s not a coincidence. Viral believes in fate, and believes this is hers.

“In the Indian culture, we believe when we’re born, there’s a star map. And in that star map, it basically says your whole life was on these dating apps. I had a voice on the inside that said, ‘This isn’t it.’ When this opportunity came up, I gravitated toward it,” she said.

Viral is the first to admit that, before “Indian Matchmaking,” dating wasn’t working for her: She had an average of about one date a year.

Working with Sima Taparia, the Mumbai-based matchmaker at the center of the show, she was able to focus on her list of “criteria,” including someone also speaks her native language of Gujarati. She develops a connection with Aashay, an Indian man living in the U.S., over rock climbing and a marathon five-day date in New York.

Below, Viral talks about her relationship with Aashay now, her “Indian Matchmaking” experience and having bold conversations early on.

What made you say yes to going on the show?

I had tried every method under the sun. Dating apps. My friend network, even when I travel for work. When I’m in the airport lounge, I would look around, or when I would have lunch in the hospital. Nothing I was doing was working. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So I was like, I gotta switch it up. I’m only getting older.

My track record was one date a year. How many years would it have taken, if that’s my rate? I needed help — and I knew preserving the Indian culture was very important to me. So who better to work with like the iconic Sima Taparia? Someone who can really understand what I’m looking for and why I’m looking for it, more importantly. I had to call in the big guns.

What wasn’t working?

When I started off on this journey, there are moments where I think about someone from my past. I’m still a little fragile from that ending. So when I’m going into this, I’m always doing a little mini internal comparison. Oh, I have to go through all this because it didn’t work out with that guy who I thought was my 100 percent. You have to put that behind you and just take one step forward. You can’t force someone to like you if they don’t appreciate you for who you are.

At one point, you tell your date his photos don’t reflect his appearance accurately. How do you feel about that conversation?

I think a lot of people will resonate with the experience I had, and then I’m excited to see if everyone either agrees with me or disagrees with me. I just needed to call it out for what it was. And then you know, talk about it.

Do you stand by your decision to bring up that topic?

I thought a lot about what to do before going on the date. I was like, Do I say anything? Do I not say anything?

Outside of that one factor — physical attraction — I do think we hit it off. He met a lot of the criteria that I was looking for. If there was that physical attraction (problem), I could have seen myself going on another date with him. But I felt it was important to tell him in the moment like, ‘Hey, I’m having a great time. I feel like you’re having a great time. But this is why I don’t think I would see you again.’ It was hard conversation. He was very, very nice. He took it really well. Can’t say I would have reacted the same way. But it was a good experience.

I think it’s better to be honest than to ghost someone. I’ve been ghosted before. It’s a very hollow feeling, because you’re like, ‘What did I do wrong?’ I wish someone had given me some feedback so I can be better for the next person. It breaks people’s self confidence a lot. And I didn’t want to do that to him.

But you wouldn’t necessarily want to have those comments directed at you.

True, but I think the way he took it, and he was like, thank you for the feedback. What’s frustrating about situations where the photo doesn’t necessarily represent the person is — what else am I not fully seeing? If this was if I feel it was misrepresented at this at this early in the game, like what else could there be? What else is like not exactly what was on this profile?

You and Aashay hit it off. Where does your connection stand now?

We’re still in touch. Long distance has its nuances. We’re still trying to figure out what that looks like for us. All our friends are like, ‘What’s next? What’s next? You guys are hitting it off!’ I’ll visit him. He’ll come down here. We talk a lot on the phone. So we have a strong connection. I think we’re really working on building a foundation.

He’s 100 percent of my checklist. The physical attraction is there the chemistry is there. Do I think I like are there certain things that I would love to like change about him? Yes. Like I hate that he’s always late. But it is what it is. 

How has your checklist of criteria evolved over the years and since joining ‘Indian Matchmaking’?

When I made my checklist, when I was looking at it later, I was like, ‘Am I just looking for like the male version of myself?’ When you are those three things I say — self-aware, self-actualized and self-assured, — you know what you bring to the table, what you’re looking for and what you’re not going to compromise on. We’re talking about the rest of our life.

What’s nice about working with (Sima) is she really goes down into your checklist and says, ‘You’re looking for this, but why?’ So it gives you a moment to introspect and think about why do I want these qualities.

You emphasize it’s important to be with someone who is and speaks Gujarati. Why is that a priority for you?

In my family, everyone, we’re all Indian, and we’ve all always married Indians. So when we have Thanksgiving or big holidays, it’s nice to see that shared commonality in language, culture, food, traditions and religion. I think it just makes it easier to blend families. They can bring their own experience of how they celebrated other customs and we merge that together.

I had a really close relationship with my grandma. The only way that was possible was to speak the language.

I really love being Indian. It was hard growing up being Indian back in the ’90s. But now I’ve embraced it and now I love it. Wouldn’t wish anything different for me. I want to keep that going.

Speaking of merging: You have an epic closet and a system for everything in your house. Are you nervous about having to merge wardrobes?

Aashay is very into style. Just as much as I am. That’s new for me. I tell him, “You’re the best-dressed guy I’ve ever dated.” I’m gonna have to either knock down this wall and make a bigger closet or I’m gonna have to get rid of stuff, which is going to be its own problem. I think we’ll keep a pretty strong divide if we have to merge closets so I can keep my system the way it is. He can do whatever he wants. I don’t have to really look at it. I can’t make him make his closet have a Dewey Decimal System. I can’t force that onto someone else. But that’s also not a deal breaker. So I have to embrace him for who he is.

After all this, do you feel pressure to settle down?

I think since my parents got married a little like later in life, both of them were 32, I never received a lot of pressure from them because they always reinforce that good things take time. I only want to get married one time. It’s better to take your time with it. Don’t feel rushed or pressured into it.

Is there anything you want to tell people, based on your experiences on the show?

Know your self worth. Know when to compromise. Know when maybe you’re asking for too much. Know that when it’s meant to happen, it will happen. Don’t lose hope. I was really crushed when I went on this journey. My life’s taken a total 180. Just hang in there. Working with Sima Aunty gave me that glimmer of hope that I needed.

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Ellen DeGeneres Reacts to Ex Anne Heche’s Hospitalization After Car Crash

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Amid her ex’s hospitalization, Ellen DeGeneres has kind words for Anne Heche. 

The former daytime talk show host shared brief comments on the status of her relationship with Heche, who she dated from 1997 to 2000. When asked by a photographer if she’s spoken to Heche since her car accident, DeGeneres said, “We’re not in touch with each other, so I wouldn’t know.”

Still, DeGeneres confirmed she wants to send her well wishes and said on camera, “I don’t want anyone to be hurt.”

“It was quite a dangerous accident that happened, wasn’t it?” the cameraman asked. 

As she headed to her car, DeGeneres replied, “Sure was.”

This marks the first time the comedian has addressed Heche’s car crash publicly since she was hospitalized with burns on Friday. At the time, Heche had crashed her blue Mini Cooper into a two-story home, igniting a fire that required nearly 60 firefighters to put out. 

“At this time, Anne is in extreme critical condition,” the actress’ rep told ET on Monday. “She has a significant pulmonary injury requiring mechanical ventilation and burns that require surgical intervention.”

The rep continued, “She is in a coma and has not regained consciousness since shortly after the accident.”

Staten Island University Hospital Burn Unit Director Dr. Michael L. Cooper, who is not involved in treating Heche, shared context on the nature of Heche’s injuries. 

“She sustained an inhalation injury, which means there was damage to her airways,” he told ET. “She could not breathe on her own, and she also sustained third-degree burns, which require surgery. So, these are life-threatening injuries. She is fighting for her life right now.”

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