Nikita Pearl Waligwa Dies: Disney’s ‘Queen of Katwe’ Actress Was 15

Nikita Pearl Waligwa in Queen of Katwe (Courtesy Disney)

Nikita Pearl Waligwa, who played Gloria in the 2016 Disney film Queen of Katwe, has died after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. She was 15 years old.

Waligwa passed away Saturday in Kampala, Uganda, according to Ugandan media reports and the BBC.

The teenager rose to prominence with her role as a chess prodigy from a Ugandan slum in Queen of Katwe. She starred alongside Lupita Nyong’o, David Oyelowo and Ugandan actress Madina Nalwanga.

The film was based on the true story of Phiona Mutesi, who became an international chess phenom. Waligwa played Gloria, a friend of Phiona, who explained the rules of chess to her.

Doctors first discovered Waligwa had a brain tumor in 2016. During filming, Queen of Katwe director Mira Nair helped raise money to pay for her treatments. In 2017, doctors said she was cancer-free. But in 2019, another tumor was found.

Waligwa was in her senior year of high school at the time of her death.