Memphis native and East High School alumnus Valisia LeKae didn't major in theatre but she is a bona fide star on Broadway and now a Tony Award nominee.
The 67th Annual Tony Award Nominations announcement took place Tuesday in New York. LeKae was nominated for an award for her role as Diana Ross in the hit-stuffed "Motown: The Musical," about Motown Records under founder Berry Gordy.
"Motown" earned four nominations, including LeKae as Diana Ross and Charl Brown as Smokey Robinson.
LeKae grew up listening to the music of Motown at her grandfather's Memphis barber shop. Her family, including her grandfather, was there when she met on stage, the legendary character she plays in the production; Miss Diana Ross.
At first LeKae didn't believe she had been nominated. Her agent had to convince her she was really nominated.
"I kept saying, 'are you sure.?," she questioned. "'I promise it's you.'"
She called her mother immediately after the call to her agent and got voicemail, because her mom doesn't answer while she's driving.
"So I called one of my best friends Alina. She started screaming as well."
LeKae, who was an understudy or swing in four other Broadway shows, is making her Broadway debut as a leading lady and said everything in her life has prepared her for the role. She grew up listening to Ross and performing her songs.
"It's very interesting the way life works out. I left 'The Book of Mormon' last year in March and I was a swing for the show," she said. "It's amazing how life can change in a matter of a year's time. You can be swinging one year and be nominated the next."
LaKae wants to see Memphians travel to New York City and enjoy the musical.
"This is a soundtrack of all our lives. Music on the map again."
Associated Press reporter Mark Kennedy in New York City contributed to this report.