Valisia LeKae is a Star and a Difference Maker

Valisia LeKae  After ten years of paying her dues in the New York theater world as a member of the ensemble, a swing, and an understudy in shows like Ragtime, 110 in the Shade, The Book of Mormon, and The Threepenny Opera, singer/actress Valisia LeKae landed a breakout role in 2011 as Diana Ross in the smash hit Motown: The Musical.

At UT, LeKae received a scholarship for playing the role of Smokey for her first two years and she performed at Dollywood during her last two. After receiving the Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology in 2001, she headed to Broadway.

Based on her performance as Diana Ross, LeKae was selected as a 2013 “The Root 100” honoree and as one of “13 to Watch in 2013” by Entertainment Weekly. She also received nominations from the Drama League for Distinguished Performance Award, Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical, Tony Awards for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, and a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album.

In 2013, she won the Theatre World Award for Outstanding Broadway or Off-Broadway Debut Performance, was a National Action Network Honoree at the Triumph Awards, and received the UT Accomplished Alumni Award. During her visit to campus, she embraced the opportunity to represent her alma mater and inspire the students, faculty, and alumni with her expertise and her interest in helping them. She gave generously of her time in attending classes in the Departments of Psychology and Theatre and in meeting with members of the Clarence Brown Theatre Society.

Shortly after her visit to campus, LeKae was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and decided to go public with her diagnosis and her battle with the disease. “Because I shared my story,” she said to Deborah Welsh, professor and head of the Department of Psychology, “young women will be more proactive about their health and early detection.”

LeKae has shifted her focus to education and awareness of ovarian cancer and has recently been named the national spokesperson for the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.