While the theater curtains remain closed on Broadway, Pearl is spending time studying and working in Durban, South Africa. Finally, in one month, the rehearsals restart, and she is flying back to New York to be ready for the much-awaited re-opening to the public in September!
Pearl plays two leading roles in The Lion King, as Nala, the girlfriend of Simba, the Lion King, and Rafiki, a mandrill, Simba’s chief adviser and friend. Her incredible voice has taken her from the Zulu church choirs in South Africa to Florence, Madrid, and then New York. The crescendo of her achievements has convinced her very traditional family to let her quit studying engineering and follow her dreams.
South Africa was the first democracy proclaimed in the continent, and that only dates back to 1994. Her parents grew up during apartheid and going to university was hard. Now Pearl's generation feels the pressure to choose careers that raise their status. As she says, “It's very important to rise in society and have a career but being mentally healthy is more important. That is the message that I want to bring to my people and be an example.” At 20, between engineering classes, she would apply for singing competitions and auditions, first in Africa, then in Europe. Winning some international prizes gave her courage, and she gained momentum. At 22, she won a role in El Rey León in a Madrid theatre and moved there in 2016. She then auditioned for the bigger American production, and in 2018 she was chosen as the youngest adult actress and singer in The Lion King on Broadway.
But hardship came with Covid: “When the show was closed in 2020, we actors remained in New York, not knowing how long the pandemic would last. I was alone in a rented apartment and went into weekly psychotherapy to keep up my mental well-being in isolation. Then, with my visa expiring, I decided to come back to Africa.” Meanwhile, Pearl has changed from engineering to behavioral science studies, more akin to her new interests, and she will graduate next year. She is improving her acting skills through classes, as she still considers herself basically a singer. Away from the social life, she also reads continuously. Here she poses with Barack Obama’s autobiography, The Promised Land, after finishing Michelle Obama's Becoming.