Audra McDonald

Throughout her 22-year career, Audra McDonald — who, at age 46, gave birth to her second child in October — has made a name for herself by breaking barriers and defying expectations.

Today, the Croton-on-Hudson resident, who has won six Tony Awards — more than anyone else — is one of Broadway’s biggest and most beloved stars. McDonald once told Vulture that she works “to reach back through the door of opportunity” in order to help others, so that “maybe a black girl who sees me can say, ‘That lady with most-of-the-time-nappy-frizzy hair, who’s not rail thin, she did it; that’s a possibility.’”

Born in West Berlin, Germany, the Emmy-nominated actress won her first Tony at the age of 24 for her work on Carousel and later made a name for herself as Dr. Naomi Bennett on the Shonda Rhimes hit Private Practice.

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Diane Paulus, artistic director of Harvard’s American Repertory Theater, says it’s clear why McDonald is so successful. “Audra is so courageous. She puts herself out there, and I think that’s what we respond to. Her voice is like none other, and she is an actress in every cell of her body.” This talent, says Paulus, “is combined with her innate theatrical, dramatic DNA.” Plus, “She is a good person; everybody wants to be in the room with Audra McDonald.”

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