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From Pride Rock to King Richard

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

by Catherine Michelle

At the mere age of 13, Demi Singleton has attended Horace Green Prep School, lived on Pride Rock, was the granddaughter of the Godfather of Harlem, and will be starring as young Serena Williams in the upcoming feature film King Richard. The young starlet has a very impressive resume and so much on her horizon. Demi, the oldest of three, and her family relocated from New Orleans to NYC when she was three years old. While living in the mecca of live performance, Demi’s mother took her to see Matilda on Broadway when she was eight and she knew she wanted to be up on the stage thus beginning the start of her impressive career in entertainment.

"Watching the children sing, dance, and have fun really made me want to do that. I started auditioning that following year and I landed a role in School of Rock on Broadway!"

While performing 8 shows a week in School of Rock, Demi had to balance school work and spending time with her friends and family. When asked if she had any tips for managing so much she said, “When I wasn’t performing, I was backstage doing my homework with the other kids in the show. You need to stay focused and try not to get distracted. Do not stress too much, it will make everything much harder.” Easier said than done, but after speaking to Demi on a Saturday in February, it became clear that her perseverance and focus is unrivaled.

Demi speaks with confidence and direction, like a girl on a mission unwilling to get knocked off course. Sounds like similar characteristics to many of the characters she portrays including young Nala in the Broadway adaptation of The Lion King. The character is independent, strong, intelligent, and wise, much like Demi making her the perfect fit for the role.

As for tips for being on stage? “Deep breaths and just know you are going to kill it out there, and no matter what just keep going.” Those not only seem like valuable words to remember when performing but also to remember in life. Demi has confidence that enables her to make big moves and portray such powerful characters.

In 2019 she appeared as the young Serena Williams in a Bumble commercial during the Super Bowl where she got to meet the tennis superstar briefly. “I admire Serena because of how strong and independent she is. She became one of the greatest athletes of all time. I want to be like her, I want to be the greatest actress of all time.” At the time of taping the commercial, Demi was not aware that it would be aired during the Super Bowl, but she and her family were very excited when they got the news and saw it on the television screen.

Demi will also be portraying Serena Williams in the upcoming feature film, “King Richard.” This was a role she really worked hard to get, taking tennis lessons, studying, and preparing, with the casting process taking months. "My first audition was in March and I learned I booked the role in November. It was such a relief!"

Will Smith will be playing her father in the film as Richard, can you even imagine a cooler person to play your father in your first feature film?! “I met Will at the final audition and got to go to his office to discuss the script and play some tennis with him."

Filming for the movie began in February and Demi has already soaked up some tips from the Hollywood veteran. To get into character, Will Smith will talk in a Louisiana accent the whole day which inspires Demi to get inside of Serena’s head further, i.e. talking and walking as she does. Playing the role of someone who is real and alive is a new challenge for Demi but offers her much material to study and get inspired by. I have no doubt that Demi will serve up the ball and ace it in the upcoming movie, making Serena proud and inspiring other young girls to ‘get off the bench and into the game’.

Believe it or not, Demi still makes time to be a 13-year-old and unwinds by hanging out with friends, shopping, singing, dancing, and did I mention she is also learning Mandarin?! Why? Because, why not.

So, what we can learn from this young icon is exactly that, ‘why not’. Focus, eliminate distractions, take on new challenges, and never stop learning.

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