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Madina Nalwanga (born in 2002)[2] is a Ugandan actress famous for her lead role Phiona in Disney's Queen of Katwe.[3] The film depicts the life of Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan girl living in a slum in Katwe who learns to play chess and becomes a Woman Candidate Master.[4] This role earned her the Most Promising Actor award at 2017 Africa Movie Academy Awards in Lagos, Nigeria.[5] She also won an NAACP Image Award, a Women Film Critics Circle Award, and was nominated for a Critic's Choice Award.[6]

Madina Nalwanga
Born2002 (age 16–17)[1]
Other namesQueen
Years active2016-Present


Madina was born in the poor Katwe neighborhood in Kampala, Uganda, and spent her childhood selling corn on the streets.[7] Nalwanga was discovered by a casting director at a community dance class in the Kabalagala neighborhood of Kampala, Uganda, a slum known for prostitution.[8][9]

During the filming of Queen of Katwe, David Oyelowo took Nalwanga to see Jurassic World with other kids from the set, and discovered she'd never seen a movie when she asked, "Is that what we are doing?"[10] When she watched Queen of Katwe, it was only the second time she'd been inside a movie theater.[11] She has said her young life closely mirrored that of her character Phiona in Queen of Katwe.[7] At 17 years old, Forbes named her the youngest person on their 2018 "30 Under 30" list.[12] According to a University of Oxford study from their department of Economics, students in Uganda who watched Queen of Katwe before taking their national exams received better grades than those who didn't.[13][14]


  1. ^ "Madina Nalwanga biography, age and lifestyle". Uzomedia TV Youtube. Retrieved 2018-12-04.
  2. ^ "Ugandan premiere of girl's slum-to-chess-champ story". Agence France-Presse. 2016-10-02. Retrieved 2018-02-11 – via The Daily Mail.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Madina Nalwanga". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-02-10.
  5. ^ "Queen of Katwe Actress Madina Nalwanga wins an award at the African Movie Academy Awards 2017". Retrieved 2018-02-13.
  6. ^ "30 Under 30: Madina Nalwanga, 17". Forbes. p. 8. Retrieved 2018-03-05.
  7. ^ a b "In Mira Nairs Chess Tale 'Queen Of Katwe,' 16-Year-Old Madina Nalwanga Makes All The Right Moves". Retrieved 2018-03-05.
  8. ^ "Ugandan Actress's Journey Mirrors That Of Her 'Queen Of Katwe' Character". Retrieved 2018-03-05.
  9. ^ "Unmasking Queen of Katwe's Nalwanga". Daily Monitor. Retrieved 2018-03-05.
  10. ^ News, A. B. C. (2016-09-28). "David Oyelowo on Showing 'Queen of Katwe' Actress Her First Film". ABC News. Retrieved 2018-03-05.
  11. ^ "How Nyong'o, Oyelowo bonded with their 'Queen of Katwe'". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2018-03-05.
  12. ^ Howard, Caroline. "30 Under 30 2018: The Teenagers". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-03-05.
  13. ^ Orubo, Daniel (2017-09-25). "Ugandan Kids Who Watched 'Queen Of Katwe' Performed Better In School, Says Study". Konbini Nigeria. Retrieved 2018-03-05.
  14. ^ Kuo, Lily. "Ugandan students who watched "Queen of Katwe" performed better on their national exams". Quartz. Retrieved 2018-03-05.