Almost There: Audra McDonald Receives National Medal of Arts from Pres. Obama

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Tony-award winning actress and singer Audra McDonald received the National Medal for the Arts from US President Barack Obama yesterday during a ceremony at the White House. I was in the East Room along with reporters from national news outlets covering the event and was able to witness the audacious occasion which also included the awarding of medals to other recipients and to the recipients of the National Humanities Medal.

I watched as the announcer read the citation to all recipients and skipped over McDonald whose name was inadvertently left off of his list. The “Lady Day” Broadway play star shrugged it off but when the announcer went to the next person and did not come back to McDonald, the President told him to “look for Audra”. Finally, during a humorous moment during the event, the President told the announcer that because he is a friend of Audra’s and knows her accomplishment, he could make up a citation on the fly for her. Funny!

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No need as an aide walked over and passed a copy of the program and the show went on. Watch the events from my viewpoint,captured on my iPhone.

Very cool to watch one of our #Bellyitch #Bumpwatch moms-to-be @AudraMcDonald get a really special intro from the president as she received her 2015 National Medal of Arts along with other esteemed recipients from President Barack Obama in the White House. In this video our editor-in-chief took, the president offers to make up a citation for his friend when her’s was inadvertently missing from the announcers ‘s list. The multiple-Tony winner, including for her role as Billie Holiday in the critically acclaimed “Lady Day”, is taking a break from her hit Broadway show while she awaits the birth of her 2nd child. She has a 15 year old daughter, Zoe Madeline, and a 10-year old step son, Sawyer with “Private Practice” actor Will Swenson.

A video posted by Bellyitch_Blog (@bellyitch) on

She was adorable in a black long lseeve scrunched pencil length dress worn with loose ringlets. McDonald has a 15-year old daughter, Zoe Madeline, from a previous relationship and this will be her and husband Will Swenson‘s first child together. He has a 10-year old son, Sawyer, from a previous relationship as well.

I didn’t get a chance to ask her about the pregnancy because she didn’t walk the reporter’s rope line and I took off, but it was awesome to see her in person.

It was also wonderful to witness to the awarding of other esteemed recipients including Motown founder Berry Gordy, and comedic great Mel Brooks.

Here is a list of the winners.

2015 National Medal of Arts

·         Mel Brooks, Actor, Comedian, & Writer (New York, NY)

·         Sandra Cisneros, Author (San Antonio, TX)

·         Eugene O’Neill Theater Center (Waterford, CT)

·         Morgan Freeman, Actor (Charleston, MS)

·         Philip Glass, Composer (New York, NY)

·         Berry Gordy, Record Producer & Songwriter (Los Angeles, CA)

·         Santiago Jiménez, Jr., Musician (San Antonio, TX)

·         Moises Kaufman, Director & Playwright (New York, NY)

·         Ralph Lemon, Dancer, Choreographer, Writer, & Visual Artist (Brooklyn, NY)

·         Audra McDonald, Actress & Singer (Croton-on-Hudson/New York, NY)

·         Luis Valdez, Playwright, Actor, Writer, & Director (San Juan Bautista, CA)

·         Jack Whitten, Painter (New York, NY)

2015 National Humanities Medal

·         Rudolfo Anaya, Author (Albuquerque, NM)

·         José Andrés, Chef & Entrepreneur (Bethesda, MD)

·         Ron Chernow, Author (Brooklyn, NY)

·         Louise Glück, Poet (Cambridge, MA)

·         Terry Gross, Radio Host & Producer (Philadelphia, PA)

·         Wynton Marsalis, Composer & Musician (New York, NY)

·         James McBride, Author (Lambertville, NJ)

·         Louis Menand, Author (Cambridge, MA)

·         Elaine Pagels, Historian & Author (Princeton, NJ)

·         Prison University Project, Higher Education Program (San Quentin, CA)

·         Abraham Verghese, Physician, Professor, & Author (Menlo Park, CA)

·         Isabel Wilkerson, Journalist & Author (Atlanta, GA)


photo: Getty/Alex Wong

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