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lady day

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

Stage and TV Actress Audra McDonald and Husband Actor Will Swenson are Expecting First Child


Actress Audra McDonald thought at 45 and being peri-menopausal meant her chances for getting pregnant were low, but aaaah not in this case.

The Private Practice star tweeted yesterday, May 10, that she and her actor husband Will Swenson are expecting their first child together.

“Who knew that tap dancing during perimenopause could lead to pregnancy?” McDonald said in a tweet. “Will and I are completely surprised — and elated — to be expecting a new addition to our family.”


The 6 time Tony Award winner joked that tap dancing as a current lead on the Broadway show Shuffle Along might have contributed to the surprise pregnancy. McDonald also thanked her producers for working with her to account for her impending arrival.

“I am so very grateful to everyone in New York and London for allowing me to rearrange my schedule to accommodate this little miracle,” McDonald said in the statement.

“While I’m disappointed I have to postpone my West End debut in Lady Day, I’m glad I’ll be able to spend a little more time in Shuffle Along this summer and will look forward to setting up a 1920s-themed nursery in my dressing room when I return to the show.”

McDonald won a Tony Award for playing Billie Holiday in the Broadway play, which was broadcast, with critical acclaim, on HBO earlier this year.

Swenson and McDonald married in 2012 and thought they were done being parents to young kids. She is mom to 15-year old daughter Zoe Madeline from a previous marriage and he is dad to sons, 13-year old Bridger and 10-year old Sawyer also from a previous marriage.