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Variety

Former Miss Howard Lands Role as First Black Princess Fiona in “Shrek” the Musical

Cecily Davis overcomes obstacles, becomes first Black Princess Fiona in Shrek musical, credits Howard University experience.

Cecily Davis appears on the “Shrek: The Musical” playbill she shared on her Instagram account on Nov. 29, 2023. (Photo Courtesy of Cecily Davis)

At the age of six, Cecily Davis begged her mom for a chance to audition for a role in a local high school production. 

Davis recalled how her excitement filled the room despite not knowing she would later face rejection. 

She says that those fluttering butterflies of anticipation resurfaced years later when she answered a call from her agents, greeted with the words, “Hey, Princess Fiona!”

“I would have never seen myself as Fiona,” she said. “I was the only person in my graduating class to have never been cast in a main stage production, so once I graduated, I had zero reps of taking a character from the beginning of a story to the end.”

The 22-city tour was directed and choreographed by Danny Mefford, known for his work on the movie, “Dear Evan Hansen.” This updated version of the production returns to its origins, highlighting a renewed focus on self-love and unity among people.

Shrek the Musical first debuted in 2013, with Broadway sensation Sutton Foster playing Princess Fiona. 11 years later, the 84th Miss Howard University Cecily Dionne Davis will be the first-ever Black Princess Fiona. 

Miss Freshman 2022-23 Trinity Colbert says this is a massive moment for musical theatre majors at Howard to look up to. 

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“She’s paving the way for other fine artists, especially musical theatre majors, to make a way in the industry,” Colbert said. “The first Black princess, Fiona, is huge, and I am just so proud.”

As Davis reflected on what it took to get to the role of Princess Fiona, she remembered her time as a student at Howard.

“Unfortunately, Howard was not a place in which I excelled artistically,” Davis said. “In fact, if you ask any of my Professors or classmates they can attest to the fact I was not good.” 

During her time at Howard, Davis says she tried to balance her academics, her role as Miss Howard and attempts to land a role on Broadway. 

“Howard taught me to never let anyone steal my joy again and to always take matters into my own hands for my own success,” she said. 

Davis said she would travel from D.C. to New York just to make connections, all while being a full-time student. 

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“I spent every other week taking a bus to NYC from D.C. for auditions, in between completing my degree as well as making appearances as Miss Howard,” she said. “I started forging relationships with casting directors in an attempt to make sure they knew me as Cecily Dionne Davis.”

Rashan Schoffner, 46th Mister Howard University and a friend to Davis, attests to the path of success that Davis created for herself. He says that he’s not surprised about her accomplishments, and that she deserves it.

“She is super talented, and everything she’s done leading up to Howard and what she did during her time at Howard has prepared her for this moment,” Schoffner said, adding that Davis is the type of person to smile through trials and tribulations to help someone else. 

After landing this role, the leading lady says that her tour life has been hectic. Davis says she’s currently focusing on trusting her talent to propel her forward. 

“I’m still adjusting almost a month in,” she said. “I’ll never forget my director talking to me before we did our first preview on how I need to trust myself instead of being so hard and mean in the way I view my performance. He said, ‘If only you saw what we see in you. You need to trust yourself, Cec.’ and that flipped a switch like none other.”

Although the new princess is still getting used to her on-stage swamp, Davis said the journey has been nothing short of beautiful. When she thinks about her career and how far she has come, Davis says she believes the word “no” is a redirect. 

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“Every ‘no,’ every rejection, has made me more invincible, more rooted in my relationship with God,” she said. “For now, I know for sure he is the one who has the final say.”

Copy edited by Alana Matthew

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