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Lion King's 11-Year-Old Star, Befriended by Alicia, Rihanna and 50 Cent, Dies of Cancer

The circle of Shannon Tavarez's life ended much, much too quickly.
/ Source: E!online

The circle of Shannon Tavarez's life ended much, much too quickly.

The 11-year-old actress, who beat out thousands of budding thesps to play a young Nala in the Broadway company of The Lion King, passed away Monday after a long battle with acute myeloid leukemia.

Her passing came after doctors were unable to find a bone-marrow match for a possible transplant--a search that gained a national profile once Alicia Keys, Rihanna and 50 Cent heard of the plight and began campaigning for the little girl.

PHOTOS: Fallen Stars

Back in July, both Keys and Rihanna called on their fan bases to register as bone marrow donors after being moved by Tavarez's story. Keys even paid a visit to the young Broadway star at New York's Schneider Children's Hospital over the summer to check in on Tavarez, who was receiving daily chemotherapy treatments.

Rihanna, whom Tavarez cited as her idol, also urged her fans to do "the most beautiful thing someone could do, to give the gift of life" and help the young actress.

As for 50 Cent, who coincidentally is a distant cousin of Tavarez, he and his G-Unit joined forces to film a PSA urging fans to register to become a bone marrow donor as part of the nationwide initiative to "Get Swabbed to Save a Life." His efforts ended up registering 4,000 new donors.

Tragically, no exact matches were found for a bone marrow transplant, but in August, Tavarez received an umbilical-cord blood transplant.

The promising young actress first joined the Broadway cast last September, when she performed four times a week. Due to her diagnosis, and the increasing pain she felt in her lower back and legs, she was forced to quit the Broadway production in April of this year.

"Shannon's strength and her happy, positive spirit will live on in our hearts and minds each day," mom Odiney Brown said in a statement. "Shannon's dream was to perform on stage, and that she did...It is our hope that Shannon's legacy will continue to inspire other brave children battling leukemia. We are grateful for the outpouring of love and prayers."

RIP, Shannon.

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