Keke Palmer Celebrates ‘Real Life Akeelah’ Spelling Bee Champion Zaila Avant-garde

Zaila Avant-garde, 14, from New Orleans, Louisiana, holds the trophy after winning the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee Finals at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, U.S. July 8, 2021. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

Actor Keke Palmer, who captivated audiences as national spelling bee champion Akeelah Anderson in the film “Akeelah and the Bee,” has joined thousands in celebrating Zaila Avant-garde, who recently became the first Black American to win the coveted title in real life.

“THE REAL LIFE AKEELAH YOU GUYS!! The real life one,” Palmer wrote Thursday on Instagram. “I’m so happy in my heart. A couple of weeks ago I sent in a video encouraging all the contestants and for this to happen just feels so spiritual! I am so happy.”

In 2006, a young Palmer drew rave reviews for her breakout performance as an 11-year-old spelling prodigy from South Los Angeles in Doug Atchinson’s “Akeelah and the Bee.”

With help from her coach, played by Laurence Fishburne, and her mother, played by Angela Bassett, Palmer’s Akeelah rose above her more privileged competitors to make her mark on the Scripps National Spelling Bee stage in Washington, D.C.

Veteran actor Tzi Ma, who appeared in “Akeelah and the Bee” as the father of Akeelah’s co-champion, also tweeted, “So proud! Congrats!” in reaction to Avant-garde’s historic win.

“Major love to Doug Atchinson that allowed me to act a dream and thank God for letting me live to see it come to fruition,” Palmer, 27, continued on Instagram before citing an inspirational quote from the beloved family film.

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SOURCE: LA Times, Christi Carras

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