Phumzile Sitole, Antoinette Crowe-Legacy, and Mirirai Sithole; photo by Joan Marcus

Níkẹ Uche Kadri and Leland Fowler; photo by Joan Marcus


Níkẹ Uche Kadri and Maechi Aharanwa; photo by Joan Marcus


Mirirai Sithole, Phumzile Sitole, Níkẹ Uche Kadri, and Antoinette Crowe-Legacy; photo by Joan Marcus


Tori Sampson; photo by Zack DeZon

If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must Be a Muhfucka

Mainstage Theater

Written by Tori Sampson
Directed by Leah C. Gardiner 
Choreographed by Raja Feather Kelly

World Premiere

There can only be one star.  So why you hatin’?

In the village of Affreakah-Amirrorkah, no one questions that Akim is the one true, perfect beauty — not even her jealous classmates. But they’ll be damned before they let her be the leading lady in this story. A decidedly contemporary riff on a West African fable, Tori Sampson’s explosive epic is brimming with live music and dance, as these frenemies jockey for their rank in a culture built on ideals forever out of reach.

2018 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize finalist
Kennedy Center’s 2017 Paula Vogel Playwright

Rotimi Agbabiaka — Chorus
Maechi Aharanwa — Ma
Jason Bowen — Dad
Antoinette Crowe-Legacy — Massassi
Leland Fowler — Kasim
Níkẹ Uche Kadri — Akim
Mirirai Sithole — Adama
Phumzile Sitole — Kaya
Carla R. Stewart — The Voice of the River

Scenic Design: Louisa Thompson
Costume Design: Dede Ayite
Lighting Design: Matt Frey
Original Music and Sound Design: Ian Scot
Hair and Wig Design: Cookie Jordan
Production Stage Manager: Alyssa K. Howard
Assistant Stage Manager: Noah Silva


First Rehearsal Photos: If Pretty Hurts...

The race to achieve impossible beauty standards begins a journey of mythic proportions in Tori Sampson's explosive 'If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must Be a Muhfucka.' Go inside the first day of rehearsal to meet the cast and creatives!


The American Voice: Theater of the Neo-Soul

In 1998, 15 years before Beyoncé released her song “Pretty Hurts,” Lauryn Hill dropped her legendary record ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.’ ... And on a road in Raleigh, tucked into the backseat of her mother’s peach Volvo on the way to school, nine-year-old Tori Sampson was listening. (Lizzie Stern, Literary Manager)


Backstory: Run Me My Language

Think of words you may deem part of pop culture, words that seem to sprout up on social media, take over your newsfeeds, and then fade out of existence. Think “bae,” “bruh,” “bless.” If someone asked you where these words originated, where would you say? (Divinia Shorter, Literary Fellow)