AU Excellence: Esther Lawal

BY: AMANDA NYANG'ORO

Esther Lawal isn’t your average pre-med student. Although the 19-year-old sophomore aspires to be a plastic surgeon to help people achieve their ideal form of beauty, she is so much more. As a musical theater major, dancer, singer, hair stylist and an all-round make-up & fashion enthusiast, Esther Lawal is definitely a force to be reckoned with.

She started out her freshman year under AU’s Mentorship program, a semester long program under the School of Professional & Extended Studies, where she was able to gain valuable experience at the International Children Arts Foundation.

“I really loved interning there. I would help contact donors and find scholarships & grants that would help the organization fund their programs. They want to help children realize their artistic potential and I wanted to be a part of that,” Esther explains.

 Photo by Amanda Nyang'oro

Photo by Amanda Nyang'oro

Whether it be her eccentric lip color, her outfit of the day or her intricate self-made hairdo, every time the Nigerian-born teen walks into a room, people tend to notice. Nonetheless, staying true to herself as she navigates through chemistry and biology labs has definitely not been easy.

“I feel like I’m stereotyped as a person who is not serious enough to be a medical student because when people see me; I have my nails done, I have grey lipstick, wild hair or my skin is showing because I’m just unapologetically myself,” Esther says. “I feel like when people hear pre-med and then musical theater, it’s just like, ‘Oh! Really? That’s a combo...’ and then they try to sugarcoat it somehow by saying it’s impressive. But low-key they’re wondering whether or not I can do it.”


Despite discouragement from fellow peers, Esther believes that being both a pre-med student and a musical theater major is something that she can definitely handle. She has learned to deal with the negativity by accepting it at face value. “It gets old really fast. At one point you have to stop getting annoyed by it because people are people, there’s nothing I can do about it, so I just take in the reaction and then keep it moving.”

 Photo by Amanda Nyang'oro

Photo by Amanda Nyang'oro

While others might think that her interesting combo may be a heavy load to carry, Esther believes that being a musical theater major actually helps her handle the stress that comes with following a pre-med track. “When I’m doing a lab report and I have those moments when I’m done and I need a break, I can just take out my music homework and it’s just so much fun because I’m finding key signatures and notes and singing. I feel like it’s kind of like an escape, like a closet to Narnia for me!” Not only is Esther learning about something that she’s truly passionate about, but she finds that it can help take off the edge when she’s stressed out about her science classes.

Esther is a testament that American University has a musical theater program that challenges their students to become more knowledgeable in not only their particular fields but in the world of theater as a whole.  “What I love the most, especially with AU, is that I feel like they try to build you to become someone who is very comfortable in your voice, in your own knowledge of music. If you were an actor on Broadway, they don’t want you to just go on stage and then read the lines and act. They want you to know about the stage and what actually goes into creating the production,” Esther explains. “Even with music, you can’t just sing songs. You need to be able to read music, you have to be able to create your own music. They don’t want you to just go with the flow, but to also create your own flow.”


As humans, we naturally have a lot of questions about how our body works and why it works the way that it does. What Esther loves most about studying science and medicine is that it gives you the answers to these fundamental questions, it teaches you how to explain a lot about why things are the way they are. Esther says that being both a pre-med and a musical theater student has helped her to become a more well-rounded person. “I think my studies have helped me to become more flexible towards different ideas and opinions. When people think that something is just “music” or when something is just very surfaced the science student in me, because of the critical thinking skills I’ve gained, allows me to communicate more effectively.”  Esther Lawal’s passion and perseverance is admirable and that is why she embodies AU excellence. She is unafraid to show her #BlackGirlMagic as she pursues her dreams by exploring the two worlds that she loves and for that, we commend her.