November 15, 1982
New York City, New York, United States
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Following a successful stint on "America's Next Top Model" (The CW, 2006-2015), Yaya DaCosta pursued a career as an actress in films, television and on stage, where she excelled at dramatic fare like "The Kids Are All Right" (2010), Lee Daniels' "The Butler" (2013) and "Whitney" (Lifetime, 2015), as well as the network series "Chicago Med" (NBC, 2015- ). Born Camara DaCosta Johnson in Harlem, New York on November 15, 1982, she was the daughter of Brazilian and Nigerian parents, both of whom worked in the education field. DaCosta was interested in acting from a very early age, and earned her first exposure to performing through auditioning for educational films. She continued to pursue her dream of an acting career at the LaGuardia High School of Art and Music and Performing Arts, but decided to follow in her parents' footsteps and become a teacher. After stints at Northfield Mount Hermon School and Brown University, where she majored in international relations and Africana studies, DaCosta accepted a challenge from friends to audition for "America's Next Top Model." She was selected to participate in the competition's third season and finished second, which led to a modeling contract with the Ford Agency and print work for the Lincoln Motor Company, Sephora and other entities. In 2005, DaCosta made her acting debut on an episode of the sitcom "Eve" (UPN, 2003-2006), with her first feature film appearance coming the following year in the dance drama "Take the Lead" (2006). DaCosta appeared briefly on the daytime soap opera "All My Children" (ABC/The Online Network, 1970-2011, 2013), but exited the show to focus on more substantive fare, including supporting roles in John Sayles' "Honeydripper" (2007) and a Broadway run of "The First Summer" with the Negro Ensemble Company. DaCosta returned to film in television in 2009, logging guest appearances on "Ugly Betty" (ABC, 2006-2010), "The Messenger" (2009) and in "The Kids Are All Right" and "The Butler." Two years later, she was top-billed as Whitney Houston in "Whitney" (Lifetime, 2015), a biopic of the late singer that marked Angela Bassett's debut as director. That same year, she enjoyed a four-episode run as ER nurse April Sexton on "Chicago Fire" (NBC, 2012- ); she reprised the character, now as a series regular, on the spinoff series "Chicago Med."