• The Centre for Inclusive Leadership

Black History Month- Michaela Coel.

Our head of creative Chantelle Dusette shares her piece on the super talented actress, director and writer Michaela Coel.

“Write the tale that scares you, that makes you feel uncertain, that isn’t comfortable. I dare you ... Visibility these days seems to somehow equate to success. Do not be afraid to disappear—from it, from us—for a while, and see what comes to you in the silence.” Michaela Coel’s 2021, Emmy acceptance speech for best writing for “I May Destroy You.”

When we decided at TCfIL to each take a prominent black person to celebrate, I didn’t have a moments’ hesitation on who I would write about. Born Micheala Boakye-Collinson, Coel is one of Guildhall’s most prestigious alumna, it was Che Walker (playwright) who encouraged the supersonic talent to take acting classes, she has since become one of the UK’s most talented and successful artists this country has ever produced. At 33, Coel is the first black woman to take home the Emmy award for Outstanding Writing for a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie.

Michaela Coel is one of those stars who has the magic of being someone who feels both unreachable but who could also your best mate. Refreshingly frank, Coel has discussed her challenges navigating the TV industry (quote) feeling an outsider, as a working-class black woman, she had to develop the muscles needed to learn the art of saying ‘no’ which she believes is crucial for writers “our industry is quite exploitative in that it wants all of the IP from the artist and, if the artist is generating the idea, I just don't think that's fair."

Coel famously refused a deal with Netflix on “I May Destroy You” when she realised she wouldn’t receive a percentage of the copyright. She was told it “wasn’t how things were done” after asking for 5% - Coel explained that she compromised and went down to 0.5% - still no budge from the giant programming production firm. She walked away took the project to the BBC, where they were able to negotiate a deal.

In a lovely interview between Coel and her friend Reggie Yates, she cites “The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck” as being a book that should be on everyone’s reading list - I’ve just ordered a copy (I know, I’m late) along with Coel’s book “Misfits – A Personal Manifesto” which is the incredible lecture she gave at James McTaggart

in 2017. This is available on YouTube, do yourself a favour and give it a watch. From the hilariously funny “Chewing Gum” to the devastatingly poignant “I May Destroy You”, Coel is unapologetically herself, she gives her audiences access to her headspace, and see her move the pieces around. Michaela Coel is not just a breathtakingly good writer, she’s also a brilliant performer as evidenced in both “Chewing Gum” and “IMDY” but also; Black Mirror, London Spy, Black Earth Rising and she’s shooting “Black Panther” I mean – seriously? Coel is putting UK talent on the world’s stage, along with other exceptionally talented black actors; Daniel Kaluuya, John Boyega, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sophie Okonedo, Thandiwe Newton, Naomie Harris to name but a few and of course her dear friend Paapa Essiedu, the first black actor to play Hamlet, who wowed audiences in IMDY as Arabella’s GBF (gay best friend) Kwame, who had his own struggles with consent in the show, which Coel also directed.

Michaela Coel is a woman, finding her way in the world, doing what she loves, whilst inspiring and rising others up. I cannot think of anyone who is as much of a tour de force as Coel - she’s fearless and the real deal.