Michaela Coel is a British-Ghanaian actress, screenwriter, director, producer.
She was born Michaela Ewuraba Boakye-Collinson to Ghanaian parents in East London, where she grew up.
At the 2021 Emmys, she was awarded the Outstanding Writing for a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie, for her comedy-drama TV series – I May Destroy You, becoming the first Black woman to win it.
Here are 12 interesting facts about her that you should know:
1. She started off as a poet
Michaela, in 2006, began performing at poetry open mics in London. As a poet, Coel has performed on many stages including Wembley Arena, Bush Theatre, Nuyorican Poets Cafe and De Doelen, Rotterdam. She went by the name Michaela The Poet.
2. She switched from university to pursue her craft at drama school
Michaela started her tertiary education at the University of Birmingham, in 2007, studying English Literature and Theology. During the time she was doing poetry, she was encouraged by actor, playwright and director Ché Walker, who saw her perform at the Hackney Empire, to apply to Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
In 2009, Michaela transferred to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where she was the first black woman enrolled in five years. She won the Laurence Olivier Bursary award, which helped her fund her schooling. She graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2012.
3. She is the creator of two top series
Michaela created and starred in the sitcom Chewing Gum, for which she won the BAFTA Award for Best Female Comedy Performance; and the comedy-drama series I May Destroy You for which she won the British Academy Television Award for Best Actress in 2021 and is nominated for four Primetime Emmy awards including Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie.
4. Chewing Gum and I May Destroy You are based on her real life
While Chewing Gum is based on her religious upbringing and her complex relationship with the concept of celibacy, I May Destroy You, is inspired by her own experience of sexual assault.
5. Chewing Gum was her graduation project at drama school
Michaela’s senior graduation project at Guildhall School of Music and Drama was what eventually became her first hit TV show.
Her senior graduation project was a titled Chewing Gum Dreams, which she wrote and presented in 2012. The play, first produced at The Yard Theatre in Hackney Wick, featured Michaela in a one-woman show telling the dramatic story of a 14-year-old girl named Tracey. The play then went on to be produced by the Bush Theatre (2012), Royal Theatre Holland (2012), Royal Exchange Theatre (2013) and the National Theatre (2014).
6. She has starred in numerous TV series and movies
Michaela has starred in Black Earth Rising, a co-production between BBC Two and Netflix, where she played Kate, the main character. She also starred as Simone in the musical-drama film Been So Long by Che Walker, based on his own stage play, which was released on Netflix in October 2018.
She also appeared in the “Nosedive” and “USS Callister” episodes of the TV series Black Mirror, BBC One drama London Spy, and in sci-fi comedy-drama The Aliens. She also had a role in the 2017 film Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
7. She could feature in the sequel of Black Panther
In July 2021, Michaela was cast in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. She reportedly joined the director Ryan Coogler at Atlanta’s Pinewood Studios, where production began in June 2021. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is set for wide release on July 8, 2022.
8. She worked on music projects
Aside from writing, acting, and poetry, Michaela also used to make music. In 2007, she released her debut EP, 22 May. Her first album Fixing Barbie, was released in 2009, and her second, We’re the Losers, was released in 2011.
9. She is also an author
Michaela’s first book, Misfits: a Personal Manifesto was published on 7 September 2021. The book is based on her MacTaggart lecture at 2018’s Edinburgh Festival, which touches on her experiences with racism and misogyny.
10. She identifies as aromantic.
Coel opened up about her take on romance in a 2018 interview, revealing she identifies as aromantic. “I googled aromanticism and I very much felt like, Oh, that’s me,” Michaela said. “Which means if you tell me to dress up nicely because we’re going to go to dinner with candles, it’s not going to mean a lot to me. It’s a waste of money and I have ingredients at home. Things like weddings and the expense of these things — I would rather settle for the rest of my life with a person.”
11. Her mom designed her first major red carpet dress
At the 2016 BAFTA Awards, Michaela wore a dress, designed by her mother, made of Kente cloth. To crown off the special night, she took home two British Academy Television Awards for her work on Chewing Gum, one for Best Female Comedy Performance and one for Breakthrough Talent.
12. She was well-celebrated in 2020 for her work in film
Michaela was included in Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020. She was also named as one of the breakout stars of 2020 for film. She also appeared in British Vogue‘s 2020 list of influential women. Furthermore, in the 15th annual Powerlist of the most influential people of African or African-Caribbean heritage in the United Kingdom, Michaela was ranked fourth for the impact of her work on I May Destroy You.
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