Michaela Coel is not like any other actor. She writes, directs and is a dab hand with an open mic. Her mum still makes her clothes. She offers her phone number to people in the street and cries and laughs and hugs with strangers. In 2018, she turned down $1m from Netflix when she was still relatively unknown; then, fired her agent for pressuring her to take said deal. That same year she outed the entire TV industry on one of the most public and prestigious stages in the world. Some said she would never work again. She hasn’t stopped.
‘I am a Black woman and that will always be true,’ she says. ‘And, for me, there is nothing like going to a different country where nobody knows me and experiencing the way security guards follow me around the pharmacy or the grocery shop. The dirty looks I receive, the fact that cars don’t want to stop on a zebra crossing. All these things reinstall that I am a Black woman. As long as these issues are still happening, I am happy to speak, because I could be deluded and forget that that’s a part of me. I’m really lucky that there are places where I’m not known and so it allows me to still experience it.’