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Michaela Coel: The Necessary Inspiration

Edited by Megan Cambruzzi

Award shows are revered around the world for their emotions, glam, and theatrics. We watch our favourite celebrities deliver speeches that inspire millions, who aspire to make names for themselves in the entertainment industry. However, the lack of representation for minority and historically oppressed communities often serve as discouragement for aspiring artists within these communities. The need for inspiration is necessary for any creative art form – but what do we do when we have none? Fortunately, something remarkable happened on September 20th.

This year’s Primetime Emmy Awards witnessed a historic moment with British-Ghanaian screenwriter Michaela Coel’s win for I May Destroy You in the Outstanding Writing in a Limited Series category. She became the first Black woman to have received this accolade within an awards ceremony infamous for its lack of representation. Dedicating her win to “every single survivor of sexual assault,” Coel’s win is more significant than it may seem at first glance – for herself, and the entire BIPOC community.

Coel is not a new face on the screen – she created her first project Chewing Gum (2014), a moving-into-adulthood sitcom, adapted from her play Chewing Gum Dreams. She also appeared on the award-winning Black Mirror episodes, “Nosedive” and “USS Callister” in 2017. She is also set to appear in the upcoming Marvel film, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

The biggest project in her career, however, must be her dark comedy I May Destroy You. The limited series focuses on a celebrated novelist struggling to recall the events of a night out, which are revealed to have included sexual assault. Coel turned down a $1 million deal with Netflix to keep her copyright claim on the series, choosing to partner with BBC and HBO instead. This moment in her career sheds light on one of the many struggles of being an artist in the 21st century, and her decision to reject Netflix’s deal inspires many of these artists to not stop when faced with barriers.

In an interview at the BAFTAs in 2016, Coel said, “I would love to see more people who are from minority backgrounds, more women, more people who are overweight on TV. I want to see everyone. I want to see what I see when I walk down the street. […] I would hope that I would be some kind of inspiration because I guess I wish I had more inspirational role models myself when I was growing up”.

Art is many things, but it is not discriminatory. As this world moves towards breaking new boundaries and revolutionizing ideologies, we must remember to cherish the strength of diversity.

Sources:

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/09/20/emmy-award-winner-michaela-coel-turned-down-1-million-netflix-deal.html

https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2021/09/michaela-coel-emmys-2021/620130/

Devyani is a second-year student at the University of Toronto, coming from India. Pursuing majors in Economics and Ethics, Society & Law, Devyani is excited to express her views and ideas on various subjects ranging from politics and activism to food, pop culture, and lifestyle through her passion for writing. When she isn't at school, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, researching cooking recipes, playing chess, and getting involved in her community.
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