To call Michaela Coel an iconic figure would be a minimal testament to the achievements Coel has accomplished throughout her lifetime. In a recent interview with Danielle Kwateng for Teen Vogue, Coel discussed the writing process behind her new book, her Ghanian descent and an incident on the set of Chewing Gum.
Among the many talents that Coel has portrayed, she’s portrayed the main character in Netflix sitcom Chewing Gum and HBO Max’s drama series I May Destroy You. The 33-year-old has a way with storytelling that has transformed her life experiences into award-winning shows. Although Coel has had the opportunity to express herself in a safe space via her shows, “Trailer-Gate” happened on the set of Chewing Gum. In this specific incident, a white cast member of the series was given a private trailer on set while the other Black and brown cast members were piled into one trailer. Kwateng continued to inquire about experiencing racism in the art atmosphere in the United Kingdom compared to the United States.
“I think that it's uncomfortable because the word “racism”... It's a word that implies you're very conscious about your erasure, mistreatment, and judgment of nonwhite people. Right? And that's what I think makes people uncomfortable,” Coel replied. “It may be easier for people to accept that they were not thinking and therefore these things happened. It feels like the minute the word racism comes in all these barriers come up. If we just think, "You weren't thinking," it may allow people to engage with their behavior or lack of behavior, more easily.”
Although Kwateng and Coel bonded over their similar Ghanaian lineage, Coel pointed out the differences that they would experience in their respective countries.
“Because we've been seeing very different things, experiencing different forms of racism, of sexism, of... So it makes sense that you may have a different perspective than I have,” Coel said. “So let me listen to you. That's one of the things I love about meeting Black people in America, exchanging, "Wow. So you see it like this. That's so interesting." I think it's important to realize it's okay to be comfortable with the fact that you see things differently from how I see them. And that's exciting.”
Racism is one of the topics that the I May Destroy You star is including in her debut book, Misfits: A Personal Manifesto. In an article penned by Coel for Elle Magazine, she discussed her British and Ghanainan roots along with her academic experience of racism in her drama school. “I was the first Black girl they’d accepted in five years, a fact which the head of the school described to me as ‘the elephant in the room,’” Coel wrote in her excerpt. Along with racism, Misfits: A Personal Manifesto will be exploring creative freedom, speaking your truth, classism and more. Coel’s debut book was released on September 7 and is described as a “rousing coming-to-power manifesto dedicated to anyone who has ever worried about fitting in.”