Michaela Coel stuns in Kente prints for Variety photoshoot

"The nice thing about lockdown was that we were all forced to hide."

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Michaela Coel stuns on the latest cover of Variety, on which she is featured rocking Kente prints as one of six creative influencers in comedy honored in the 2021 Power of Women issue. 

The actress/writer/producer chops it up with the publication about her hit HBO show I May Destroy You, and how quickly audiences and critics connected with the 12-episode series. Coel wrote the drama based own sexual assault experience. 

“I think that this is the tip of the iceberg in terms of using fiction to really bring audiences to quite personal, challenging and dark places and asking audiences to question the world around them,” she tells Variety. “The way people received the show, as we would say in London, gave me vim.”

Read More: Michaela Coel turned down $1M Netflix deal for ‘I May Destroy You’

Coel says one of her exec. producers suggested she watch the series as it aired each week, a process she found “exhilarating and joyous and exciting.”

“He told me, ’This live debut, where hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people are sitting down to watch the show, you won’t get that again,” she recalls. For Coel, watching the episodes “was a very emotional process, and another form of catharsis in itself.”

“It was exhilarating and joyous and exciting, and also difficult, because, as you watch and people begin to receive it, it is ending at the same time,” she says. 

As theGRIO previously reported, when it came time to release I May Destroy You, Coel opted for HBO. The reason why is that although Netflix would have paid her a cool million, she wouldn’t have been able to retain even a little bit of her copyright.

Coel previously opened up to Vulture about Netflix denying her a 0.5% copyright on her show, despite her writing and directing all 12 episodes. I May Destroy You details how a young writer, based on Coel, recovers after finding out she was sexually assaulted after a night out with a friend. Coel took the story from a real-life experience she had while working on her show Chewing Gum.

“Generally when projects come out, my habit is to run away to a country where it isn’t airing, because I think I struggle with that bit of things, so I tend to go somewhere to hide a little bit,” she jokes during her conversation with Variety. “The nice thing about lockdown was that we were all forced to hide, so it meant that I never felt the scale [of the response], which I think may possibly have given me anxiety.”

I May Destroy You earned Coel a Peabody Award nomination, plus awards from Gotham,  Film Independent, and honors from GLAAD and NAACP. 

“When you are nominated for something and you have to make a speech, I’m forced to practice the act of gratitude again,” Coel explains. “So, I remember all over again how incredible it is that all these people watched my show, that all these people helped me create the show that has spoken to and stimulated so many people in the world that I found myself nominated on this list.”

When the honors come from the LGBTQ or the Black communities,” Cole notes that “It just allows you to remember why you’re grateful this community appreciated what you did, why you did it for these communities, how you feel about these communities and your relation to [them].”

Read More: Beyoncé pays tribute to Michaela Coel, Cardi B for Women’s History Month

Most recently, Coel published a statement on Twitter in response to The Guardian’s bombshell report about the more than 20 women who are accusing UK actor Noel Clarke of sexual misconduct. Check out her post and full statement below.

Cole wrote: “I am here to offer great support for the 20 brave women who have come forward; those who have shared their identities with us, but also those who have preferred to use an alias; the mental hurdles a black woman must overcome to do such a thing as reveal their identity within a narrative of rape abuse or bullying at the hands of someone within our own community can sometimes be too much.

“Speaking out about these incidents takes a lot of strength because some call them ‘grey areas’. They are however far from grey. These behaviours are unprofessional, violent and can destroy a person’s perception of themselves, their place in the world and their career irreparably. I have shared to show solidarity, to express my belief in them and to stand with them in their indignation.

“I applaud the Guardian and its journalists for investigating and publishing this story,” she concluded.

Clarke has denied all claims except for the one woman who he admits to making inappropriate comments to, per NME.

*theGRIOs Tonya Pendleton contributed to this report.

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