Black History Makers: How Michaela Coel became one of the UK's most influential women

Actor and writer Michaela Coel 

Actor and writer Michaela Coel - Credit: PA

Hackney born star Michaela Coel has been named as one of the most influential women in England, according to new research. 

The multi-talented British actress, screenwriter, director, producer and singer rose to prominence when she created the E4 BAFTA award-winning television show Chewing Gum. 

Her most recent series, I May Destroy You, won the British Academy Television Award for Best Actress in 2021 and Coel made history when she became the first Black woman to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special.

The series was filmed around north London, with many scenes showcasing areas in Hackney such as Shoreditch.

The show is based on Coel's own experience of being drugged and raped while out. 

The working-class east Londoner, of Ghanaian heritage, grew up in a block of flats on the border of Hackney and Tower Hamlets.

In September last year, she told the British Film Institute (BFI) how she "loves the world" she comes from, but added that it has often been "invisible" on television. 

Most Read

Through her work on series like Chewing Gum and I May Destroy You, both set in London, Coel says she is paying "homage" to the world in which she grew up. 

Coel attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and saw her talents nurtured at Talawa, the UK’s oldest Black theatre company.

She also began performing her own poems as Michaela the Poet at spoken-word nights in the capital, releasing an album in 2009.

Actor and writer Michaela Coel 

Actor and writer Michaela Coel - Credit: PA

Today, she is reportedly one of the most influential women in the country. 

The Body Shop analysed the number of Google searches for each famous woman over the last year, how many followers they had on social media platforms, the number of GIFs of each woman and Wikipedia page views.

Coel took second place in The Body Shop's UK list with over 1.1 million Google searches, 313,000 social media followers and over a million views of her Wikipedia page in 2020.

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon bagged the top spot and the Queen took third. 

This article was written as part of our Black History Makers series. For more articles in this project, see the Hackney or Islington Gazette edition of December 9

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter