Michaela Coel's awards win speech was powerful

Natalie Cornish
·3-min read
Photo credit: Mike Marsland - Getty Images
Photo credit: Mike Marsland - Getty Images

Michaela Coel picked up three awards for I May Destroy You at the Royal Television Society Awards (RTAs) last night – and she used her acceptance speeches to talk frankly about her experiences and those of women like her.

Coel's sharp, smart and witty BBC drama I May Destroy You was based on her own experience of sexual assault. The series has been lauded as a frank and provocative portrayal of dating and consent, but was noticeably absent from the recent Golden Globe nominations.

The 37-year-old was herself crowned both best female actor at the RTAs, for her part as Arabella in the show, and best drama writer. I May Destroy You also picked up the gong for best mini-series.

Coel appeared via video link each time to make her acceptance speeches.

In her first appearance she thanked those who helped her feel 'seen and heard', after writing about such a personal experience. One that, sadly, lots of women experience.

Her speech began by paying tribute to the 'pioneer' behind #MeToo, Tarana Burke: 'Sexual assault is at the forefront of public discourse. I suspect her bravery and resilience may have contributed to the bravery and resilience I mustered to write these scripts, that broadcasters and producers mustered up to support me through an unusual and difficult process.'

She then thanked her audience for not looking away, saying: 'And finally, the bravery and resilience the audience gathered up to take in my show and take in their own lives in the process, gathering the shattered pieces of their own painful memories, placing the pieces together and finally recognising their own trauma. Writing is a form of communication and I am so thankful to feel your response, to know I have been seen and heard. Thank you.'

Next up was the best actor award. Coel highlighted the ongoing struggles women of colour face in her acceptance speech:

'What a privilege it is the be on the same list as Glenda Jackson and Daisy Edgar-Jones. We are in solidarity and I hope to work with you one day,' she said. 'But I want to dedicate this award to the darker of our gender, Black women, whose mothers are currently four times more likely to die in childbirth or pregnancy, who live under particularly cruel scrutiny by the media sometimes simply for not being white, whose vulnerability and tenderness is often overlooked simply for not being white.'

She thanked the 'visible' Black women she saw growing up for inspiring her work: 'I would not enjoy this privilege, this right, to dance, fuck, cry, rage in front of the camera without giving a shit. Thank you.'

Coel spoke to Red last year about the writing process, saying it was a bit like having a child: 'I do see it very much as like a pregnancy and a labour. Then, when the show comes out, you do the hair, you iron the skirt and you send the child to school, and people might not like her, but you know she’s got to grow up, and off she goes.

'It’s like when your child graduates and you get to stop worrying about them. "Yeah, you’re not my problem any more. Get out, go and survive on your own two feet." The minute I’ve written something, I want it to be everywhere.'

I May Destroy You is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

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