Michaela Coel made history Sunday when the proclaimed actress and writer became the first Black woman ever to win an Emmy for limited series writing. Coel, who wrote, directed and acted in the acclaimed series “I May Destroy You”, took her moment on stage to reach beyond the room in a speech aimed at aspiring writers across the globe.
“Write the tale that scares you. That makes you feel uncertain. That is uncomfortable. I dare you,” Coel challenged.
“In a world that entices us to browse through the lives of others to help us better determine how we feel about ourselves… and to in turn feel the need to be constantly visible for visibility these days seems to somehow equate to success. Do not be afraid to disappear from it. From us. For a while – and see what comes to you in the silence.”
The words pierced through any barrier that still stood between her and the viewer. In a moment often reserved for platitudes, “thank you’s” and self-congratulations, Micaela Coel did something different:
Coel’s ‘I May Destroy You’ gripped audiences around the world in a powerful story of trauma and healing
Michaela Coel’s powerful writing in “I May Destroy You” chronicled the story of Arabella Essiedu, an aspiring writer living in London. The series takes viewers on a difficult yet powerful journey. Throughout it, Arabella and her friends grapple with issues of belonging, sexuality, racism, and sexual violence.
In every moment, the series pulls the viewer along in a journey of trauma and healing. Using a profound mix of gravity and light-heartedness, fans find themselves completely immersed in Arabella’s story.
The show, released during the pandemic, quickly became one of the most acclaimed series of 2020. However, it inexplicably snubbed by the Hollywood Foreign Press when it received no nominations for a Golden Globe.
Fans of the show were outraged to find that Coel’s work received no nominations while the almost entirely White cast and crew of Emily in Paris received multiple. Even one of the writers of Emily in Paris penned an op-ed in The Guardian expressing their dismay.
The Globes were not the only moment where Coel’s work was devalued. As she worked to pitch the script for ‘I May Destroy You’ to multiple outlets, her demand to fully retain the rights to her own art was often scoffed at. It was not until reaching a deal with the BBC and HBO that she agreed to share the powerful story with the world.
Michaela Coel finally received the honor she was due
Sunday night’s awards show, however, belonged entirely to Coel. Not because her win somehow validated the depth, beauty and brilliance of her work. That was never in question.
No, the night was Coel’s because, just as she did with Arabella’s character, she held a space in the spotlight for so many others to be and dream and heal.
In an interview with Vulture magazine, Coel shared her journey of healing from trauma through writing ‘I May Destroy You’.
“I, Michaela, have had to let it go. I’ve had to let it go. I had to let it go and realize that I was still alive if I let it go and the trauma did not need to define me,” she said.
“I could let go of the trauma, and I would still be here.”