Feature: Gugu Mbatha Raw for The Awards Issue

Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s face lights up as Helena Christensen walks into the suite of the Kensington hotel where Bazaar’s photo shoot is set to take place. The actress and the supermodel-turned-photographer have never met but, as fellow Goodwill Ambassadors for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, they have admired each other from afar. So when the opportunity arose for Christensen to travel to London from Copenhagen to capture Mbatha-Raw on camera, honouring her philanthropic contributions, both were eager to make it work. “I wouldn’t have squeezed in this trip for just anyone,” says Christensen, whose diary is booked up months in advance, “but for this woman, and this magazine…”

Mbatha-Raw’s collaboration with UNHCR began five years ago, when she embarked on a trip to Rwanda to see at first-hand the plight of refugees; she was formally named an ambassador in February 2021. She says the opportunity came “out of the blue” for her, since at the time she was concentrating on her flourishing acting career. However, with hindsight, the chance to engage with issues surrounding immigration made sense, given her own family history.

Born in Oxfordshire to two medics – her white British mother worked as a nurse and was a staunch supporter of the NHS, while her Black South African father was a doctor who had come to the UK to flee the apartheid regime – Mbatha-Raw was often exposed to political conversations whose ramifications she did not fully comprehend until later in life. “It’s only since adulthood that I’ve really understood the journey he made and the reasons why he felt persecuted,” she says. “Working with UNHCR has been like coming full circle, helping me put my father’s experience into context now that I have more emotional resilience.”

Growing up, however, it was drama that impassioned her, despite her family having no connections with showbusiness. “I was an only child, so getting into theatre was initially a way of being around fun people,” she says. “I was desperate to move to London and start acting from the age of about 12, but my mum said I had to finish school first – which I think made me even more determined.” When the time came, she successfully auditioned for Rada, graduating in 2004, and soon began to secure roles on television, stage and film, making her breakthrough as the lead in Amma Asante’s 2013 period drama Belle. Her entry into the profession was fairly smooth, partly because she was doing the job for the love of it rather than for the fame, though she was aware of the potential pitfalls. “After you leave drama school, you realise there’s this whole thing called ‘the industry’ that’s different from the art and craft – friends of mine who have been in this world for a long time say they’re still negotiating a balance between why they got into acting in the first place and the business that surrounds it,” says Mbatha-Raw. “It’s about how you protect that fragile, pure part of yourself.” [More at Source]

Feature: Gugu Mbatha-Raw for Elle Magazine

‘Being told you should conform to one type of beauty is so outdated,’ declares Gugu Mbatha-Raw down the phone to ELLE UK. ‘But, I think we’re getting better at celebrating individuality,’ the actor concludes. It’s Sunday morning and we’re catching up with the Loki star, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, and presenter of one of tonight’s BAFTA 2023 awards to talk all things beauty. Despite spending what could have been a well-earned weekend lie in being interviewed by us, Mbatha-Raw is what can only be described as a delight. Gracious, chatty and hyper intelligent, with a sprightly laugh that bubbles over every other sentence, we’d happily call her every Sunday morning. If she’d let us.

The British actor’s pre-11am optimism is infectious; whether she’s speaking on limited beauty standards or championing a wider pool of talent in the film industry, her enthusiasm never wavers. ‘I’m so excited to see my friend Gina Prince-Bythewood nominated for Best Director – as a woman, as a woman of colour, and as someone I’ve worked with, it’s been amazing to see her go from strength to strength. Heroing female directors is definitely an area of the industry that has a way to go.’

Ahead of the evening’s festivities,
we chatted joyful beauty, lipstick stashes and why Audrey Hepburn is her forever beauty icon…

What does beauty mean to you?
‘I try to think about beauty being something you can express that comes from a place of joy and lets you be your best self. I definitely feel more comfortable with beauty now than when I was younger, maybe because I feel more confident in myself and more established in my career. As an actor I think beauty can be a bit of a double edged sword; I want to be able to play characters that are flawed and messy and human, you have to be unafraid to be not beautiful, you have to be bold enough to be real as well, and I think there’s beauty in that authenticity. But, I also work in an industry that celebrates beauty and is, by its nature, a visual medium.’ [More at Source]

News: “Surface” Renewed for Season 2

Sophie and James’ long-kept secrets will continue to unravel: Apple TV+ has renewed Surface for Season 2, the streamer announced Friday.

“I am thrilled to continue this journey and dive deeper into the tension and mystery of Surface with this brilliant team,” star and executive producer Gugu Mbatha-Raw said in a statement. “I love playing Sophie and I can’t wait for fans and new audiences to join us as she enters the dangerous new world of her past in Season 2.”

Added creator Veronica West: “I can’t wait for people to see how the show evolves as we explore an emboldened, fearless Sophie in Season 2. It’s been such a pleasure working with Gugu, Apple and the team at Hello Sunshine and a real privilege to continue the journey!” [More at Source]

Dec 04, 2022

Feature: Crossroads Conversations with Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Last night, actress and former Tatler cover star, Gugu Mbatha-Raw MBE, made her way to Sloane Street for a glitzy discussion at Giorgio Armani’s London flagship. Merely one week since the store’s marble-adorned, enviably chic store played host to Armani/Casa’s Frieze party, the Italian luxury powerhouse’s gleaming Knightbridge haunt was the perfect setting for a conversation with author Yomi Adegoke.

Focusing the discussion on Mbatha’s experience in the film industry, a select few of London’s social set were called upon to attend the event, titled ‘Crossroads Conversations’. Celebrating the second season of similar events hosted by Giorgio Armani, Mbatha-Raw joins the likes of ballet dancer and director Aurélie Dupont, Michelin-Starred chef Vicky Lau, and activist Kristina Lunz on the impressive roster of invited speakers. Guests enjoyed champagne, Aperol Spritz and delectable canapés as they listened to her insightful and impressive anecdotes.

‘For me it always starts with the script. It is the first piece of contact I have for a role. After years and years of reading scripts and stories you get a feel for them,’ said the actress on choosing a role. ‘For me, my rule is to try and do things I have not done before. Not to repeat myself. After doing two psychological thrillers back-to-back, I then did a lighter, heist action movie with Kevin Hart and for me that was a refreshing choice because I think you cannot do the deep dark psychological stuff all of the time. You need to restore yourself with different genres.’

One of her favourite roles saw the movie maven play Egyptian Queen Cleopatra on stage in back in 2005. ‘[She] is my idol and I had always wanted to play her. She is such a powerful and iconic woman in history,’ Mbatha-Raw explained, ‘In terms of the wardrobe of Cleopatra, I certainly had to do my research. I think ancient Egypt is such an interesting period that hasn’t been explored recently on film and I feel like there is such a scope for a costume designer to build that world. There is so much texture to that world.’ [More at Source]