There have been odd occasions where I would think that being black limited my opportunities. Thinking this out loud sounds crazy, but every time I exited the audition room, a huge part of me just knew that they already had their mind set on what they wanted. Bringing in an African or Asian girl and throwing them in the mix of predominantly white line-ups was just their way of ticking a box. I would say earlier in my career I have been put forward for stereotypical roles of an aggressive black girl growing up in the rough parts of London who life is spiralling downwards. The story line filled with betrayal, broken family ties and early pregnancy, this is what I would call the era of Kidulthood. I'm sure that these were stories that reflected some black teenage girls however that were the only stories that seemed to be told.
I am Black British woman, Nigerian descent who grew up in a predominantly white middle-class area with an RP accent. I grew up watching various programmes on CBBC, CITV, Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel. Thinking back, I wouldn't say that I recognised or even registered that people of colour were under-represented or even misrepresented. However as I grew more serious about the profession, I started to look for role models within the industry, but I realised not many of them were of colour. The images presented to us on the screen clearly did not reflect our nation off screen.
Issues that have been an issue long before hashtags, I feel the internet has given us that platform to have those conversations. The most popular hashtag about diversity was last year's #OscarSoWhite. I remember seeing this hashtag circulate while I was in drama school and I saw how it motivated individuals from different backgrounds to go out there and produce material that challenged clichés and stereotypes in response to the misrepresentation and limited roles for people of colour. Then films like Moonlight, Fences and Hidden Figures burst into the seams, and it felt like there was a shift and the industry were addressing the issue of diversity.
Many would say that UK is leagues behind the U.S when it comes to offering protagonist role for people of diverse backgrounds with programmes like Empire, Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder. Actors like myself have considered the move to the U.S as it seemed there was more of a chance even to be noticed in the industry. What is the solution to this? David Oyelowo, in his speech at the BFI London Film Festival's Black Star Symposium in 2016, only said that for diversity to be seen on screens, the demographics of the people making the decisions have to change. "You need people in positions of leadership who can exercise their bias and who can exercise their perspective."
With a plethora of actors voicing their opinions and raising awareness I do believe there are people listening, but with most issues, there are deep rooted and there no quick fixes. For me, it is about asking questions when it came to storylines and vision of a particular project, not being so quick to settle on what is comfortable and familiar and taking action where an action is due. In the current climate we are in and the challenges we are facing we need a diversity of thought in the world to meet those challenges.