We all need to listen to Michaela Coel’s awards speech on sexual assault

Michaela Coel, the woman behind I May Destroy You, gave three moving speeches about sexual assault and race

Michaela Coel
(Image credit: Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images)

Michaela Coel, creator of I May Destroy You, spoke about sexual assault during her awards acceptance speech at the Royal Television Society Programme Awards.

Michaela won best female actor and best writer – drama, while the series I May Destroy You won best miniseries. She accepted these awards via a video call in which she made three different speeches to accept each award. Each one of these speeches made a powerful comment about the subject matter of I May Destroy You.

Accepting her Writing award Michaela said, “Thanks to Tarana Burke, the pioneer of the #MeToo movement. 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, and that broadcasters and producers mustered up to support me wholeheartedly through an unusual and delicate process.”

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She went on to thank the audience for watching I May Destroy You despite the show delving into uncomfortable topics: “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 recognizing their own trauma.”

Encouraged by presenter Jonathan Ross, Michaela went on to make two more acceptance speeches that were equally moving and sincere. 

While thanking RTS for her acting award she stated, “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 at times simply for not being white, whose vulnerability and tenderness is often overlooked simply for not being white. I thank the Black women who were visible.”

She then listed the Black women actors who had influenced her career and encouraged her to pursue a career in acting. “WIthout the spellbinding work of Nikki Amuka-Bird, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Wunmi Mosaku, Caroline Chikezie, Sharon Duncan-Brewster and many others, I would not enjoy this privilege. This right, to dance, f*ck, cry, rage in front of the camera without giving a sh*t. Thank you.”

Finally, for her best miniseries award, she revealed she had not planned a speech. Instead, she spoke from the heart and said, “What I always say, especially when I get very drunk at wrap parties, I say and tell everybody that this is our baby and, although I wrote this thing, the DNA of every single person involved in the making of this project is in the child, and this is our show.”

She then thanked the crew for changing her trauma into something ‘beautiful’. “I’m so thankful to you for replacing quite painful memories in my life with beautiful ones, and for being a fantastic telly family for two years,” she said.