Gugu Mbatha-Raw Covers AMAZING Magazine | Issue 4

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Gugu Mbatha-Raw opens up to her writer friend, Afua Hirsch, about growing up in rural Oxfordshire, navigating Hollywood’s preconceptions of British actors and leaning into the fun side of fashion.

International award-winning actor Gugu Mbatha-Raw and acclaimed writer and broadcaster Afua Hirsch first met at an industry event in London a couple of years ago. They bonded immediately, recognising each other as “kindred spirits''. While their respective jobs require them to dip into the glamorous side of the entertainment industry from time to time, neither of them takes the trappings of fame too seriously. “Grounded” is a word they both use to describe their approach to life – and to success - with Mbatha-Raw citing friendship as one of the key anchors for her. It’s clear from their conversation together for AMAZING that these two creative powerhouses share a relaxed, easy friendship, full of warmth, humour and mutual respect. 

Mbatha-Raw, 40, who trained at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and was awarded an MBE for services to drama in 2017, is one of Britain’s most versatile and in-demand stage and screen actors. She made her West End and Broadway debut as Ophelia in Hamlet in 2009 and was nominated for the Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actress for her performance in Jessica Swale’s 2015 play Nell Gwynn. She won the British Independent Film Award for Best Actress for her breakthrough role in the 2013 British period drama Belle and, more recently, has appeared in films Misbehaviour and Summerland as well as hit series The Morning Show (starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon) and psychological thriller Surface.

Mbatha-Raw, who now lives back in the UK after spending a few years in LA, reprises her role as Ravonna Renslayer in the second season of Marvel Studios’ TV series Loki, and also stars in upcoming action comedy film, Lift, opposite Kevin Hart.

Award-winning, London-based journalist Hirsch, 42, is the author of the Sunday Times 2018 bestseller, Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging, which explores Black history, culture and politics. Her new book, Decolonising My Body: A Radical Exploration of Rituals and Beauty, charts her year-long journey of radical unlearning as she examines the effects of Eurocentric beauty standards on individual and collective notions of body image.

The day after Hirsch’s book launch at London’s Africa Centre, which Mbatha-Raw attended, the two friends met up over Zoom to discuss the actor’s British/South-African heritage, how she navigates Hollywood preconceptions, what it means to her, personally, to be a global goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and how she manages to keep it real.

Afua Hirsch: Where are you?
Gugu Mbatha-Raw: I’m actually at the National Theatre, which is kind of random. I had a meeting nearby and, timing-wise, I’ve just dived into a quiet corner. I hope it stays quiet.

Let’s start with that, because you do have such a theatre background. Does it still feel like home for you?
It actually really does. I just spent the last couple of days doing a theatre workshop and going back into the rehearsal room again was just so invigorating. I worked at the National several years ago now, but there’s something about a theatre building when you’ve worked there that makes you feel like you own the place [laughs]. It definitely does still feel like home because it’s where I started.

For Gugu's full interview and shoot, order your copy of AMAZING issue 4 now. Lift will be released globally on Netflix on 12 January. All episodes of Loki seasons 1 and 2 are now streaming on Disney+.

Decolonising My Body: A Radical Exploration of Rituals and Beauty by Afua Hirsch is published by Square Peg (£20). 
Gugu Mbatha-Raw wears Louis Vuitton

Photography by Rhys Frampton
Fashion by Harriet Nicolson
Interview by Afua Hirsch 
Hair by Bjorn Krischker at The Wall Group using Philip B.
Makeup by Tania Grier using Giorgio Armani Makeup
Nails by Emily Rose Lansley at The Wall Group
Editorial Director Charlotte Morton 
Editor in Chief Juliet Herd
Editor Jennifer Lynn
Creative Director Jeffrey Thomson
Art Director Livia Vourlakidou
Art Direction Assistant Beth Griffiths
Photography Assistants Ethan Elliott, Josh Showell & Allan Opio
Fashion Assistant Imy Moore
Hair Assistant Danielle Van Cuyck

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