Michaela Coel
Michaela Coel (Photo: Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Michaela Coel is absolutely poised to perfection on Variety’s annual ‘Power of Women In Comedy’ issue and the internet is in awe. Paying homage to her Ghanaian heritage, the I May Destroy You actress donned hand-woven kente garb and gold jewelry akin to the attire the country’s queens once wore.

In her cover interview, Coel opens up about how her HBO hit, based on her experiences with sexual assault, has captivated audiences on a personal level. The show debuted in the summer of 2020, a tempestuous time for a nation grappling with a global virus and raging racial tensions. Like any creator premiering their work at the time, Coel was apprehensive of the timing but to her surprise, audiences fell in love with her compelling semi-biographical story that glued them to the screens for all 12 episodes. “Even though it’s fictional, there’s something very transparent about the show,” she says. “I know a lot of people will say, ‘You think you know me, but you have no idea.’ And I feel like, ‘No. You probably do have a pretty good idea.’” Lending her capabilities as a creator, writer, director and actress to the series, Coel’s storytelling teeters through the duality of emotion as she remarkably tackles sexual assault, consent, and the aftermath for survivors while still incorporating humor throughout it all. 

Even, the comedienne herself dealt with the emotional ebb and flow of watching the show for the very first time as it aired to the rest of the world. “[Watching the episodes] was a very emotional process, and another form of catharsis in itself. It was exhilarating and joyous and exciting, and also difficult, because, as you watch and people begin to receive it, it is ending at the same time.” The critically-acclaimed show has won a Peabody Award nomination and Coel’s impressive penmanship won the NAACP Image Award for the finale episode. For her, these accomplishments are her reminders of why she is forever indebted to the audience and creatives who helped her share her story of resilience to the world. “When you are nominated for something and you have to make a speech, I’m forced to practice the act of gratitude again,” Coel says. “So, I remember all over again how incredible it is that all these people watched my show, that all these people helped me create the show that has spoken to and stimulated so many people in the world that I found myself nominated on this list.”