A name we quickly Googled after watching the first ever episode of Chewing Gum! We predicted big things for the actress, writer, poet and overall creative genius and we were right..
A fast-rising star in the acting world, Michaela has just been nominated for three prestigious BAFTA TV Awards; Best Breakthrough Act, Female Performance in Comedy Programme, and Best Scripted Comedy – all for her unbelievably hilarious and wickedly irreverent hit E4 show (that she both wrote and starred in) Chewing Gum. And, this triple dose of good news comes just one week after the East Londoner won two awards at the Royal Television Society Awards for the same starring role.
But, how did this talented woman arrive on our screens and end up creating the humorous and endearing 24-year-old virgin Tracey Gordon, one of the most memorable, and more importantly relatable characters on mainstream television, that we’ve seen in recent years?
Born Michaela Boakye-Collinson to Ghanian parents, Michaela was brought up by her mother in the Tower Hamlets area of London, which would later go on to serve as inspiration for the backdrop of Chewing Gum. Her teenage years would see Michaela become a strong-willed evangelical Christian for a solid five years, even converting both her mother and her sister. Although she has since left the church you can see the impact it has had on her life and in the hit show. In fact, it was her relationship with religion that really sparked her passion for writing poetry, which she went onto to perform at Hackney Empire. It was here that she was spotted by famed playwright and director Che Walker, who was so impressed with her work that he invited her to attend free classes, that he was giving at the esteemed and highly sought after RADA Drama School.
Since then, Michaela worked relentlessly on her craft, acting across various theatre productions, releasing an album of poetry entitled Fixing Barbie, and continued to start making rippling effects across the industry before writing her play Chewing Gum Dreams (which is how the now famous TV show was born).
It started as a one-woman play, where Tracey is actually a 14-year-old teenager, lamenting about her life. The title, referred to the characters dreams and aspirations being discarded away like chewing gum. Some may say the show has done so well because it hits a real chord with a generation of young people who feel a sense of overwhelming hope and ambition, but are conflicted and frustrated with a cold reality that doesn’t always allow them to attain those goals and dreams.
The play became so popular she was commissioned to write it for E4, and, proving just how dedicated she was to make it perfect, Michaela set herself up in a 24hour cafe and set up home there, refusing to leave until the entire script was fully completed. Dedication to the cause, or what?! And it’s fair to say it completely paid off. While Michaela is receiving applause and recognition from her peers and critics alike, her fans all rose up in excitement when it was announced that Chewing Gum would be back for a second series later this year.
The show, which isn’t afraid of dealing with taboo subjects like sex, class and much more, has really become a platform for encouraging debate around what our generation does and what we don’t want to do. What we want to talk about and what we’re too scared to talk about. Whether it’s Tracey talking about every detail of her period, or her best friend Candice, instructing her on what sex moves she needed to pull to seduce boyfriend Connor ‘Just sit on his face!”, these are all things we have spoken about with our friends, usually in hushed voices and in secret conversations. But with Tracey, and her creator Michaela now making a strong societal and cultural impact, it’s safe to say we have a new refreshing, honest and fantastically funny voice, representing all of the things our generation really want to see in a comedy.
Three very well deserved nominations. We can’t wait for the second dose of Chewing Gum!