Why Letitia Wright’s BAFTA Speech Will Save Lives
Award season is no longer an appealing venture for this former entertainment freak, who used to readily indulge in the red carpet shenanigans with the late and great Joan Rivers, and the colorful monologues that opened and closed festive offerings.
These days, my interest level has been substantially reduced to the occasional viewing of staple titans, and the posted clips that showcase noteworthy moments that went viral.
If you live long enough to fully comprehend what it means to “age out” of the system, then you can’t fault me for excusing myself from traditions like the Grammys, that features a rejuvenated generation of hit makers that are unrecognizable due to the hefty gap in years that separates us.
There’s also the realization of how award shows are really high stakes popularity contests that rarely bequeath the worthiest contenders with the grand prize because of the political game of chess that prefers to take the lazy detour to the realm of hypocrisy and outright pompousness.
Aside from the Grammy Awards, the BAFTAs, which is the British equivalent to the Oscars, was also vying for attention on the same night, and while I opted not to indulge, I was definitely regretful when I peeped the winner of the “Rising Star Award.”
It was none other than Black Panther’s Letitia Wright!
The Guyanese-born British actress was up against formidable contender Cynthia Erivo, but it’s quite possible that her amazingly disciplined and Emmy-nominated turn in the most memorable episode of Season 4 of one of Netflix’s much-heralded series, Black Mirror — greatly enhanced her chances.
And of course her energetic portrayal of the most beloved character, Shuri, in Marvel’s juggernaut gem, that basically held the world hostage — in the months before and after its star studded release — didn’t hurt either.
Yet even with all that immense success as a bonafide superhero, who not only won the lottery of co-starring in one of the most influential and culturally-relevant movies of our time, but could possibly star in her own highly-anticipated spinoff based on her heightened popularity — Letitia Wright hasn’t been immune to the darkening clouds that hover with imposing doom.
As someone who has spent her lifetime combating the crippling mechanisms of depression, I know too well how the loneliness of the disease can create a widening wedge between you and those who are lucky enough not to relate, and thus, ignorantly utilize that good fortune to your detriment.
When notable figures succumb to the deadliness of their handicap, media outlets offer listicles of reasons why the victims who had it all, chose to exit this world with desperate abruptness.
It has to be the crumbling marriage that did her in, or maybe it was his girlfriend’s refusal stay faithful that encouraged his decision to hang himself, or perhaps the embarrassment of financial woes, that could burst the long-standing facade was the unbearable burden that needed to permanently end.
Non-sufferers of depression are convinced that there is a method of curing the blues, and if sufferers happen to tragically take matters into their own hands, the answer lies in whatever triggered their mood, and it has to always be a dramatically-inclined event that provides adequate explanation.
The uncomfortable truth is that mental illness is an unsolvable mystery that can’t be wrapped up in a cute selfie by a thriving “influencer” who is taking advantage of the trend, showcasing the virus of suicide, by posing in front of her therapist’s office for the “likes” of followers.
It’s a tumultous disposition with mystifying characteristics that cater to the paranoia of each individual accordingly.
My foray into the deepening abyss was borne out of childhood trauma, and the inability to share or process an incident that a nine-year-old wouldn’t typically be equipped to navigate. And so I instinctively developed coping strategies that manifested in ways that startled my parents, but even at that tender age, I knew that my secret had to stay buried for as long as I could muster.
The mind is a complicated tool that reveals its impressive flexibility through the various stages of enlightenment, when you realize what you are capable of during recovery mode, when the clouds part, and you’re back to the place you need to be, as you recharge for the next round of attacks.
You could be snuggly embraced by the blissful evidence of your achievements, and still feel the daggers of mental duress that won’t let up, regardless of your bloated bank account, career accomplishments or the checked off items that verify your enviable status.
This is why celebrities with massive platforms who choose to speak out about their personal battles with one of the most woefully misunderstood and misrepresented enemy of our existence, is essentially an act of bravery and the most generous donation they can bestow.
From Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to the diva herself, Mariah Carey, there seems to be an increasing need in Hollywood to present a different version of celebritydom that challenges the hollowed channels of what’s considered “Insta-worthy.”
When the most harassed member of Destiny’s Child, Michelle Williams, opened up about her entanglements with depression, and how the early days at the height of her fame took its toll, fans were supportive and encouraging of her published self-care regimen.
And now that Letitia Wright seized an opportune time to re-ignite the sensitive subject of her ongoing struggle, the hope is that it will resonate in a life-altering way that could potentially save lives.
Wright’s acceptance speech at the BAFTAs was the major highlight of the glitzy affair, and that was due to her willingness to redirect the spotlight to real life issues that can’t be edited to deliver the sweet Hollywood ending.
But this isn’t the first time the award-winning actress has divulged details about how she manages her depression with renewed dependency on her spiritual beliefs.
Almost a year ago, as she basked in the glow of the global cultural movement that she helped initiate, Wright was adamant about utilizing her newfound fame to educate her growing base:
“I speak boldly about [depression] because I struggled with it and I tried to find different ways [to heal], and it just didn’t work. I had to look deeper to find what could hold me, and I found that what held me together was my relationship with Jesus and my relationship with God.”
And now a year later, as she continues to enjoy the boost to her trajectory that is so well-deserved, Wright is still committed to the task of shedding light on a topic that most in her world would opt prefer to keep private.
It’s quite significant that Wright chose to infuse the prim and properness of festivities that were populated with the crème de la crème of British society, including members of the royal family, with the rawness of emotions that exposed her cumbersome plight.
Listening to her speech gave me chills, as I witnessed the young Black woman who had just won a coveted award, basically stand there in stark nakedness with the humility of her pursuit to validate those who would consider her words the blood transfusion for their ailing souls.
It’s not often that a “Rising Star” who has just been ordained by an esteemed institution, graciously provides a wakeup call to designer-clad attendees, and invested viewers, by dropping truth bombs that burst into confetti, and proves how “having it all” is no match for the demons that terrorize our privilege to own the contentment that’s dangerously fleeting.
“A few years ago I saw myself in a deep state of depression and I literally wanted to quit acting.” “The only thing that pulled me out of it was God, my belief, my faith and my family, and an email from Bafta asking me to become part of the Bafta Breakthrough Brits.”
Letitia Wright exhibited her warrior-like spirit by fighting on behalf of a vulnerable community that she’s publicly pledging allegiance to in order to reduce the stereotypical and damaging narratives that are usually associated with mental illness.
Media outlets are still posting messy content about embattled celebs, who are heroically seeking treatment for their controversial predicament. There hasn’t been a real effort by editors to rally their writers into the habit of being exceptionally mindful of the language that’s being applied to articles that are themed with the sensitivity of mental challenges.
Whether or not things will improve is hard to predict, especially in this click-worthy climate that knows no bounds. And that’s why it’s particularly empowering to have the endorsement of the young and famous — who are on top of the world and free to ignore the responsibilities of their station — as they reject the armor of silence and nonchalance by loudly trumpeting their humanness in ways that are immeasurably impactful.
Letitia Wright’s most prolific characters that have resulted in the success that she admits wasn’t “an overnight thing,” which makes her “a work in progress” — have certainly been her guiding light — and that’s probably why she was inspired to embody their temperament.
But the most enduring and fulfilling role of all has to be the one that discourages running away from who she is, in the midst of the raging storm that threatens to devour her; just as my cyclone of debris ceaselessly thrashes my fragile frame.
And still we soldier on in the dark — without the alighted pathway that leads to impending victory.
Speeches like the one that levitated that vital moment during an otherwise superficial festivity, is the earnest performance that potentially saves lives or at least provides some relief to those who need the reinforcement.
In this expanding world of #bestlives and the “influencers” who are polluting the climate with their special brand of poison, it’s imperative to celebrate the gift that is Letitia Wright, and hope with all our might that she isn’t the last of her kind.