Black History Month at Contented.
Meet the creatives and change-makers inspiring the team.
This month, we asked each of the team to nominate someone that inspires them for UK Black History Month. And while it’s important for us to acknowledge that the depths and roots of Black History should not be confined to a single month, we wanted to take this time to learn from each other, share our inspirations and discover some remarkable new talent. From revolutionary creatives and storytellers to trailblazers and history-makers, we’ve learnt a whole lot about some incredible talent from past and present.
We’ve focused on British Black talent with a couple of honourable mentions from overseas. From cricketers to novelists, designers to DJs, there’s a whole range of brilliant talent here that we hope will spark your interest and inspire you. Enjoy!
Head of Production
With 7 World Championships and 100 race wins, Lewis Hamilton is the most successful Formula 1 driver of all time. Not only has he fought against the odds to get where he is today, but in the last two years he has emerged as a true change-maker. He has spoken out about inequality despite it making him unpopular in a massively privileged sport. He created The Hamilton Commission which investigated the lack of Black representation in the F1 industry and provided recommendations on how to improve it. And he recently used his position as an attendee of the Met Gala to put the spotlight onto Black designers, who very rarely get the recognition they deserve. Lewis is an inspiration to me and millions around the world, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Despite being constantly overlooked, Michaela Cole is one of the greatest writers the UK has ever produced. Her ability to create narratives surrounding things we don’t talk about enough has been nothing short of exceptional. But through this, she has only ever cared about the art even when external forces prevented that.
My feminist journey began with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Her book and TED Talk ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ was the first purposeful bit of feminist content that I consumed and it was this that helped fuel my own journey as a feminist. There’s one stand out quote that particularly ignited this fire inside me. You might recognise this from Beyoncé’s ‘Flawless’ Track too… ‘We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller, we say to girls ‘You can have ambition but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful otherwise you might threaten the man.’ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie unapologetically speaks out about gender injustice and is hopeful of a positive change in humanity’s mindset. It’s this passion and optimism that makes her so powerful. If you haven’t read/listened to this talk then I’d suggest it, because after all… we should all be feminists.
Ian Wright is a former professional football player who I admire as much for the impact he has had off the pitch as well as on it. He’s achieved so much beyond playing and has always stayed true to himself. By being a part of numerous Adidas campaigns, he’s also been a real advocate for supporting up-and-coming talent. A true icon.
Zadie Smith is undoubtedly a big inspiration for me. I think there’s a real honesty to the way she writes, often laying bare the messy realities of life, relationships and the intersections of race, class and gender. Her writing is intelligent, witty and distinctly her own, weaving together characters who are as complex and flawed as they are relatable. Also, I always keep her editing advice in mind when I write: “Read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.”
Executive Creative Director
As a young football-mad, glory-supporting kid, Liverpool was my team, always winning the League alongside numerous FA Cups and the occasional Milk or Coca Cola Cup. And one player stood out for me, John Barnes. He was the first high-profile black player to grace Anfield back in the 1980s, a time when racial abuse echoed around stadiums across the land. For me he was a catalyst for change. There was no finer sight in football. When he would get the ball and run at players, turning them this way and that. A mix of strength, pace and power. Being born in a predominantly white town and going to a predominantly white school, that change could be felt as we would fight over who was going to pretend to be him when replaying Saturday’s match, at break time on Monday. Let’s just not mention the World in Motion rap…
Only two black women have ever represented England cricket on the international stage. The first was Ebony Rainford-Brent, who made her debut in 2001. Ebony is now a Sky commentator, Director of Women’s cricket at Surrey, and Chair of the ACE programme. She’s both a champion of diversity in England cricket, and the driving force behind delivering necessary change in the sport. Cricket can sometimes align itself so closely with tradition, that its doors appear closed to progression. In response, Ebony leads in raising awareness, challenging discrimination, and showing that cricket should be a sport for everyone. She inspires me to match those goals and not settle for anything less.
Social Media Manager
Bernadine Evaristo is a multi award-winning author, poet and critic. In 2019, her eighth book, ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ won the Booker prize: making her both the first black woman and black British person to do so. It’s an outstanding novel that does more than just chronicle the intersecting lives of 12 different black women, aged from 19-93, it’s also a sweeping history of experience, showcasing what it feels like to be a black woman in Britain today. It’s also the only book that every single one of my Good Reads friends has rated 5 stars!
I’d like to celebrate author and screenwriter Candice Carty-Williams. Her fantastic novel ‘Queenie’ had me laughing (and almost in tears at some points) and as a black female writer she gives a rare perspective on representation, racism, friendship and mental health. In one of my favourite podcast interviews, she spoke about living by the mantra “Your voice is the loudest voice in your head,” which inspired me to practise my own self-confidence. Candice uses her writing and personal experiences to ignite important conversations socially and I absolutely can’t wait to see her TV adaption of Queenie.
As a lifelong Star Wars fan, I admired John Boyega’s performance in the most recent films, and thoroughly enjoyed the portrayal of his character, Finn. This then drew my attention to him, when he delivered a hard-hitting speech at a Black Lives Matter protest in London. Seeing this encouraged me to read into discrimination in the film industry, as well as try to understand the prejudice that black people still suffer on a daily basis. He has even spoken out since about how his experience filming Star Wars was shockingly filled with hate and ignorance. All of this really helped me to realise the racism that still exists, even at the top-end of the film industry. I am inspired by him, because he publicly speaks his mind on matters that he is most passionate about, regardless of whether or not it affects his acting roles in the future.
Goldie. Legend and pioneer of the UK’s original drum and bass scene. After releasing a series of drum and bass singles in the early nineties, he then went on to make one of the best drum and bass (actually, one of the best dance albums!) ever made – Timeless. Which is exactly that 26 years later, sounding as fresh as ever. One of the true musical highlights of my 1990’s. He’s a revered graffiti artist also, has popped up in TV and films and received an MBE for services to music and young people’s charities. All this after being put up for adoption, raised in childcare, having several foster parents, and being sexually abused. True inspiration in so many ways.
And it’s a double nomination for the incredible Daniel Kaluuya.
An incredibly talented actor and Oscar winner for his role in ‘Judas and the Black Messiash’, Daniel Kaluuya is an absolute joy to watch on screen. He’s someone I can look at and see myself. He’s a reminder to me that as long as you stay dedicated to your craft, anything is possible.
Junior Content Executive
This Black History Month, I want to celebrate actor and writer Daniel Kaluuya who made history earlier this year by becoming the first black British actor to win an Academy Award. As someone who loves going to the theatre and cinema, I find it extremely refreshing when actors, writers, directors who I’m fond of are rewarded for their work. This is particularly the case for Kaluuya, who, despite a challenging upbringing, has dedicated pretty much his whole life to the arts. On his journey, Kaluuya has always been humble in his success, and has often spoken openly about his struggles as well as the issues of racism within the industry along the way. I remember watching him in Black Mirror and thinking ‘I’ve seen this guy before’. Of course, this was the case, but it wasn’t until that episode that I began to appreciate his work. I’ve watched him in many of his roles since and he always makes them his own. He is a remarkable and inspiring talent who has had a great impact on modern cinema, and I’m certain the best from him is yet to come.
And finally, some honourable mentions from overseas.
Frankie Knuckles. RIP. Growing up, the ‘Godfather of House’ was an inspiration to me. A pioneer on the music scene, Frankie fused styles and scenes together to create large parts of the House music genre that we enjoy today. Born in Chicago but spreading the word from his infamous NY residency at the Warehouse, everyone was welcome. Openly gay this DJ, producer and remixer forged a rhythm, culminating in a Grammy Award, that we are still dancing to today.
At just 23, Tyler Mitchell made history as the first black photographer to shoot a cover of Vogue. That front cover was Beyoncé. While his Vogue cover was iconic, Tyler’s ability to visualise life in a simplistic way while also provoking further thought, leading the viewer to discover a richer and deeper story is what inspires me. I have a real admiration for his approach to storytelling and the delivery of that. His work whilst striking has a purity about it. It’s endearing. It makes you think. He follows what excites him, motivates him, telling stories that are close to him. He follows his personal sensibilities.
A creative who really inspires me is Virgil Abloh. Coming from a humble background to now being renowned for his work with some of the world’s biggest brands is a testament to his creativity. His work is often seen as being poles apart from convention but soon becomes the trend. His out-of-the-box thinking inspires me to not take the conventional route with things. His odes to things from his upbringing and everyday life are things I try to bring to my own work, using people and surroundings I am assimilated with to better create work that stands out. Abloh’s best example of this is probably when he collaborated with Nike and deconstructed various shoes and simply labelled them on their outsoles with “AIR”. Something so simple but that was almost seen as revolutionary, it made me realise that sometimes the things that are the simplest make the biggest impact. Now assuming the role of artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear, Abloh has shown that he can do anything with anyone, collaborating with brands like Nike all the way to making reusable water bottles with Evian. The thing that I take away from all his collaborations is that no matter what you’re working on, there is always something someone hasn’t done yet. There’s a line Virgil himself says that stays with me with all of my own work – “Question everything.”
When asked the question of naming a favourite black artist, the nostalgic corner of my mind goes straight to Rihanna. I grew up listening to her music, her early songs carried me through the stressful years of middle school. Everyday I would look forward to coming home, plugging my iPod Nano in and just getting lost in her music. It always made me feel better. Her art and her aura exude confidence. Her beauty brands also encapsulate this attitude and she goes above and beyond to promote inclusivity and shatter outdated beauty standards.
Digital Sports Content Editor
Bradford Young is an American cinematographer whose work I first saw in the film ‘A Most Violent Year’ and then in ‘Arrival’. The visual style he employs in his films is grounded in reality which adds a lot of authenticity to his work, whether it’s a biopic or science fiction film. The way he discusses his background and how it impacts his work is very interesting while the way he conducts himself for someone so successful, is something I really admire.