Women broke new ground and picked up awards aplenty at both the BAFTAS and the Grammys, and they didn’t just use their platform for thank yous…
From female led film The Favourite’s sweep of BAFTAs to women “stepping up” to take home the cream of the awards crop at the Grammys (“step up” being a reference to last year’s host Neil Portnow’s suggestion that women needed to “step up” when he was asked why so few won Grammys), women triumphed on both sides of the Atlantic last night. Years/lifetimes of hard work were rewarded, and amidst the glitz, gowns and incredible makeup looks (check our Instagram for the lowdown on those), women took to the stage to discuss more than just the matter at hand. Amidst the thank yous and the quips, many women used their platforms to openly discuss mental health and the part it plays in both their own lives and careers and in society at large.
Perhaps the most notable was BAFTA Rising Star winner and Black Panther actress Letitia Wright, who used her award speech to explain that severe bouts of depression almost led to her quitting acting altogether. She described that “God, my belief, my faith and my family, and an email from BAFTA asking me to become part of the BAFTA breakthrough Brits” helped to lift her out of her “deep depression”, but that both her recovery and her career success weren’t “an overnight thing”. She closed her speech with words of reassurance to others that they weren’t alone in experiencing mental health problems:
"I want to encourage young people. You don't have to be young, you can be any age, but I want to encourage you - anyone going through a hard time...God made you and you're important, there might be some of you here who might be going through a hard time.”
Stateside, triple Grammy winner Lady Gaga also used her awards podium at the Grammys to emphasise the need for widespread mental health awareness and throw a spotlight on the fact that none of us need suffer in silence, and that mental health issues are far more common than it might superficially appear:
"If I don't get another chance to say this, I just want to say that I'm so proud to be a part of a movie that addresses mental health issues. They're so important. A lot of artists deal with that. And we’ve got to take care of each other. So if you see somebody that's hurting, don't look away. And if you're hurting, even though it might be hard, try to find that bravery within yourself to dive deep and go tell somebody and take them up in your head with you."
The vital importance of sharing our experiences and emotions was also underlined by none other than former First Lady Michelle Obama , who made a surprise address to the Grammys audience in which she articulated the power that every genre of music has to make us feel less alone:
“Whether we like country or rap or rock, music helps us share ourselves, our dignity and sorrows, our hopes and joys. It allows us to hear one another, to invite each other in."
Finally, Cardi B became the first woman ever to win Best Rap Album, and while not referenced last night she’s been open about her episodes of postnatal depression both on social media and in the most recent issue of Harper's Bazaar , proving that, as Letitia affirmed, success and sharing how you really, really feel aren’t mutually exclusive. Mental health problems can touch all of us, no matter how many gongs you have at home or how radiant you look on the red carpet, and last night’s winning women were out to prove that “taking people up in your head” helps all of us, and that mental health problems aren’t a barrier to success or a marker of weakness. Quite the opposite.