On the heels of her critically-acclaimed portrayal of an illegitimate biracial girl born to an aristocratic family in Belle (2013), British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw currently stars in the romantic drama, Beyond The Lights and is fast rising to become Hollywood’s most exciting new talent. She recently spoke with ESSENCE.com about her spirituality, her faith, and how she relies on stillness and nature to keep her spirits up.
Do you consider yourself to be a spiritual person?
I would definitely say I am spiritual, you know. I was born and raised a Catholic and baptized at school. I am definitely a very spiritual person; I think you sort of have to be in life, and in this industry, and as a woman, and as an actress. I think it’s important to develop a strong sense of self, because there’s lots of things that can buffet you along the way in the industry, and in life in general.
How do you stay grounded?
I am a big yogi. I love my yoga, and I meditate. For me, that’s really important to stay grounded and I am trying to be more committed with the meditation. I love to spend time in nature. I’m a Taurus, like an earth person, and I’m from the countryside, so for me, whenever I am living and working in urban areas, like New York, or L.A., parts of L.A., it’s important for me to kind of just get outside and walk and hike in greenery and by the beach if I can.
When are you happiest?
I feel like I’m happy all the time! I am happiest with the simplest things: a cup of tea in the morning, and sitting outside and listening to the birds. I always get really happy when I see a hummingbird in L.A. I think that’s the best thing about L.A., to be honest.
Can you recall a recent moment when you were reminded to be grateful?
All the time, you know. I was at the Met Ball, this incredibly glamorous experience, you know, fancy dresses, and really, really decadent dinners, and beautiful, beautiful people everywhere, and really talented, famous actors and to me. It was like a Cinderella moment, because I’d never even been to a ball before, let alone one of that scale. So I was grateful to be [there].
Who has been your greatest teacher in life?
I guess my mom. I am an only child, and I am very close to my dad, but I did grow up in a single-parent household, so that’s quite an intense bond, mother-daughter relationship. I definitely sort of credit her with instilling me with confidence, and guiding me in life.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars in Beyond the Lights, currently in theaters.