Gugu Mbatha-Raw: The global Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR

Mbatha-Raw was appointed a global Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).


Gugu Mbatha-Raw is a British-born actress with numerous accomplishments in Hollywood. She has won the Best Newcomer award at the British Independent Film Awards in 2014. She also won Best Actress at the African-American Film Critics Association, among many others. Her career spans both Hollywood blockbusters and television screens, where she continues to shine.

Background Early Life

Gugulethu Sophia Mbatha was born on April 21, 1983, in Oxford, United Kingdom. Her parents,  Patrick Mbatha, a South African doctor and anti-apartheid activist, and Anne Raw, an English nurse. Although her formal stage name is Gugu Mbatha-Raw, “Gugulethu” is a contraction of “igugu lethu,” which means “our pride” in isiXhosa. Her parents separated a year after her birth, she primarily lived with her mother but maintained close ties with her father.
Her passion for the arts became evident from a young age. At just 11 years old, Gugu joined the local acting group Dramascope and performed in the annual pantomime at the Oxford Playhouse.

She is also a talented singer and dancer. During her teenage years, she joined the Oxford Youth Music Theatre and even learned to play the saxophone. In 2001, she won a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London, where she honed her craft.

Road to Hollywood fame

Gugu Mbatha-Raw graduated from RADA in 2004 and went on to make her mark in various mediums, from theaters to the silver screen. She starred in acclaimed productions such as “Romeo and Juliet” at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre and appeared in popular British TV series like “Les Condamnees” (1999), “Doctor Who” (2005), and “Marple.”

After many years of minor roles, her breakthrough came with the film “Belle” (2013). This role earned her the BIFA Award for Best Actress and opened doors to more prominent roles in both film and television. Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s filmography includes “Miss Sloane” (2016), “Beauty and the Beast” (2017), “Misbehaviour” (2020), and many others. She also starred in the Netflix anthology series “Black Mirror” in the episode “San Junipero” (2016), which received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Television Movie. Notably, she joined the cast of the Apple TV+ drama series “The Morning Show” (2019) and played a major role in the Disney+ series “Loki” (2021).

Film Awards and Nominations

Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s exceptional talent has garnered recognition across the industry. Some of her notable accolades include:

  • BIFA Award (British Independent Film Award) for Best Actress and : She won this award for her role in “Belle” (2014).
  • Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Actress: She received this honor for her performance in “Belle” (2014).
  •  Gugu Mbatha-Raw was recognized for her role in “Belle” (2015).
  • BAFTA Rising Star Award Nomination: In 2015, she was nominated for the BAFTA Rising Star Award, which celebrates emerging talent in the film industry.
  • Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture: Mbatha-Raw was part of the cast of “The Help,” which won this award in 2012.
  • Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s accomplishments are numerous, especially since she continues to receive recognition even to this day.

Recognitions and Impact Outside the Silver Screen
Gugu visiting a MADE51 project which works with women’s co-operatives making baskets, bags and clothes to sell on the international market.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s seamless transition between various genres and roles, and contributions haven’t gone unnoticed. In 2017, Queen Elizabeth II appointed her a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for her service to the arts industry.
Furthermore, Gugu Mbatha-Raw is known for her compassionate nature. She is an active campaigner in the UNHCR’s EveryOneCounts and Films of Hope campaigns since 2018. She has visited refugee camps in Rwanda and Uganda. In 2021, Mbatha-Raw was appointed a global Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Inspiration and Empowerment

Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s journey serves as an inspiration for aspiring actors and creatives. Her dedication to her craft, versatility, and commitment to authenticity have paved the way for her success. Her impact extends beyond her performances, highlighting the power of representation and using one’s platform to drive meaningful change.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw is an epitome of humanity, using her fame for the greater good of humanity. Despite her success, she remains relatable to many people including refugees around the world.

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