A woman of many talents Gloria Onitiri is an actress, vocalist, dancer and amazingly, a trained puppeteer.
Her theatre credits include Hair, Been So Long, and she headlined as Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard. She has also starred in Egusi Soup, The Tempest and toured nationally in Bruce Norris’ Clybourne Park, to name but a few. Her TV credits include a starring role as Grace Jones in Sky Art’s Emmy award-winning series, Urban Myths.
Now, taking on the world of podcasting Gloria has co-founded and hosts Letter To A Black Girl a unique take on the British Black female experience which celebrates the best of Black British Women. The podcast is produced by Chloe Williams, Makee Ogbon, and with music by Tasha Taylor Johnson. In each episode, Gloria gets each guest to write a letter to their younger selves and then discuss them alongside the topic of the week.
Please introduce yourself…
My name is Gloria Onitiri. I’m a British-Nigerian actress, born in London and grew up in Bedfordshire.
What word or sentence best describes your life right now …
Can I have 4? Empowered. Renewal. Compassion. Self Love.
Can you tell us a bit more about Letter To A Black Girl and how the idea for the podcast came about?
It’s a podcast in a roundtable format. Its mission is to celebrate the best of Black British Women. Bringing us together. I guess it forms a conversational, witty, and healing exploration of prejudice and adversity in both the professional and personal spheres, as well as discussing more intimate topics like sex, family, and love from the viewpoint of black British women from multiple professions. So that means there’s a lot of laughing, crying, and joy, joy, joy. It’s infused with original poetic musings penned by myself and supported with music by incredible musicians and singer-songwriters that I know. Its conception came out of my need to contribute positively to our growth as a community following the extremely traumatic events born out of racial injustices exposed over the last year. I wanted to bring together our successes, increase visibility, create a space for us to connect. The whole thing is based on a poem I wrote called, Letter To A Black Girl, where I muse about a memory of mine from when I was a teenager.
The podcast celebrates the successes of Black British women in the UK, you encourage them to write and read a letter to their younger selves, what is the intention behind doing so?
It’s not very often that we are given the opportunity to reflect and look back on how we got to where we are. These women are formidable and I really wanted to create time and space for them to be able to feel that. Bathe in their awesomeness. Reading to each other. It’s so powerful. They are so brave for sharing the way they do. They write and read beautifully and so many common themes come out from them. It’s a wonderful way to put us all in the same space together, on the same level to chat. It’s healing.
Is this something you have done yourself?
You know, I haven’t done it in the form the other women have. I really wanted this podcast to be about them. I suppose we consider the midweek musings I write to be the equivalent. They are so personal and never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be sharing them on a platform like this.
You’ve already had a fantastic line-up of guests to the podcast – MP Dawn Butler, Lady Phyll, Dr Yvonne Thompson CBE, Ade Hassan MBE, Abi Oyepitan, Chi Chi Nwanoku OBE to name but a few. Are there any guests you would particularly love to have on the show?
Yes, there are many. Chloe, Makee (producers), and I have already started curating Season 3. I would LOVE to chat to Floella Benjamin and Naomi Campbell. The latter probably is not going to happen, but I’m curious.
From listening to their letters and from the discussions you have had has there been one person who has had a major impact on yourself. Who and why?
All the women have had a major impact on me, to be honest. Just because I’m in awe of their willingness to get involved and share. But I think if I have to choose one person, Lady Phyll. She made me feel like what I was doing was a good thing. A ‘yellow pages‘ of sisterhood. She made me consider the weight that our mothers, my mother has had to bear whilst trying to keep us safe. Literally ‘carrying us on their backs‘, and how to self-love is to recognise that they too need rest. It was a powerful conversation. I think actress Cherelle Skeete and I could have listened to her all day.
How do you think the podcast will empower young women?
In so many ways. It places the Black British female experience in the centre of a very public conversation, creating a platform for a highly accessible meditation on issues that need room outside of the academic or more highly politicised spaces. Seeing women who look like you, come from the same place as you doing amazing things means the potential and opportunity for you to live out your dreams is real. Within grasp. Hearing other women talk about how to navigate this crazy world. Knowing that things you may have experienced may not actually be as unique to you as you think. You are not alone. Getting to grips with the fact that the Black British female existence is not monolithic. So, so many ways.
What can your listeners look forward to on season 2 of the podcast?
Just more extremely candid conversations from gorgeous women like Director/Producer Sheila Nortley, powerful letters by the likes of Sharon D Clarke, and real talk from THE Black British business leader Dr. Yvonne Thompson. This season is definitely deeper. The women knew what they wanted to talk about.
Have you got any other upcoming projects you want to tell us about?
Right now I’m rehearsing the role of ‘The Godmother‘ for the World Premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Oscar winner Emerald Fennell’s, Cinderella. And I’m writing, I can’t say what yet but it’s exciting.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU…
- A book you have to have in your collection? – The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- A song/album that defines the soundtrack of your life to date? – Testimony, Vol 1: Life & Relationship by India.Arie
- A film / TV show that you can watch/have watched repeatedly? – Liaison Dangereuse
- The first stage production you saw and what it meant to you (play, dance, or concert)? – Jesus Christ Superstar at Lyceum Theatre. I saw it with my Dad. One of the few things we did just the two of us. It was my first West End show. I was transported. I’ll never forget it.
- What’s made you sad, mad, and glad this week? Sad/Mad – The situation with Covid in India and the ugly profit dance around not wanting to share vaccine intellectual knowledge to developing countries. Glad – Starting rehearsals and hearing people sing together in harmony, in a theatre again.
Letter To A Black Girl is available on all audio streaming platforms
Cinderella will run at Gillian Lynne Theatre, performances start 25th June.