Letitia Wright may have stolen our hearts as the brilliant and wisecracking princess and little sister Shuri in Black Panther, but it was her performance as an avenging daughter in the gripping “Black Museum” episode in Black Mirror’s fourth season that has earned her a 2018 Primetime Emmy nomination.
It’s Wright’s first nod, and no doubt an honor she wanted to shout from the rooftops; so there’s something especially fitting about her appearing to do exactly that on the cover of W magazine’s fourth volume of 2018, titled “Fashion’s New Faces, Fashion’s New Energy, Fashion’s New Obsessions.”
In the issue, the 24-year-old British-bred Guyanese actress poses in sportswear from Calvin Klein, Prada, Balenciaga and Fendi, and talks about finding her calling at the tender age of 12 (playing Rosa Parks in her school’s Black History Month performance), which led to a dogged pursuit of an acting career—initially, much to the chagrin of her family, as she tells W:
One time, I recorded myself doing a monologue over the only video of my cousin’s wedding. I got into a lot of trouble, man. I so clearly remember my Auntie Ann shouting, ‘Letitia! Get in here! You recorded yourself doing nonsense over the wedding!’ I felt so bad. That was the moment I was like, ‘This acting thing has to come to life, because one day my aunt and I have to laugh about this.’ And finally, just this last year—thank you, Jesus—we did.
Obviously, Wright’s “acting thing” has more than come to life, as friend and fellow actor Daniel Kaluuya tells W her performance was the “heart and soul” of Black Panther. As a result, Wright is now recognizable pretty much anywhere she goes, but as she tells the mag, there was a period in which depression and a need for approval led her down a dark path.
I was depressed and full of anxiety ... I think it was that pressure to be accepted, to be somebody. When you’re looking outside of yourself for happiness and validation, a mean comment on social media can wreck you. I was okay when I was on set, hiding behind my work, but when I wasn’t acting I was full of fear and doubt, trying to fill this void inside of me any way I could: drinking, smoking. It was bad.
Wright found her balance three years ago in Christianity, even quitting acting for a time to focus on spending more time with God. But after a six-month hiatus, it was ultimately God that led her back to her calling.
“God was speaking to me and said, ‘This is your talent,’” she says. “It’s what you’re meant to do.’”
But Wright’s much-needed break from the industry also alerted her to another important tool in her emotional arsenal: the power of saying ‘no.’
“For me, anything I attach myself to needs to have a purpose. And if it feels like a red light in any way, I don’t do it,” she tells W.
Most of all? Wright says her connection to Christianity taught her to no longer sweat the small stuff.
Worrying will kill you, man. It will ... Eat. You. Up. But in the Bible, Jesus is basically like, ‘Chill out, guys.’ If you gracefully trust that everything is going to be okay, you start to feel lighter. You’ve just got to let go and let God.
And Wright tells W it’s that faith that is now helping her gracefully navigate her increasingly brilliant career with confidence in her talent—and her purpose:
“For as long as I can remember, I knew something about my life was meant to be meaningful, that I’ve got something to do here,” she says. “I don’t know how I knew, but I was sure I’d make an impact.”