Every awards season there is a breakout star. Someone whose name not only crops up on all the nomination lists and scoops up those much coveted trophies and accolades but also jumps to the top of the best dressed lists and pops up all over the party pages. In the fashion industry they call it ‘having a moment.’
Kristen Stewart had hers in 2010 when Twilight mania kicked off. Jennifer Lawrence ruled 2013 when she worked the awards circuit for both Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. Who can forget that Oscars stumble? And last season belonged to Alicia Vikander who owned the Oscars in that embellished yellow Louis Vuitton gown where she picked up the award for Best Actress for The Danish Girl. Now we may only be in the first few weeks of January but this year we’re calling it early. 2017 is going to be Ruth Negga’s year. Who? Trust us, you won’t be saying that for much longer. Here’s everything you need to know…
Born in Ethiopia, the daughter of an Irish nurse and local doctor, Negga and her mother moved to Ireland when she was four years old to escape political voilence. Her father was due to join them at a later stage but was tragically killed in a car accident when Negga was seven years old. Shortly afterwards, Negga and her mother moved to London. Speaking of her childhood Negga has said: ‘When I was a kid in Ireland, there were not very many black people. I was very much like the strange brown thing, intriguing and cute. I didn’t experience racism there. The first time I did was in London. It was that moment that you realize you’re black. A kind of lifting of the veil.’
Growing up, Negga knew she wanted to be an actor when she David Bowie in Labyrinth. Speaking in an interview Negga has said: ‘I don’t think I ever wavered when it came to my choice of career. I was quite stubborn about it in many ways. Not that I was ever challenged about it. I wasn’t. I grew up watching a lot of films. I went to the video store and I chose my six videos for the weekend. As a teenager I gravitated towards American indie cinema: Jim Jarmusch, stuff like that.’
Negga graduated from Trinity College Dublin with a BA in drama and quickly began to make her mark in the acting world. After starring in popular Irish crime drama Love/Hate, Negga went on to make her big-screen debut opposite Cillian Murphy in Neil Jordan’s Breakfast on Pluto and won the Berlin International Shooting Star award in 2006. Since then she has been quietly honing her craft both on-stage (she became the first black actress to play Ophelia in 2010 at the National Theatre) in additon to racking up TV credits appearing in Criminal Justice, Misfits and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. But it was her role as fiery Tulip in TV series Preacher that really put Negga on the international map. Based on the graphic novel, Negga’s part was originally written as a sexualised blonde, but was changed for the screen-version to a black woman in a move to modernise it.
Aged 35, Negga lives with her boyfriend and fellow thespian Dominic Cooper in London’s Primrose Hill. The pair met while working at the National Theatre in 2009 where they both starred in Phaedra, with Helen Mirren and have since gone onto work on together on various projects including Warcraft and most recently Amazon Prime TV drama Preacher.
When her latest project Loving made it’s debut at Cannes, it didn’t take long for the awards rumours to start earning her best actress nominations at both the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, the Golden Globes and the EE BAFTA Rising Star, not to mention plenty of Oscars buzz. The film explores the true story of Mildred and Richard Loving, an interracial couple who took their fight for the right to marry to the Supreme Court in 1967. ‘As a black person, I’ve always been interested in racial history, especially in America,” Negga told InStyle US at the Toronto International Film Festival. “It was quite shocking to me that a couple who had such a huge impact on American legal history wasn’t at the front of our consciousness.’
The opportunity to bring the Lovings’ story to light was part of what drew Negga to the role. “I just thought, what an incredible story and what an incredible woman. Our film shows her going from sort of a young, naive, sweet girl, to a girl who’s still lovely and sweet, but finds her strength. And I think as a woman of color at that time, it’s really quite extraordinary.’
Negga is also attracting the attention of designers who are queuing up to dress her as she works the promotional circuit for Loving. Working with stylist Karla Welch, she has already knocked up many memorable red-carpet moments. Think chic in sequinned Erdem, quirky in a Dolce & Gabbana cat-motif dress and totally A-lister in full-length sheer Valentino. We can’t wait to see what she rocks next.