You know Nathalie Emmanuel best from her role on Game of Thrones as Missandei, right-hand woman to the mother of dragons herself, Daenerys Targaryen, and her role in the Fast & the Furious franchise. What you might not know is that she's a feminist who possesses natural talent as a rapper.
We caught her recent #forthepussy rap on Instagram (frankly, we saw it on a very down weekend when the news was especially depressing) and wanted to share it with the world. Her rhymes about equality and respect for women were exactly what we needed and are thirsty to hear more of from the women in our lives (um, watching someone on TV religiously makes them part of your life...right?).
After her rap went viral, Refinery29 caught up with Emmanuel about her unexpected viral fame, feminism, equality, and coping with a news cycle that can feel overwhelming.
Refinery29: The same day you shared your rap on Instagram, just like every day and on the weekends in particular, our president Donald Trump went a little crazy on his Twitter account. And that was the week that the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke. When I saw your rap, it felt like a relief to watch something felt good and uplifting!
Nathalie Emmanuel: "Yeah, it's so interesting because I recorded that rap a week before I posted it. I wrote it to send it to my friends, and then I couldn't even remember what inspired me to write it. I think I saw something in the news that really irritated me. I had been watching all these For the Pussy challenges, and I thought they were fun. It was cool to see people talking freely about their sexuality. I was joking around and decided I wanted to do one. I rapped, 'How about we just get equal pay for the pussy?' I ended up writing a whole rap about women's rights and equality!"
It sounds like this came together quickly, was it easy to write a rap?
"I've always been into writing poetry, I've always had a thing for rhyming. But rapping, I've never done in my life. The day that I posted it, I was completely unaware of the situation [that had] come to light with Harvey Weinstein and the attack on basically women's health care in the States, because I had been traveling. My friends responded positively to it, but I did it not quite realizing that I was commenting on these things. But when I saw, it made me even more excited — I didn't realize how meaningful it was in the moment. I posted it meaning to make people feel good, or give them a laugh. But it made me feel empowered to put it out, and it felt like it needed to be said."
Everyone I shared this with said it was the best, and it made them feel so much better. You did that for us, but who does that for you? Who makes you feel better when it seems like the world is a garbage fire?
"I look to women that inspire me — in the media, there are directors, actors, performers, people who are putting out positivity. Someone I follow on Twitter who is always so inspiring and positive is Ava Duverney. She speaks not only for women but also for women of color and people of color. I often take myself onto her Twitter page because I know I'll see that will make me smile or feel empowered in some way. I also reach out talk to the women who inspire me in my life, in my family. It's really important to connect to these people. It's also important to speak to other women and find out how they feel. When all this craziness is going on, to have people to talk to share stories and share their feelings. Specifically about the sexual harassment cases and people trying to control women's healthcare, you can't help but feel that the only people you can really turn to are other women. But I've been speaking to so many men who are like so appalled and so over it as well. That's uplifting. People being so vocal and angry about women's rights can sometimes make people think feminists hate men or are anti-men. Actually, that's not true — they are our allies in this fight for equality."
Do you think men still equate the idea of feminism with man hating?
"I don't think so, I think people who have a problem with changing the status quo can sometimes use that as an excuse. I don't think that is the perception, I think that's changing now. I see so many feminists who are men. I think that's how we move forward, I feel pretty optimistic about that. But, if I post anything that has a feminine message on social media, it's always very interesting because you do get men assuming that you're anti-man. But that's often social media trolls, not how the masses feel."
Can we expect any more rapping about gender equality from you? Would you please do this regularly?
[Laughs] "Maybe, we'll see. As I said, I've never rapped before in my life. I guess if I ever find myself inspired to do so, I would again. I was pretty proud of my one effort! If I feel the need to release some frustration, maybe."
We might need you to remind us from time to time that things aren't so bad.
"Things aren't so bad! I feel positive, there is so much more light being shown on so many issues. Feeling people with outrage is really optimistic and makes me feel hopeful that change will happen and that people stop putting up with this stuff. They will stand up against it. I'm inspired to see to see that happening. Hopefully it will be for the better and won't be in vain. I don't think it will be, there are so many fierce voices not backing down. I'm so kind of pleased that in my own way I was able to contribute to that message of asking for us to have equal opportunity and equal treatment — all of these things that should just be a basic human right. I hope when I see something wrong to do the same. If there's any outcome from this situation, I hope it includes women not feeling like they have to put up with this sort of treatment. This public outrage is actually letting women know that those things are not okay, in any shape or form. And it's okay for you to be upset. It's also okay for you to speak up."
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