What happens when you gather hundreds of talented Black British creatives and put them in one room? You get the GUAP Gala (think Met Gala meets BET Awards). For the second year running, the founders of GUAP, Ibrahim Kamara and Jide Adetunji, managed to put on the event of the year.
GUAP started out as a magazine in 2015 but has since turned into a youth-led media platform and creative agency. When the invite-only gala was announced for the first time a year ago, there was a high level of interest in what the event would entail. Who would be invited? What are the nominations? And more importantly, who is the event catered towards?
At its heart, the GUAP Gala champions under-represented creatives, whilst allowing them to be in a room with like-minded individuals. This is significant considering the contributions of Black Brits across creative fields are often overlooked or minimised. In recent years there have been noted efforts to help diversify publishing, film, television, theatre, art and other creative industries, however, there are still many known barriers for minorities hoping to achieve within these fields. Additionally, award ceremonies such as the BRIT Awards or The Grammys tend to be restricted to certain disciplines, instead, GUAP created a space where different types of creatives can be celebrated under one roof. “There wasn’t anything that celebrated creativity in its entirety, so that’s everyone that makes up the creative industries from your photographers and stylists all the way to your music artists and your actors,” Ibrahim told the BBC.
Another fascinating aspect of the evening is the fashion. What would a gala be without a theme? Last year, the theme was ‘Folklore’— those of us who weren’t fortunate enough to be invited last year were glued to our screens to see what our favourite creatives would be wearing. I remember staying up that evening in anticipation of what gowns and suits would be worn. It felt like we were part of an episode of E!’s Fashion Police.
This year was no different especially considering the theme was ‘cosmic dreams’ and allowed for incredible interpretations of the dress code. As an attendee at this year’s ceremony at the Natural History Museum, I searched high and low for an appropriate outfit. I knew that if I failed to match up with the theme, Black Twitter would have strong words for me. After finding a make-up artist, outfit, and some cosmic-inspired jewellery I was ready for the evening.
If you weren’t one of the fortunate attendees, you were most likely sitting at home scrolling your Twitter app looking for pictures of the nominees. “I can’t wait to judge the GUAP Gala outfits from the comfort of my own home,” one user wrote. “Haven’t even seen all the fits but Lake Sanu and Dami Hope have won it for ME already with their outfits,” another user said.
As I walked into the Natural History Museum, I was in awe. The attendees did not come to play. You could see the joy on everyone’s faces. If you’re an upcoming Black British creative, events like the GUAP Gala allow you to be in a room with people who paved the way before you whilst recognising the path you’re creating for yourself.
“When I started this journey last year I never had in mind winning an award. But when I found out that it was possible and there was a platform for it, it gave me a lot of motivation…”
ASHER Glean, CONTENT CREATOR
The awards were hosted by presenter and internet satirist Munya Chawawa and BBC 1Xtra’s Remi Burgz and featured performances from the likes of Tay Iwar, Unknown T, and The Compozers. The winners included Kosar Ali, who starred in the 2019 coming-of-age film Rocks, for ‘Actor to Watch’ and Gabriel Moses for ‘Photographer of the Year’. Online sensation Asher Glean took home the coveted award for ‘Content Creator of The Year’, which was sponsored by Instagram as part of its commitment to supporting emerging creators on the platform. If your screen time is predominantly made up of watching TikTok videos and Instagram reels you may have seen Asher’s videos pop up. He’s amassed a following of over 100k on Instagram and 1.9 million followers on TikTok for his hilarious comedy videos.
Asher told Unbothered that it feels surreal to win a GUAP Gala award. “When I started this journey last year I never had in mind winning an award. But when I found out that it was possible and there was a platform for it, it gave me a lot of motivation. And now it’s a reality I have really won it,” he shared, post-win.
Social media plays a significant role for Black Brits. The British TV and Film world is still predominantly white, especially in the top, decision-making roles, so for many of us being online is the only place where we can truly see ourselves. TV shows and films like Top Boy, Rye Lane and I May Destroy You have provided several opportunities for emerging Black British talent, both in front and behind the camera, but there’s still a lot of work to do.
We know how important representation is but it seems that Black Brits aren’t waiting around for mainstream opportunities — they’re creating a lane for themselves on their own accord. This is why Asher holds his GUAP Gala win in such high regard. “Growing up it was hard to find Black British role models,” he says. “Every Black male person I saw on TV was either a footballer or a rapper and most of the time they weren’t Black British so it was hard for me to picture myself in higher positions. However, GUAP has created this platform for us and allowed Black British creatives to be celebrated and I can only imagine what that’s doing for the upcoming generation.”
It was inspiring to see so many of my peers receiving their flowers from people who looked like them. When you looked around the room it was clear to see that we’re currently experiencing a Black British renaissance.
Winner of the Cultural Hero award Kelechi Okafor has recently released her first book ‘Edge Of Here’, whilst Best Writer nominee Bolu Babalola continues to put her mark in the publishing world with books like Love In Colour and Honey & Spice. Film director and writer Raine Allen Miller won the award for ‘Director of the Year’ for the 2023 Black British romantic comedy film, Rye Lane. If you went to day festival Recess Paris this year, you wouldn’t be surprised to know that it won ‘Business Of the Year.’ Streetwear brand, Crtz, bagged ‘Fashion Brand of the Year’ and the list can go on.
“We are definitely in an era of Black creativity,” Asher says. “This is not to say that we’ve just started producing great things, it’s that we are finally getting the spotlight we deserve. GUAP is allowing Black creatives to be seen and heard.” Black British creatives are making a name for themselves and GUAP Gala is providing them with their flowers.
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