With Black History Month fast approaching, we’re highlighting some of the most famous and influential names on our talent roster that would make a perfect choice for BHM events or campaigns.
Ashley Walters returned to the spotlight recently after appearing in the new Netflix reboot of gritty UK drama Top Boy. Blessed with the talents of both an actor and musician, he trained at the prestigious Sylvia Young theatre school before finding fame as Asher D of So Solid Crew, releasing several solo albums after their 2006 split. The actor has appeared in a range of successful feature films and television shows, including Bullet Boy, Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and Danny in Life and Lyrics. Walters has also taken to the stage, performing at the Royal Court Theatre and the Royal National Theatre.
Dame Kelly Holmes is a British television personality and author best known for her former career as a highly successful middle-distance athlete. Competing at the Olympic Games, World Indoor Championships, and European Championships, she represented England at the Commonwealth Games, winning a total of seven gold medals and breaking several records throughout her career. Since retiring from the field she’s become a renowned presenter and motivational speaker, often speaking on mental and physical wellbeing.
One of women’s international rugby’s most recognisable faces, Maggie Alphonsi was an integral part of the English team that triumphed in the 2014 Rugby World Cup. She’s also helped her home team win seven Six Nations tournaments consecutively, earning her side the title of BBC’s Sports Personality Team of the Year. Since retiring from professional rugby, Alphonsi has kept busy as a commentator and pundit for Sky, BT Sport and BBC, before becoming the first ever former female rugby player to become a member of the Rugby Football Union’s Council.
BHM is important to me because it shines a spotlight on some truly inspirational people from the past to the present who have achieved extraordinary things. It is their drive and resilience that motivates me and many others to be the best we can be, regardless of ethnicity and background.Maggie Alphonsi
One of Britain’s most successful boxers, Frank Bruno has gone up against Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis, becoming WBC World Champion in 1995 in a memorable bout against Oliver McCall. Known for his fearsome punching power, Bruno scored 38 knockouts in 40 wins, giving him an impressive 95% knockout-to-win ratio. Since stepping out of the ring for good, Bruno has remained popular with the public. After struggling with mental health issues and returning to good health, Bruno published an inspiring autobiography in 2006.
John Barnes MBE is often referred to as one of the most talented English players ever to step on the football pitch. During his illustrious footballing career, he played for Watford, Charlton Athletic and Newcastle United, having particular success with Liverpool FC, with whom he won the FA Cup twice, scoring 106 goals in 403 matches. He was also a key member of the international squad: by the time of his last appearance for England, he had played more times than any other black player in history. Since retiring from professional football, Barnes found success as a pundit on ITV, Five and LFC TV, making appearances in several television shows and taking part in Celebrity Big Brother.
Sir Lenny Henry is one of the UK’s most beloved and widely recognised performers. After making his entrance into the comedy world at 16, he made a name for himself as an impressionist and stand-up comedian before landing his own show on the BBC in the mid-80s. Henry went on to appear in a multitude of roles across television, film, and stage, moving from sketch comedy to Shakespeare with ease and becoming one of the best-known faces in British Entertainment. He is perhaps most widely associated with Comic Relief, the charity and biannual televised fundraising campaign which he co-founded alongside Richard Curtis.
Born in London to Nigerian parents, Yashere is a British comedian who has found success across both sides of the Atlantic. After appearing in The Lenny Henry Show and co-hosting the MOBO Awards, she became the first British comedian to perform on the hit US show Def Comedy Jam, going on to appear on several of America’s most popular late-night shows, most recently becoming the new ‘British Correspondent’ for The Daily Show. Living in North Hollywood, Gina Yashere continues to write and perform stand-up, recording a Netflix Original Comedy Special in 2018.
Boxer, television personality, activist, designer, and notable eccentric Chris Eubank is perhaps the most flamboyant character to step in a boxing ring, and one of the most successful. He reigned as the sport’s world champion for over five consecutive years and was undefeated throughout his first ten years as a professional: his world title bouts against fellow Britons Michael Watson and Nigel Benn brought British boxing to international attention in the ’90s. Ranked by BoxRec as the third best British super-middleweight boxer of all time, he remains an influential figure within the sport and outside of it.