Cynthia Erivo criticises Baftas over ‘inappropriate’ offer to perform at awards

Cynthia Erivo has said it was “totally inappropriate” for Bafta to ask her to perform at the 2020 awards after the event was criticised for lacking diversity.

The south London actress and singer, 33, claims she was invited to deliver a musical performance following this year’s “all-white” controversy.

Erivo said organisers had made her feel like a “token” and that they were using her “as an entertainment” rather than embracing diversity.

EE British Academy Film Awards 2019 – Arrivals – London
EE British Academy Film Awards 2019 – Arrivals – London

This year’s Bafta nominations included no non-white actors in the four main acting categories, as well as an absence of female directors.

Erivo’s performance as US anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman in the biopic Harriet was snubbed, despite earning her an Oscar nomination.

Speaking on Naomi Campbell’s No Filter With Naomi YouTube series, Erivo said: “They asked me to perform and I felt like it was totally inappropriate because of the way they had nominated across the board.

“There were no people of colour anywhere. No black, brown anywhere in the acting categories at all – if any categories – in the directing, not in any of them.

“Then for me to be asked to perform retroactively as a result of the fact that people weren’t happy, that felt like they were using me as an entertainment.

“It felt like I was a token, it felt like it disregarded the cause we have, I didn’t think that it would move us forward.

“I didn’t think it was a great example of us. I didn’t think it was the right way to use my voice.

“All it done was reduce diversity that we’re asking for, and inclusion to performing – it was like ‘you come and perform for us, that’s how we include you’.”

Naomi Campbell Fashion For Relief Charity Pop-Up Store Launch – London
Naomi Campbell Fashion For Relief Charity Pop-Up Store Launch – London

Erivo was the only person of colour nominated in an acting category at the 2020 Oscars.

The actress described the experience as “bittersweet”.

She added: “It’s never as enjoyable as it needs to be if you’re the only one.

“Even in my team, they’re family so I have black women and black men that surround me everywhere so when you can’t look across the aisle or you can’t look to your right or left and see other people who look like you, other women who look like you, other men who look like you in the same art.

“You know, yes, there’s a great, great responsibility to carry the flag but also why can’t I share that with my sisters and brothers?

“You feel like the only child and I know that’s not true. I’m not the only one doing this work, doing this brilliant work, and who deserves to be celebrated.”

Previous guests on No Filter With Naomi include Vogue boss Dame Anna Wintour, model Karlie Kloss and tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams.