Gugu was born in Oxford, England, she appeared in TV series Bad Girls, Bonekickers and Doctor Who. In 2013 She starred in Amma Asante's film Belle.Followed by starring in Gina Prince-Bythewood's film Beyond The Lights. Also starred in Jupiter Ascending, Concussion, Free State of Jones, Miss Sloane and Beauty and the Beast.
In Beyond the Lights, Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays Noni Jean, a pop diva literally and figuratively caught inside a gilded cage. For a raunchy music video, Noni writhes inside a golden harness; at an awards show, she shimmies down the red carpet in a peekaboo chain-link bodice. But thanks to the intervention of a good cop (portrayed by Nate Parker), Noni eventually liberates herself from the gaudy restraints of fame, revealing, Mbatha-Raw says, “the human side of the fantasy girl.”
Both the Oxford-born actress and her director, Gina Prince-Bythewood, intend for Beyond the Lights to “change the conversation” about how the entertainment industry packages its female talent. “The culture has reached a new low for women,” Mbatha-Raw says. “There’s no more mystique. Everything is out there to be consumed.” To research the heroine, who is manipulated by a toxic stage mom and greedy handlers, the 31-year-old nurse’s daughter studied superstars past and present: Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Beyoncé, Prince, Rihanna. Mbatha-Raw—the lead earlier this year in the period drama Belle—had to reject her Royal Academy of Dramatic Art training, practicing gyrations in front of mirrors and learning to stare directly at the camera. “It was cringe-worthy! It took me a very long time to look myself in the eye!” she says. And, yes, the soundtrack features Mbatha-Raw’s own voice; she has been performing musically since age 11, when she played Dorothy onstage in The Wizard of Oz.“Beyond the Lights is entertainment and escapism,” she notes. “But it is also meant to push buttons and provoke. That’s what art is for.”