This article was originally published on Sept. 12, 2018.
Before Game of Thrones launched Nathalie Emmanuel into the global spotlight (she plays Daenerys’ right-hand, Missandei), people told her that she didn’t have what it takes to be an actor.
“When I first started out in acting, I was sort of told, ‘You didn’t go to drama school, therefore you can’t be an actor,” she says in episode three of InStyle and Reebok’s Badass Women video series. The negative energy has never kept Emmanuel down. “I was like I’m not having anybody put me in a box in any way, shape, or form — and so then I was an actor.”
The actress, who confirmed she will appear in the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones, scheduled to air next year, says she has noticed a palpable shift among the women in her life since the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. “To be a woman today it means not being afraid to say what you think, to go for things that you want, to step outside of the expectations that people put on you,” the actress says. “And sometimes you have to just look in the mirror and be like, ‘You are a badass.’”
To hear more about Emmanuel’s acting journey, her inspirations, her hair, and the one activity that’s kept her centered for over a decade, check out the video above and excerpts below.
RELATED: Restaurant Workers Are Paid as Little as $2.13 an Hour — But Saru Jayaraman Says Change Is Coming
Fearless drive: Just as the women of Game of Thrones tend to prevail when they’re at their most fearless and strong, Emmanuel will not let anyone keep her down. “When people say I can’t do things I say, ‘Well, I’m gonna do it.’”
Hair-story: “Growing up, I definitely didn’t really appreciate my hair for what it was,” Emmanuel says, adding that it took a trip to the Caribbean where her family is from for her to realize her hair’s importance to her story. “My hair is part of my heritage. It’s part of who I am,” the actress says. She also notes that she insists on wearing her hair natural for many of her roles now.
RELATED: Meet the Woman Completing 50 Ironman Triathlons in 50 Days
Role model mama: The woman who’s been most influential to Emmanuel is her mother. “My mom taught me that you deserve everything, no one should ever stop you …” the actress says. Her determination and drive to succeed stems from her mother’s lessons. “She has just shown so much drive and determination and she has turned her life around in a way that is so inspiring to me,” Emmanuel says. “She is a superhero.”
Namaste: “I have had a love-affair with yoga for about a decade now,” the actress says. In fact, she has trained to become a yoga instructor. “There’s always such great energy in the room,” she notes about her teaching experience. For Emmanuel, it’s all about the positive energy to re-center and go out into the world, on and off-screen, and succeed.