'Beyond' Star: New Film Shows Power of Self

by Marcela Isaza

Associated Press

Saturday November 15, 2014

British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw has had a busy 2014.

Earlier this year, she starred in "Belle," based on a true story about a mixed-race woman who was raised in British aristocracy in the 18th century. Now, the 31-year-old actress has transformed herself into a hot new pop star in "Beyond the Lights," which was released on Friday.

Mbatha-Raw studied the likes of Beyoncé, Rihanna and Katy Perry to transform into her character Noni for the indie drama, directed by Gina Price-Bythewood. The story exposes the dark aspects of fame and pressures of oversexualization encountered by some female artists.

The film underscores the importance of having a strong sense of self-worth, Mbatha-Raw says.

"If you're trading your self-worth for an image of sexuality and something that you think is going to be commercial and sell, I just don't think those are very healthy messages for young women today and I think that people often believe the fantasy," she said in a recent interview.

Mbatha-Raw says she doesn't feel the same pressures as an actress because you get to play different characters.

"The great thing about something like (the character) Noni is that I was able to physically transform and to go on a journey through a different person's eyes but then I can still come back to me," she said. "I just think that's important as I say to be able to touch base with yourself."

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