Reggie Yates: My Mother Helped Me Identify What A Good Woman Could Be

Afoma Andrea

By Afoma Andrea

Afoma Andrea

8 Oct 2021

As someone who grew up watching Reggie Yates play Leo Jones on Doctor Who, it is staggering to witness the growth of his career. The recognizable face from Top Of The Pops is now synonymous with critically acclaimed documentaries. An actor, a presenter, a film director, Yate’s list of accomplishments could easily fill up this article’s word count!

Recently Yates has partnered with Bumble for their #MyLoveIsBlackLove campaign. Shedding light on Black-owned date spots, this year’s campaign will include a launch of their grant programme to support small businesses that have been hard hit by the pandemic.

Mixtape Madness caught up with Yates over Zoom for a quick chat about the campaign, his thoughts on ‘Black Love’, dating in the UK as a Black man, and the imminent release of his debut feature film ‘Pirates’. Tap in below to see what he had to say!

What first attracted you to being a part of the #MyLoveIsBlackLove campaign?

I think the thing that really attracted me is that off the back of something like COVID, dating apps are something that so many people maybe hadn’t considered before but have now considered, particularly black people. I love the fact that as the world is opening up, we’re now, both in our friendship and romantic groups, able to go to restaurants again and be out in public spaces. Also, the fact that Bumble has decided to invest in black-owned businesses when it comes to this project, I think is a real massive draw for me. It’s one thing, saying that you want to encourage people of colour to come to your platform, it’s another thing saying we’re going to double down on that and we’re also going to pull together this group of black businesses that we think could be great for you to go on a date. We’re also going to put black people in a campaign and say that whatever your version of black love is, it’s welcome on our platform. I just think all of those things are incredibly positive, particularly supporting black businesses and just making sure that people know that as a platform, it’s something that everybody is welcome to join.

You have previously mentioned the importance of welcoming spaces for Black people professionally, do you hold a similar opinion in regards to dating spaces?

I think all of us do. If you are black or a person of colour full stop, you want to feel comfortable wherever you go, be it a part of a group of friends socially or romantically. So of course, I mean it would be crazy for me to say that it’s not something that I consider when I’m out. I think we all do even if it’s subconscious, you know, you want to feel comfortable when you’re trying to get to know someone.

Some interesting statistics were found in the research commissioned. Over 36% of Black British people have cancelled a date due to the venue. Personally, do you often feel the urge to check reviews on dating spots to make sure it’s “Black friendly”?

Yeah, I think that extends to life full stop. If I’m going out with my family or I’m spending time with a group of friends who happen to be black or predominantly black, you think about these things because you’re comfortable when you are your truer self. As a black man, and I won’t speak for anyone else but as someone who was raised by West African parents, you know, we are loud, we laugh loud, we talk loud, we talk with our hands and it may be perceived as aggressive by other people but that’s just how we are when we’re comfortable in our spaces. It is certainly something that I consider and I love the fact that this idea of curating spaces that are welcoming of that and welcoming of you being your truest self is what this is about. That for me is just incredibly unique. Bumble has actually pulled together this date generatorhttps://thebeehive.bumble.com/2021-date-generator in conjunction with Black Owned London. It pulls together all of these different amazing black-owned businesses that offer exactly what it is we’re talking about. It’s things like that, you know that takes this conversation of what would be great to something that’s actually existing in real life and available to you as a young person trying to find somewhere that you can be yourself and be comfortable in.

Speaking of available, have you always been surrounded by positive representations of Black love?

Well, I think for anybody who consumes media, and anybody that is black and was raised by black parents, it’s you know, the good, the bad and everything in between. Everything from growing up on a diet of black sitcoms that have come from the US has shown you how amazing it is when you see a black family. From My Wife and Kids through to Sister Sister like, they become a part of your pool formative years. Right the way through to my mom and my dad, to my grandparents, uncles, and aunts. There have been good and bad in every version of that and I think so long as you’re aware of what good looks like, which is something that my mother really encouraged me to know. I talk a lot in interviews about mentorship and knowing how to choose the right mentors. That has always come from my mother, she gave me the tool belt to recognize what a good man looks like and to pick him as a mentor for me. I think the same thing, you know, the love that was shown by my mother helped me identify what a good woman could be, or what a good relationship might look and feel like when I look at some of my aunts and uncles and people in my family. I think you can only draw from what you’re around and what you see.

I love that you mentioned mentorship, referring back to the point of welcoming spaces. You have completed your first feature film “Pirates”. As a director did you feel responsible for creating a similar environment for the young actors?

Absolutely! That was a major priority for me. Starting out as an actor four years ago in television, I was incredibly lucky to have my first job on a show that was predominantly Black. The first show I ever did was Desmond’s and the entire cast was black and on my first day at work, I was surrounded by people that look like my family. I was treated a certain way that wasn’t consistent in my TV career as an actor. Not every set was as welcoming, not every set felt as familiar. I know how lucky I am to have experienced that so being on set and knowing that I was going to have three young men of colour lead this movie, even before we got on set, I took the boys away for the weekend. We cooked together, we hung out together, we walked the beach and, you know, we had a lot of time to get to know each other. I wanted them to not only know each other, but to feel incredibly comfortable on set, because it’s a big ask to, again, young men in their late teens and early 20s to lead a movie, you know it doesn’t happen very often, particularly for us. So I wanted them to feel at home on set. And I think it’s incredibly important as someone who’s been both in front of and behind the camera. I know what it’s like to not feel understood or heard. So, they’re my brothers, we talk every day in our little group chat. Long may it continue – I love those guys.

In regards to the movie itself, I believe it is kind of pivotal to the scene in general. We’ve seen other industries document the growth of their music scene but not much from our own. How important is it for us to maintain the documentation of the culture ?

Yeah, it’s neglected. It’s forgotten, and it’s never held to the same esteem as some of its counterparts. We’ve got countless movies, documentaries, photo books, galleries and exhibitions, about punk, ska music, and all these other things that exist and have come from subculture in the UK. Yet where is the drum and bass movie? To be fair there’s way more documentation of grime than there ever was of garage. So much came from jungle and garage. So much of that was pioneered by young people in major cities predominantly in the south. So I think it’s imperative to put a time capsule around it because we can’t forget some of those important moments and some of those heroes that have defined music coming out of this country. Actually think it’s a shame that we’ve not had more. So hopefully – I mean this isn’t a movie about the scene. It’s not necessarily a retelling of how garage was created. It’s about friendship, it’s about these three young men, it’s about love. It’s about getting into the party, it’s about being young. It’s a coming-of-age story but the backdrop is era specific. It’s wardrobe specific, it’s music specific, and it speaks to those things that anybody that was there will understand and give nods. Hopefully, they will enjoy it and get excited about some of the things that defined their youth being elevated in a way that it deserves.

Did the movie reignite your love for music?

My love for music has never gone away, you know my father is a musician. So I started out as an actor, but prior to even being on television, music was a huge part of my life. Music will always be a huge part of my life like I’ve thrown parties since I was 18 years old. I’m in my office at the minute, and there’s a set of decks right over there because that’s where I go to and be for myself. I mix and record to clear my head. Music will always be a part of my life. I think if you’re a true music fan, it’s not something that’s defined by who’s paying you to enjoy it. I will always buy the new album, I will always debate with my boys in the group chat whether something was good or not. Sharing music and finding new music is something I love. So I’ve never left it. So there’s no reason to come back.

Lastly, congratulations on your new position as creative director for Blue Skies. What are the next few months looking like for you personally, and the brand?

Well ironically, it’s actually an answer for everything you know, and that is to just keep growing and progressing. Listen to people who are engaging with what it is that we’re doing. Hear what they think and what they suggest because ultimately, everything that I’m doing at the moment is so forward facing that the opinion and the collaboration with the audience will always be important. So listening is a huge part of what happens next in everything from my writing and directing to the product that we have in Amazon Fresh at Waitrose, it’s going to be in more stores in the next few months as well. So yeah, I’m just incredibly proud of everything that I’m doing at the moment because it all speaks in the same tone of voice and that’s incredibly important to me.

Bumble will be hosting The Hive, a free pop-up event to celebrate Black History Month this Saturday 9th October. Download The App To Get Tickets.
Keep up to date with Reggie Yates via his Instagram here.