To support Marie Claire's #ShareTheLight campaign, we asked seven influential women to take us back to the places which played a big role in their own education.
Did you know that less than a third of school children worldwide are girls? Or that there are 33 million fewer girls than boys in primary school? This month, Marie Claire is launching its #ShareTheLight campaign, partnering up with beauty brand L’Occitane and girls education charity Plan International UK to create a special candle, 100% of the profits of which will help fund girls’ education worldwide. You can help Marie Claire to #ShareTheLight and put a girl through school by buying this scented candle exclusively made for Marie Claire by L’Occitane for £8.
To help kick off the campaign to fund girls’ education worldwide, we asked seven successful women to take us back to the places which played a big role in their own education.
Gemma Chan, actress (above)
Photographed at: Drama Centre London, Central Saint Martins
‘I studied law at Oxford university before spending two years at Drama Centre London at Central Saint Martins. I’d heard it was the toughest, most brutal training and that’s what I wanted. I spent so much time sobbing in the toilets because you do get broken down; they don’t pamper you. It definitely gave me discipline and I was encouraged to play characters that were very unlike myself. I had a wonderful teacher called John Beschizza and he used to say, “We don’t want waxed fruit, we want real fruit salad.” He wanted to strip away any artificiality and for us to give a real and truthful performance, which is something that really stuck with me. It was such a great environment where you could explore and be completely playful without the pressure of the outside world.’
Chan stars in series two of Humans, coming to Channel 4 this autumn.
Izzy Bizu, singer
Photographed at: BIMM London
‘This is where I first started writing music. I met my guitarist here and my amazing singing teacher Anna, who I still work with now. I went to theatre school first, but I just wanted to sing all the time. There were so many great singers at BIMM [British and Irish Modern Music Institute] and we all used to gig around pubs in London. It was a great crowd, but at that time I was just finding myself, so I’d mostly watch. I had a hilarious teacher called Will who taught me performance techniques and brought me out of my shell, so I could move on to open-mic nights. I was spotted by Emeli Sandé, who gave me advice and bought me pizza.’
Izzy Bizu’s debut album A Moment Of Madness is out on 2 September.
Sophie Hulme, fashion designer
Photographed at: Kingston University, London
‘I spent four years at Kingston doing an art foundation course and then a degree in womenswear. When I arrived I wanted to be a fine artist, but then I met this wonderfully inspiring teacher called Sheila. She was so stylish and used to show me all of these old pictures of herself in the 70s. I didn’t have a background in fashion, but it was Sheila who convinced me to go into it. Kingston was where I learned to be a little more fearless and express my opinions, as well as picking up practical skills and ideas which still influence my design today. This is where I learned what I was all about.’
Laura Whitmore, presenter
Photographed at: MTV, London
‘[The MTV studio] is one of my favourite places and my first real memory of living in London [is here]. For me, it wasn’t just about a new job, it was a new life. This is where I went from being this petrified young girl from Ireland queuing to compete in ‘Pick Me MTV’ to having my own desk and working there every day. The first person I interviewed was Chace Crawford from Gossip Girl and I remember thinking, “I have no idea what I’m doing.” It was overwhelming and I was a bit rough around the edges, but I had to learn by jumping in at the deep end.’
Whitmore is one of Plan International’s Because I Am A Girl ambassadors, and works to raise awareness about girls’ education around the world. She has sponsored a girl in the Philippines for seven years, and travelled to meet her for the first time last year.
Edith Bowman, DJ and presenter
Photographed at: Hampstead Heath
‘Education is about learning about yourself as much as anything else, and this is what the Heath has been for me. It’s where I go to get headspace – listen to new music, go for a walk to get inspiration or sit and work out where I want to go with interviews. I come from a fishing village in Scotland and when I came down to London it took me a long time to be settled. It was the Heath that grounded me. Every girl deserves an education, because if you’re not afraid of hard work and putting in the hours you can achieve anything.’
Emily Berrington, actress
Photographed at: Guildhall School of Music & Drama
‘Growing up, I didn’t think acting was considered a proper career. When I left school, I studied geography at King’s College London, then I went on to work at the House of Commons for Labour Party MP Siobhain McDonagh. While I was there I thought, “If I’m not afraid to work in the competitive world of politics, why am I frightened of trying to be an actor?” I auditioned for drama school and got
a place at Guildhall the following year. I discovered the power of my own voice and was encouraged to have a real sense of self-worth. I’m now on the audition panel so I get to sit on the other side of the table and help people succeed.’
Berrington stars in series two of Humans, coming to Channel 4 this autumn.
Aisling Bea, actress and comedian
Photographed at: Soho Theatre London
‘As a student at drama school I learned my craft by repeating what I knew over and over again. But as
a stand-up I learned from the community of comedians around me – Sara Pascoe, Celia Pacquola, Katherine Ryan. I have so many fond memories of gigging here at the Soho Theatre. We’d all meet up in the bar afterwards and give each other ideas and feedback.
I really believe one woman learning helps three women behind her progress. If I could drill one thing into the next generation, it’s that women aren’t in competition with each other – we are stronger together.’
Bea stars in series three of The Fall, coming to BBC 2 this autumn.
Want to join our #ShareTheLight campaign? Help us fight for girls’ education around the world by heading to L’Occitane to buy the Marie Claire candle and following the hashtag #ShareTheLight.