Naomie Harris OBE (Pembroke ’98)

Naomie Melanie Harris OBE is an extremely accomplished English actress born in 1976 to Jamaican and Trinidadian parents. 

Harris studied social and political sciences at Pembroke College where she was one of two black students in her year. She graduated in 1998 with a 2:1 and went on to train at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Harris has had an incredibly lucrative career in film. Her acting credits precede that of her time at Cambridge and she has starred in television and film since she was nine years old, including a starring role in science fiction series, The Tomorrow People. To date some of her most notable works include her roles in The Pirates of the Caribbean, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Moonlight, and most especially her role as Eve Moneypenny in the James Bond films. 

Harris admits that her experience at Cambridge was not “particularly pleasant” however she also acknowledges that Cambridge has always been helpful to her. When discussing her time at the university, she highlights that she had the amazing opportunity to meet several key figures who would go on to become significant names in the industry. Furthermore, she emphasises the fact that going to Cambridge has allowed her to make connections with those who it would have been hard to otherwise. Although she acknowledges that things shouldn’t be so, “people do perceive you differently as a result of having gone there. And I think, particularly as a woman in this industry, it helps to have that. People assume, ”Oh. She’s got a brain.” Still, Harris has been extremely transparent about difficulties faced at Cambridge. Coming from a working class background, she stated in 2012 that Cambridge was a huge cultural shift. “They talked about Eton and skiing and here was I, this black girl from North London.”

Harris has been recognized for all her hard work and dedication in many ways. She has won a Black Reel Award, a British Independent Film Award, a Critics’ Choice Movie Award, an Essence Award and many more. She has also been nominated for the prestigious Academy Awards, a BAFTA, a Golden Globe Award and a SAG Award. Harris was also appointed an Officer of the highly esteemed Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2017 for services to drama. 

It’s no question that Naomie Harris has accomplished so many incredible things in a career spanning 36 years and she still has so much to conquer. With Harris we can see a case of making lemonade out of lemons. Despite the fact that she didn’t have the best experience at Cambridge and is open about the fact that she never felt like she quite fit in, she recognizes that being apart of Oxbridge opened certain doors for her and is aware of the connections she has made that would have otherwise not been possible. Harris is truly a visionary and an extremely talented individual that represents the harsh reality of being a Black Cantab. At the same time, she manages to harness that uncomfortable truth and shape it into a strength for herself and the path she continues to walk on in life.