Sabrina Elba: ‘It’s So Easy To Strip A Woman Of Her Identity And Attach It To A Man.’

Podcaster, producer, entrepreneur, actor – Sabrina Elba is making a name for herself, on her own terms.

Sabrina Elba

by Sagal Mohammed |
Published on

I first met Sabrina Elba five years ago at a panel talk in London – she’d just moved to the UK from Canada, and was engaged to the actor Idris Elba, now her husband. At the time, life was still relatively ordinary for her: she was working a 9 to 5 at a PR agency and had made only a few public appearances with Idris. ‘It’s crazy, I literally have not stopped since I last saw you all those years ago,’ she tells me, wiping off her make-up as we chat in her dressing room after her Grazia cover shoot. Since 2018, Sabrina has established herself as a prolific multihyphenate. She’s perhaps best known for co-hosting the hugely popular Coupledom podcast, in which she and Idris interview famous duos – from Kris Jenner and Kim Kardashian, to the Ben and Jerry of ice cream fame.

Sabrina Elba
Crystal embellished bodysuit, £1,295, Michael Kors Collection; earrings, £255, Completedworks ©Danika Magdelena

Then there’s S’ABLE Labs, the genderless skincare line she launched this summer (another joint project with Idris). She also made her acting debut in this year’s fantasy-drama Three Thousand Years Of Longing, starring Tilda Swinton, and is about to add TV producer to her CV, developing an anime series. Along with her modelling work and philanthropic efforts as a UN Goodwill Ambassador for the International Fund of Agricultural Development, it’s fair to say the 33-year- old has been keeping busy.

‘I have grown so much – I’m a different person,’ she says. ‘I’ve experienced so many different things – putting myself in rooms that I didn’t feel I belonged in and dealing with impostor syndrome.’ While she’s still as warm as I remember, it’s clear that the Sabrina I’m meeting today has a better understanding of who she is. She’s more confident and assertive and visibly more comfortable in the space she’s in, but it’s clear she’s also still adjusting. ‘There is so much that’s been given to me because I’ve been so fortunate in circumstances,’ she says, referring to the platform her marriage has given her. ‘Sometimes, when you get things without feeling like you’ve earned it, or deserved it, you almost feel there is more work to do, more to achieve, before you belong.’

Sabrina Elba
Shearling coat, £3,560, Michael Kors Collection; mules, £435, Paris Texas; tights, stylist’s own ©Danika Magdelena

Sabrina is no stranger to the stigma around women who marry famous, wealthy men. She’s heard every label and misconception about herself, to the point where she’s no longer fazed by any of it. ‘I either ignore it or I embrace it,’ she says. ‘It’s so easy to strip a woman of her identity and attach it to a man. The second I started dating Idris I was described as a model, even though I hadn’t modelled a day in my life at that point. People assume things about you and they love putting women into boxes.’

Working with Idris on multiple projects, the pair have learned how to balance the personal and professional. ‘People always ask us if it’s difficult to work with your partner, and I did question whether it was going to be tricky at first, but we’ve just become so good at setting boundaries. I know not to ask him about work things when he has come home from a long day, that time is for us. So, if I have something I want to discuss I’ll go through his team or I’ll pick an appropriate time and vice versa. You have to separate the relationships.’

Sabrina Elba
Faux fur coat, £1,650, and cashmere catsuit, £705, both Michael Kors Collection; shoes, £535, Paris Texas; necklace, £225, Aligheri ©Danika Magdelena

They’ll be working together again on a new passion project, a ‘dark fantasy’ anime series, a co-production from Sabrina’s Pink Towel Pictures and Idris’s Green Door Pictures. ‘I’m obsessed with anime,’ she says, laughing. ‘During lockdown it was all I was watching, so I’m so excited that I have the opportunity to make my own, with a great writer and an amazing team.’

Between juggling their many ventures, Sabrina and Idris make sure to squeeze in some fun, and certainly know how to throw a good party. In 2019, their three-day wedding in Morocco was covered exclusively in British Vogue (editor-in-chief Edward Enninful was a guest, as was designer Christian Louboutin, who designed the bride’s shoes) and featured fire-eaters, acrobats and a performance from Afrobeats superstar Davido.

Sabrina Elba
Recycled silver earrings, £495, Completedworks; coat, £3,560, and jumpsuit, £1,600, both Michael Kors Collection ©Danika Magdelena

While the Met Gala is at the top of Sabrina’s list for the best celebrity night out, the couple love to host private shindigs at home. They’ll be spending the festive period in London. ‘We’ll be celebrating New Year here and Idris’s eldest son’s 30th, so we’re throwing a huge party. I’m still recovering from planning Idris’s 50th in September, but I love celebrating special occasions,’ she says. ‘Idris’s schedule is insane these days but he’s got December off, so we’ll definitely be making the most of that.’

Then it’s back to building their empire. Next year there’s more acting for Sabrina. ‘I’ve got a lead role in a small indie film, so I’m excited about that,’ she says – but she’ll no doubt be adding more strings to her bow. ‘I’m exploring new avenues and finding new things I enjoy. No matter your age, you shouldn’t ever be afraid to try something new, however out of reach it may feel.’

Photographer -
Stylist - @sophievanders
Talent - @sabrinaelba@imgmodels
Interview @sagalamo
Hair Stylist - @rio_hair
Make-up Artist - Jessica De Bruyne
Bookings Director - @christiephedoncasting
Movement Director - @angelicawska
Photo Assistants - Jem Rigby and Sam Lort
Styling Assistant - @susielethbridge

Editor - @hattie_brett
Associate Editor - @jane_mcfarland
Creative Director - @cazroberts

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