Fast forward a few more years, and she’s gotten her MFA in screenwriting, won a contest to be London’s Guest of Honour, and met one of the most influential, prominent people on the planet (ie. Stephen Hawking) via the trip. I didn’t even know such a contest existed (please, Italy, get on this), and was so happy to hear that she’d won and had such an amazing, life changing experience.
Adaeze is beautiful inside and out, and an extremely humble person, having accomplished such extraordinary goals at her young age. She was wonderful enough to give us a little insight into how she won the contest, and how it’s changed not only her life, but her mindset about her possibilities in the future.
I’m a California native from Palmdale. I’ve been obsessed with Great Britain since I was a child. I used to look forward to watching BBC America when I got back from school. It’s not an entirely random obsession. I have roots in England. My mother (who is Nigerian) went to boarding school in London and I have very distinct memories of my time there as a child. I think what solidified my love for the UK was when I began reading Harry Potter. I wanted nothing more than to abandon all my loved ones for Hogwarts, quidditch, and Oliver Wood. I’m usually more drawn to the British countryside, but London has always been a favorite of mine. There’s so much history and fiction that center around London. It always seems like something’s going on there: plays, street performances, festivals, etc…
How did you find out about the “London’s Guest of Honour” (GOH) program, and can you tell us about your process of applying?
The funny thing is that I was planning on going to London anyway. I was going to meet up with a friend who now lives there. I followed a couple of travel blogs on Twitter, and one of them retweeted the info for the contest so I entered. All they needed was a 60 second video describing my perfect day in London, along with a 70 word description of that day. It took me about three tries. The first and second tries were very scripted – I wasn’t really that impressed with them. In the end I just sat in front of my camera and talked. It went on for about seven minutes, and then I cut that down to 60 seconds.
The next day I had a Skype interview that I was certain I bombed. I thought that I talked too much, which is something I do a lot of. A few days later I got a call saying that I was in the top few contestants and that I would need to do an additional interview, this time with my mom, who I’d decided to bring with me if I won. That is when we were both told that we would be going to London and that I was London’s Official Guest of Honour. I’m pretty sure I cried.
Can you walk us through your experiences you went through as London’s GOH?
I really wish I could give you a day by day account of what happened, but that would literally take me weeks and an unhealthy amount of nostalgia. What I can say is that I was literally treated like a VIP.
When I landed at the airport there was marching band, a banner, and a huge crowd. After I touched down, I was chauffeured everywhere. The car took us to a Radisson Blu Edwardian, were I was going to be staying for the trip. I had this incredible penthouse. It was huge. They even gave my mother her own room.
I would receive a note every night giving me a clue about what I would be doing the next day. At some of the activities, like shooting guns from HMS Belfast or being a keeper for a day at the zoo, press would come take pictures and sometimes get a quote for the paper. I had interviews with the Evening Standard and the BBC. It felt like I was a royal who was on official international business. It was exciting.
What does being their GOH entail? What responsibilities do you have being the GOH?
Being the GOH meant that I would travel throughout London getting to experience the city as a VIP. I was chauffeured to nearly all of the events/activities and usually had food and champagne waiting for me (which I miss dearly). My only responsibility was to exist within the event or activity. Before I got to London, they told me that if I ever felt overwhelmed by the number of activities, I should just tell them and they would take out whatever needed to be taken out to accommodate me. I was very lucky in that regard.
Were there any surprises or unexpected events that occurred during the trip?
Yes, while in Wales I got to meet Steffan Rhodri who plays Dave on the show Gavin and Stacey. When the Visit Wales rep found out that I was a fan of the show they got on Twitter to contact Stephan and told him to meet me at the restaurant – the only thing is that they didn’t tell me! I sat at the restaurant with my mom and there was an extra seat. I thought it was for the director, but then Steffan appeared. I literally cried! He was such a sweet guy.
I never thought of myself as very special, having been chosen from so many other applicants. I felt like they needed someone and for some reason, out of a room of, I don’t know how many people, liked me enough to pick me. It wasn’t until after the competition that I allowed myself to feel very important. I was so afraid of it getting to my head. I kept telling myself that I didn’t earn this, which was self deprecating and unnecessarily negative. I think I would have saved myself a lot of worry if I didn’t think like that.
I didn’t do much to prepare for the trip. Most of the activities were kept secret. All I did was pack for two weeks for London.
It’s really hard to pick a favorite part. I don’t think I could compare meeting Stephen Hawking to visiting Leavesden Studios, but they were both very important moments to me for different reasons. Clubbing in Shoreditch was also pretty memorable because it made me feel less like a tourist. I got a chance to see what nightlife in London is like for people from London. Which was nice.
Also, meeting Gurinder Chadha and Sir Ronald Harwood were pretty epic moments. Gurinder was so kind and gave me really great advice on screenwriting. She told me that she was attracted to film because of racism. She wanted to help clear up certain stereotypes through the means of entertainment, which I think is just genius. Sir Ronald was very sweet. He showed me his BAFTA and Academy award.
Yes! I’ve been wanting to write a project with a British setting, but having not been to the UK for a while, I felt a lack of inspiration! Being in London helped a lot. I met a lot of great characters in London, and there are some of the most beautiful settings in both London and Wales. I can’t wait to start filming there.
Before the trip, I thought about my future on a much smaller scale. I thought about what could be financially possible. I thought that it would be a great idea to move to the UK someday, but I didn’t know if that would be possible for me. I’d just finished my MFA and I needed to make money immediately.
Since the trip, my goals have increased significantly in scale. I feel like more is possible. I never thought that I could meet Stephen Hawking, but I did. And even though it was through a contest that might seem like was just handed to me – I won that contest.
Winning the title of London’s Guest of Honour was an achievement of mine that created opportunities I thought were impossible. If this could happen to me, I’m sure more incredible things can.
All I would be able to advise is for them to be themselves. That’s all I did in my video. I just talked at my camera and had to edit that down to 60 seconds. While I was there, they told me that part of the reason I was chosen is because they were able to get a sense of who I was – which was nice to hear.
I would probably go back to the UK. I found out a few years ago that my great great grandfather is from Scotland, so I’d love to go to Edinburgh or Glasgow. Also, I’ve always wanted to see more of Paris, so Paris would definitely be on the list. I’m working on my French…
If anyone would like to learn more about me, they can find me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/uhdezuh.
If they’d like to learn more about the contest they can go to http://www.visitlondon.com/guest. I’m not sure when or if there will be another GOH contest, but I would 100% recommend entering. London is such a lively city with so much to offer.
You can read more about some of her excursions during the trip here:
Now, it's your turn - if you had a chance to be London's Guest of Honour (or any city's Guest of Honor), where would it be, and what would YOUR perfect day there look like?