If YouTuber Courtney Daniella looks familiar to you, it should come as no surprise. This month’s Teen Idol is a young Cambridge University undergraduate, who refused to stay silent when online trolls questioned how a young woman of West African heritage was accepted to a prestigious school - yep, seriously.
After taking to Twitter to highlight how completely bonkers these comments were, Courtney caught the attention of online media outlets like Buzzfeed, the Independent and Cosmo, and was even interviewed on the Channel 4 news. So, we sat down to ask her a few questions about online abuse and how she’s not letting it stop her from fulfilling her dreams.
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Was there a particular negative comment on YouTube videos that stood out to you? For me, it would've been the comment from a young man fearing he wouldn't be accepted into the university because 'someone like me' would be 'taking his place' because of affirmative action. It was as if I couldn't possibly have been smart enough to earn my place at the university, rather I was a token.
How did you feel when you first received negative messages about your acceptance to Cambridge? I wasn't sad or anything, because I still had my university place and I knew I had earned it. My initial response was mainly, 'So this is how some people think!" It was a shock to me to see such a sense of entitlement. Not just from this young man but more amazingly from others who were trying to discredit me because of my language, or my colour.
Were you surprised by the racist comments you heard and read? Why? Why not? Sadly, I am no longer shocked by overtly racist comments, I just roll my eyes and brush it off as just ignorance and attention seeking. However the comments I received in this instance did shock me because of the nuance to this racism. People were sincerely concerned and confused as to how I was able to make it to an elite university and that's when I realised that the identity of an Oxbridge student isn't only about grades, but about fitting a certain mould or stereotype which factors in race and class.
How has life been as an undergraduate at Cambridge? Any highlights? Any lowlights? It has been hectic but somehow enjoyable. I get to study a course I love and learn from some of the world's best academics in those fields. However, it is a lot of work and can get draining. It comes with its own burdens but also its own highlights. I'm blessed to be there and I’m constantly being pushed to be better, that in itself can either make or break you in different instances.
Do you have advice for teenagers of colour interested in pursuing an Oxbridge education? If you want it, go and get it. No one will hand it to you on a plate, but know you are good enough to have it. If you believe your grades are good and you have the passion for you course, why deprive yourself of a world class education because of other people?
What's next for Courtney Daniella? A lot of great stuff, Content Creating on my YouTube Channel 'Courtney Daniella', finishing my undergraduate degree and working in Business Development and Marketing.
There are always going to be people who think they have a right to comment on your life and how you’re living it, be it family, friends, or ignorant online trolls. But when that happens, take a leaf out of Courtney’s book. Have courage, confidence and most importantly, don’t dim who you are because of other people – keep that conviction strong and be yourself.