Leomie Anderson, Ramla Ali, & More Reveal The Lessons They Learnt In Lockdown

We asked celebrities, business leaders, & public figures what this period of self-reflection has meant to them.

by Bustle UK
Originally Published: 

It’s been almost 17 months since the U.K. entered its first official COVID-19 lockdown on March 23, 2020. Despite fluctuations in restrictions and the official announcement of “Freedom Day” on July 16, 2021, the impact of isolation lingers on.

No two people experienced the same lockdown. In fact, the pandemic only served to reinforce just how different life is for the haves and the have-nots in our society. For some, it meant setting up a makeshift office space on any dining table, kitchen top, or sturdy hardback book they could find at home. For others, it turned a previously “normal” job such as bus driving or shelf stacking into a dangerous, high-stakes situation. Others lost livelihoods as whole industries shuttered and NHS workers — who bore the brunt of the most difficult medical crisis in recent history — were lauded but not compensated.

But one thing everyone who lived through lockdown has in common is that they’re different now from who they were back in March 2020. Prior to this, they may have never had the need for a face mask or had to hand over their personal details to book a spot at their local pub. They may have never ventured to their local park or even used the word “pandemic” in their lifetime. More seriously than that, though, for some of us, extended periods of isolation may have been totally alien and difficult to adjust to both mentally and physically. Health anxiety may have never played a role in their life until suddenly the mortality of themselves and their loved ones felt like an ever-present (and precarious) force.

So who are we now? And what have we learned? We asked 17 people — writers, actors, singers, business leaders, and more — to find out. While some have simply learnt to appreciate more time in bed, others have struck upon profound realisations about themselves and their ability to cope. Here’s what they told us.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Singer-Songwriter

Mike Lewis Photography/Getty

“I learned to let go of perfection. The turning point for me came at the end of the first lockdown when I realised I didn’t have a handbook of how to do this in a pandemic. It was unprecedented. So I didn’t have to try and hold down the school work, make sure that the house was spotless, and create an amazing album. I could just focus on getting through the days and making sure everyone was OK. Once I stopped putting myself under pressure to be this perfect pandemic popstar and parent, it became a lot easier.”

Ramla Ali, Boxer

Courtesy of Sports Direct

“Lockdown taught me not to take anything for granted; be it time, money, family, the ability to exercise, everything. Your own health and wellness also. In some ways I took it for granted before, but when we weren’t able to leave the house or train I realised just how important it is. Lockdown really taught me to not take anything for granted because one day it can all literally be taken away.”

Phyllis Akua Opoku-Gyimah, Speaker, Author, Activist & Co-Founder Of UK Black Pride

UK Black Pride/Shane Anthony Sinclair/Getty

“I would say what I have learnt is how to be a lot more compassionate during these challenging times and to keep on reimaging the best for our communities.”

Jessie Cave, Actor & Author Of Sunset

SOPA Images/Getty

“I've learned that I don't need very much. Other than the people I love. I have also learned that I need to be braver with social things. I’ve always been a bit of an introvert and really awkward at parties. I’ve been really surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed that level of social activity now that we’ve been allowed out. I think it's time for me to be a bit braver with going out.”

Grace Beverley, Entrepreneur & Author Of Working Hard, Hardly Working

Courtesy of Belle PR

“I’ve learned how incredible it is to have good people around you and how much that can be taken for granted. It’s such a beautiful thing when you can catch up with people, even over FaceTime. It really hit home how great it is to spend proper time with people and how fantastic it is to have such friendly, interesting, caring people in my life.”

Paula Akpan, Journalist, Speaker, & Founder Of The Black Queer Travel Guide

Courtesy of Paula Akpan

“One thing I learned during lockdown was to live slightly more offline. Being inundated by everyone's panicked tweets and terrifying news alerts pushed me to step away from my phone and laptop a bit more. While I obviously want and need to be online in certain ways, mostly for my work, I'm finding a much better balance than I had pre-pandemic.”

Morfydd Clark, Actor


“Lockdown really just made me realise how much I loved everyone who is in my life. Also, I’ve loved watching people create content and also create opportunities for others. For example, there’s an actor called Scott Arthur who’s started something called The Far Away Plays, where he has Welsh actors read a different play every week and people can just tune in and watch. And I just think it’s such a wonderful thing. So I guess lockdown has made me realise how much care we can all have for one another.”

Leomie Anderson, Model, Entrepreneur, & Host Of Role Model

Courtesy of Carver PR

“It taught me how creative I can be and how much persistence I have. Because, before lockdown, I was really busy, trying to get loads done and never really having the time to focus on one thing. But during lockdown, I was able to develop my ideas properly and invest my time in growing my business, learning more about myself, and trying new things. I discovered that, when given time to be still, I will always be able to fill it with something that is new, exciting, and that I haven’t done before. Lockdown reminded me of the fact that I can do anything that I want to do as long as I find the time to do it.”

Jamie Chadwick, Racing Driver & W Series Champion

Courtesy of W Series

“One thing I've learned about myself in lockdown? I really love my own bed. I travel so much, so it's a lot of hotel rooms. During lockdown, it was really nice to be in my own bed for several nights in a row.”

Olga Koch, Comedian

Rachel Sherlock

“The one thing I learned about myself in lockdown is that I will never watch Citizen Kane. All these years I deluded myself into thinking that I simply did not have the time to enjoy one of history's cinematic masterpieces, but it transpires that given seemingly unlimited time I'd still rather watch the entirety of Glee. And I wouldn't have it any other way. If I ever do get around to finding out who this Citizen Kane character is, it better be through the medium of a cappella.”

Khalia Ismain, Founder of Jamii

Courtesy of Jamii

“I experienced a strange mix of emotions during the first lockdown. On the one hand, I was scared and worried about the devastation COVID was causing. On the other, it gave me a chance to slow down. I've always been told that I'm loud and extroverted, but I realised that I actually love spending time alone. When the restrictions eased, I started driving out of London to walk in nearby forests and national parks and I was amazed at how beautiful it is even just a few miles out. I've spent my whole life as London's number one fan but, during lockdown, I’ve had to evaluate what's really important. I started to find London a bit too fast-paced and uncaring. That's actually what inspired Legacy, a film the Jamii team and I have been working on during lockdown. I wanted to tell the human stories of what happens when we put our money into independent, Black-owned businesses. Rather than pumping up faceless organisations or corporations built on greed, we're supporting real people with a dream. Legacy highlights their struggles and wins, the journeys they've been on, and what motivates them to succeed.”

Courtney Act, Drag Queen, Author, & Co-Host Of Building Queertopia


“Something that I’ve learnt about myself in lockdown is not that I just quite enjoy my solitude but that I enjoy writing. I was writing a book, as you do, and I was surprised that when I actually gave myself the time (which we all had plenty of) and the space to concentrate, I was really productive. I really love writing and reading and the less live-on-stage parts of my career as well.”

Chelcee Grimes, Footballer, Singer-Songwriter, & Co-Host Of Building Queertopia

Courtesy of Catchweight

“I moved back to Liverpool and learned how to drive and how to cook – so I grew up a little bit. But I also learned how inspired I am by the outdoors. As a songwriter, I've been writing since I was 18 — so over 10 years now — and I've always taken for granted being out and about and travelling, and I guess that's where I've taken a lot of inspiration from. When we went into lockdown and I was locked within four walls, it was very difficult for me to find inspiration. So, I think I learnt that I'm very much inspired by the outdoors and living life as we knew it.”

Mya-Rose Craig, Climate Activist & Author Of We Have A Dream

Oliver Edwards/Copyright Dr MC Birdgirl Ltd.

“Over the lockdown period, I begun writing my book We Have a Dream, which gave me the opportunity to speak to 30 different young environmental activists of colour, including Indigenous people who live outside the West. Listening to the life experiences of these activists was incredibly inspiring but also heartbreaking as I heard how climate change was affecting their daily lives. They have to fight for clean drinking water. They have to stand up to oil companies trying to take their land. They have been aware of these issues and have been fighting for them since they were young children. I think it’s so important, especially with all these climate conversations happening and with COP26 in Glasgow in November, that we hear these voices.”

Bree Runway, Singer-Songwriter & Rapper

David M. Benett/Getty

“I learned that I’m stronger and more creative than I thought I was. I forgot myself for a second because I had gotten used to big sets. I’d forgotten that the origin of Bree Runway was DIY. I used to shoot music videos at home, I used to record songs from my bedroom. I still have that spirit in me, that I can do it myself, and lockdown reminded me that I can do this, this is my moment to shine.”

Griff, Singer-Songwriter

Dave J Hogan/Getty

“I learned that I quite like being alone. I think I also learned how important it is to keep going: when the unpredictable happens, just keep going.”

Cheryl Hole, Drag Queen & Host Of Girl Group Gossip

Tom Dymond/Shutterstock

“I’m a person who thrives out and about in social settings, travelling around to new places and meeting new people. Being forced to stay indoors really threw me but also was able to give me a moment to hit pause, reflect, and really think about how I want to push myself creatively. I found myself experimenting with makeup techniques I was too afraid to try on the road, I learnt new skills in editing videos and finally getting the chance to work on projects I really wanted to but didn’t have the time — like my podcast Girl Group Gossip, where I get to chat with such icons about my favourite topic, Girl Groups. I realised that all the things I was telling myself that I couldn’t do, I wasn’t talented enough or that no one would care I would do, I ended up proving myself wrong, proving others wrong, and finding a newfound confidence in myself and my work! So if you’re ever doubting yourself, know that you can do it if you put your mind to it.”

This article was originally published on