How I Got Here: Mika Simmons on her journey from acting to activism
We meet the actor, filmmaker and host of ‘The Happy Vagina’ podcast, who has made it her mission to empower women to understand more about their health
Wednesday 1 February 2023 By Chloe Lawrance
It’s hard to fit Mika Simmons into a single box. As an actress, she’s been working on stage and screen for more than two decades; as a filmmaker, she wrote and directed the award-winning short film Rain Stops Play in 2019; and as an activist, she co-founded the Lady Garden Foundation, a charity that raises awareness and essential funds for gynaecological health, after her mother died of ovarian cancer in 2014.
Simmons’ passion for shining a light on gynaecological health eventually led to the 2020 launch of The Happy Vagina, a platform and podcast to educate and empower. Cut to just a few years later, and Simmons’ has interviewed stars including Gwyneth Paltrow, Lena Headey and June Sarpong OBE, discussing with each guest all things women’s health, equality and relationships. This year, Simmons has published a book of the same name, a taboo-busting guide to gynaecological and sexual wellbeing; one that she hopes will help to trigger a more open dialogue for all.
Your career path has been an unusual one; how did you get started?
‘I took acting classes as a teenager as a way to build my confidence during a tricky time at school – but I completely fell in love with performing and ended up going to drama school.
‘When I graduated, the expectation was that you chose one area within the industry and stuck to it. Luckily, that’s not really the case today and I’ve built a portfolio career as an actor, writer and filmmaker – all while hosting a podcast that amplifies women’s voices around the topics of health, intimacy and relationships. I lost my mum to ovarian cancer, so this work is acutely important to me.’
Where does your drive come from?
‘I come from a family of grafters, all with entrepreneurial mindsets. I am also very lucky to do work that I truly believe is making a difference in the world. That makes even the hardest days worth it.’
Your passion for female empowerment is clear – why is this so important to you?
‘Women are still treated like second-class citizens all over the world. In the long run, this is detrimental to every society and community. Even if you feel safe in your pocket of the world, we are not free until we are all free.’
You’ve just written a book called The Happy Vagina, inspired by your podcast of the same name. Can you tell us more about it?
‘The Happy Vagina is a loud, informative and funny book that’s really intended to help people understand and love their bodies better. I wanted to write something accessible so that people who might not necessarily have the time or inclination to read something too dense would still be interested. You should buy one, read it, then put it in your loo for your guests to read. It’s a conversation starter!’
Why should women be talking about their sexual and reproductive health more openly?
‘For better sex – both partnered and self-pleasure. Aside from that, it’s imperative to know your own body inside out, so that you can spot when something is awry and speak to a doctor. Particularly for us as women, as we are fighting centuries of stigma and shame.’
What inspires your straight-talking approach to activism?
‘My mother was an absolute pocket rocket, who always said it like it is. I definitely inherited it from her, but for a while I struggled to find my voice. I’ve stopped trying to adjust myself for other people and learnt that straight talking can be a superpower for change.’
Do you have any advice for women trying to make it in a male-dominated industry?
‘Surround yourself with women who will champion you, who you can share absolutely everything with and not be judged. And when someone says “no”, look for another route. There is always another route.’
Mika Simmons’ book ‘The Happy Vagina’ is available to buy now. Series six of her podcast, also named ‘The Happy Vagina’, will be dropping soon with guests including Paloma Faith, E.R Fightmaster and Gabrielle Blair.