Yrsa Daley-Ward is a poet, model and actor of West Indian and West African heritage who was born in England. She is known for her debut book, Bone, as well as for her spoken-word poetry.
Daley-Ward was born to a Jamaican mother and Nigerian father in Chorley in Northern England, where she grew up with her grandparents, who were devout Seventh-day Adventists.
In her late teens and early 20s she was a model, "struggling to pay her rent in London, working for brands such as Apple, Topshop, Estée Lauder and Nike." In search of better opportunities, she found the money for a ticket to South Africa, where she eventually lived for three years, and has said: "The thing that attracted me to South Africa was that the models look like me and there's so much more diversity".
In her mid-20s, Daley-Ward began to perform and get recognized for her poetry in Cape Town, South Africa, while also working as a model. Not long after returning to London in 2012, she was invited back to South Africa to work alongside the British Council headlining two poetry festivals in Johannesburg.
Daley-Ward was then listed as one of the top five writers to watch for by Company Magazine.
Daley-Ward is known for her short poems on topics such as identity, race, mental health, and femininity. She is also known for being vocal on topics of depression, and for her poem entitled "Mental Health," which was published in her book Bone. First self-published in 2014 and subsequently issued by Penguin Books in 2017, with additional poems and including an introductory essay by Kiese Laymon, Bone has been described by Hanif Abdurraqib in The Atlantic as an "impressive debut" that "honestly excavates a writer’s life, not simply presenting pain, but also showing an individual working through it."
While she is now better known for her poetry, both written and spoken, before releasing Bone in 2014, she released a book of short stories entitled On Snakes and Other Stories in 2013. In 2018 she will release her new book The Terrible. Daley-Ward has used social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter in order to promote her work and connect with her fans. Daley-Ward also made an appearance in a TEDx Talk conference with her talk Your Stories and You.
Daley-Ward identifies as a young, black, LGBTQ+ female, who is also an activist and feminist. In her writings she has been known to openly discuss her relationships with women, and has even become a poster child for the LGBT community, but she refuses to make her sexuality a big deal. She insists that her poems are meant for people of all sexual preferences.
Daley-Ward has been quoted as saying: "If you're afraid to write it, that's a good sign. I suppose you know you're writing the truth when you're terrified". In an interview with ELLE, she talks openly about her past and struggles along with her own journey in developing thicker skin in the face of criticism.