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Meet Rosalba Mensah - the UAL graduate who did the splits on stage

A person doing the splits on stage at graduation
  • Written byKat Smith
  • Published date 15 July 2022
A person doing the splits on stage at graduation
Rosalba Mensah at her 2022 Graduation for London College of Fashion | Photograph: David Poultney

When Rosalba Mensah danced across the Royal Festival Hall stage at her graduation ceremony, and then jumped into the splits, she thought she might get a few cheers from family members sat at the back.

Little did she know that the whole auditorium would erupt in celebration and a mere 24 hours later, 200,000 people and counting would be watching the moment on TikTok.

Fresh from graduating with an MA Costume Design for Performance at London College of Fashion (LCF), we spoke to Rosa about her experience at UAL and deciding to do the splits in heels and a graduation gown in possibly the most iconic graduation walk we have ever seen.

Hi Rosa! Congratulations on graduating! Firstly, I’ve got to ask, how did you decide to do the splits on stage?

When I graduated from my BA, I danced on stage a bit – my family were taking a video and then I thought afterwards ‘you should have done something more.’ So I thought, okay I’ll do something more at my next graduation.

So, I did a bit of a dance again, but it wasn’t enough - so I just did the splits... I was just expecting my family to cheer but the whole school did!

Did you practise at all in the dress?

No, I didn’t actually! I was thinking after, I could have broken my dress, anything could have happened! I just took the risk...

And now it’s gone viral...

I’ve had messages from people saying, ‘Rosa I think you’ve gone viral - I just saw your graduation on TikTok’. It feels good.

You’ve just graduated, but how did you come to do a Master’s at UAL?

I was born and grew up in Italy and after high school I knew I wanted to do fashion and I wanted to be one of the best! So, I came to England and did 4 years at university doing fashion. I decided to do the Master’s in costume because a lot of my work was very costume-like and extravagant, so I decided to come to LCF... and now I’ve graduated!

How does it feel to graduate?

Oh, it feels amazing. I’m the first person in my family to go to university and graduate. So, for my family, it’s a really big achievement! When I was a kid I said, “I am going to graduate and I’ll do a Master’s too” and my grandma reminded me yesterday that I had said that.

Coming to England and changing my lifestyle was a big deal too. It feels so good – it’s a big achievement.

I don’t feel like I’m good at expressing myself in my words, so I express myself through my work.

— Rosa Mensah
A spider-inspired costume with different coloured cable ties coming out of it.
'Arachne', Rosalba Mensah, 2022 MA Costume Design for Performance, London College of Fashion, UAL
How was your experience at LCF?

It was so good – so good. The tutors were amazing, they’re still emailing me and speaking to me and helping me out. My classmates are amazing. It was like a big family – everyone was helping each other and even now everyone is helping each other with jobs.

I’m so glad I did the Master’s.

What do you think the biggest thing you’ve learned during your course is?

Time management, consistency and teamwork!

Can you talk me through your final graduate project?

On Graduate Showcase I’ve got the Arachne project I did – that was based mainly on the Tales of Ovid and I’m not sure how I started it! I knew I wanted to do something really spidery and I was looking at spider hair zoomed in and wanted to create the same effect on a bigger scale. After a lot of experiments, I decided to use cable ties on a big net and it had the same effect.

The colours are all from the African culture so I put some of my African culture into Arachne. I wanted to put a bit of me inside!

What do you want to do now that you’ve graduated?

I want to work in film – I want to be the next Ruth E. Carter I guess. That’s what I’m hoping. I’m doing costume design now for The Little Prince at the Metta Theatre, I’m the main designer.

I’ve always been working, all my life, and I want to work in films and I want to be big! I want to be like Ruth and have my own exhibition and for people to see my art and my costumes.

I don’t feel like I’m good at expressing myself in my words, so I express myself through my work.

Is expressing yourself your favourite thing about costume design?

Yes, exactly. I am always trying to say something in my work. I am Italian and Ghanaian so I have these two cultures and there is a big contrast. I just want to people about who I am and how I grew up. Some people think I’m just African but when you know me, I have some Italian mannerisms and attitudes! I want to express myself and who I am.

We are so proud of all of the Class of 2022 – congratulations to you all!

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You can see more of Rosa’s work on her Graduate Showcase profile.