Raye: the ‘little Croydon girl’ makes big BRIT history

“Little Girl from Croydon” is not so little anymore as she performed her award-winning song to three million viewers on ITV. Pic: PA Media. 

Raye, the singer-songwriter who grew up in Purley, Croydon, made history last weekend at the 2024 BRIT Awards after she took home six coveted music awards.  

She broke the record of the most awards won by one single act in one night, surpassing the previous best of four awards, held jointly by Harry Styles, 2023 Artist of the Year, Adele, and Blur.  

Along with winning Artist of the Year, Raye won Album of the Year for her debut My 21st Century Blues, Best New Artist, Songwriter of the Year, and Best R&B Act. 

Raye, whose real name is Rachel Agatha Keen, also took home Song of the Year for Escapism, featuring rapper 070 Shake, which was performed in a medley, alongside Prada and Ice Cream Man from her debut album, at the awards. 

Raye’s history with Croydon

Studying at Woodcote High School in Croydon before enrolling at the Brit School, also in Croydon, it is clear the borough holds immense nostalgia for her as she described herself on social media as: “Just a little Croydon girl with a dream”. 

Raye spoke about Croydon in an interview with The Line of Best Fit earlier in her career: “It’s a pretty average town but I know everyone in the same area, we all went to the same schools and go to the same parties. There’s a Purley Tesco that everyone knows about.” 

She enrolled at Brit school when she was 14, majoring in music and minoring in dance, but left before the songwriting course began.  

Croydon has a rich musical history of artists such as Kirsty MacColl, Stormzy, and Desmond Dekker, all celebrated in Rewind: This is Croydon’s Music exhibition at the Museum of Croydon.  

Although these celebrities commemorate Croydon, David Bowie famously noted the borough as his good nemesis, and said in 1999: “It represented everything I didn’t want in my life, everything he wanted to get away from”. Bowie briefly studied at Croydon School of Art.

The self-proclaimed “little Croydon girl” didn’t have an easy route to becoming a six-time Brit award winner.  

Her success came three years after a disagreement with record label Polydor, who refused to let her make her album despite scoring nine Top 40 successes with a series of collaborations and production with the likes of Beyonce, Little Mix, and Rihanna.  

After splitting with her record label to become independent, her Ghanaian-Swiss mum and Yorkshire dad quit their jobs to become her managers.  

Raye credits her tight-knit family, including her parents, grandparents, and three sisters, two of whom she lives with in her Streatham home.  

On stage at the O2, she brought up her grandma Agatha, who prayed for Raye’s success.   

Raye alongside grandmother, Agatha when she received Album of the Year at the 2024 Brit Awards. Pic: PA media.  

“My grandma is awake until 3 am praying for me and my beautiful sisters. I love you so much.” 

Raye can finally celebrate her success after overcoming challenges on her path to fame. 

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