Trevor Phillips was born in London in 1953. His parents, wanting him to have the best education, enrolled him at the Queen's College Boys School in Guyana, resulting in him spending the ages between 2 and 17 in either Guyana or London.
Despite offers of a scholarship to MIT, he picked Imperial College, London to study chemistry. In 1978, he became the first black president of the National Union of Students. After university, he applied for a job as a researcher in Current Affairs at London Weekend Television. He then presented and produced 'The London Programme' for thirteen years, and later became head of Current Affairs at LWT, one of a small number of black senior executives of major British broadcasting organisations.
In 1998, his independent production company, Pepper Productions produced the Windrush series, chronicling the history of black people in Britain over the last 50 years. He has been chairman of the Runnymede Trust, an independent race relations think-tank and campaigning body, and in 2000, he ran for the position of Mayor of London. He didn't win, but became a member of the GLA, and in 2003, was appointed by the Home Secretary to be the chairman of the CRE. He has been awarded an OBE.