Meghan Markle has written a powerful blog post on the difficulties she faced growing up biracial. The Suits actress, who has a Caucasian father and an African American mother, opened up about her background and the frustration of always being asked "What are you?"
Growing up in The Valley in Los Angeles, Meghan, 35, said that her neighbourhood was "leafy and affordable" but not "diverse". As a little girl she was raised to feel "special" and not "different" by her parents; one Christmas her dad gave her a family of dolls that had a "black mum doll, a white dad doll, and a child in each colour". "My dad had taken the sets apart and customised my family," Meghan wrote on her website The Tig.
Meghan Markle penned a powerful post on The Tig
"Growing up in a homogeneous community in Pennsylvania, the concept of marrying an African-American woman was not on the cards for my dad," she continued. "But he saw beyond what was put in front of him in that small-sized (and, perhaps, small-minded) town, and he wanted me to see beyond that census placed in front of me. He wanted me to find my own truth."
Meghan recalls how in seventh grade she was asked to tick a box to indicate her ethnicity. She had a choice of white, black, Hispanic or Asian.
She wrote about the difficulties she faced growing up in LA
"You could only choose one, but that would be to choose one parent over the other – and one half of myself over the other," wrote Meghan. "My teacher told me to check the box for Caucasian. 'Because that's how you look, Meghan,' she said. I put down my pen. Not as an act of defiance, but rather a symptom of my confusion. I couldn't bring myself to do that, to picture the pit-in-her-belly sadness my mother would feel if she were to find out. So, I didn't tick a box. I left my identity blank – a question mark, an absolute incomplete – much like how I felt."
The TV star went on to admit that it was "ironic" she decided to become an actress, to enter this "label-driven industry". Although she could morph from a Latina to an African American woman, she was left "somewhere in the middle as the ethnic chameleon who couldn't book a job".
Meghan plays Rachel Zane in Suits
Landing her role as Rachel Zane in Suits was the "Goldilocks" of her acting career. "The show's producers weren't looking for someone mixed, nor someone white or black for that matter. They were simply looking for Rachel," she wrote.
But even then after series two, when the producers chose to cast Rachel's father as a dark-skinned African American man, Meghan faced racist comments. "'Why would they make her dad black? She's not black' to 'Ew, she's black? I used to think she was hot,'" Meghan wrote.
She says she has come to embrace her mixed heritage
The actress ended her post with an uplifting, encouraging message. "While my mixed heritage may have created a grey area surrounding my self-identification, keeping me with a foot on both sides of the fence, I have come to embrace that," she wrote. "To say who I am, to share where I'm from, to voice my pride in being a strong, confident mixed-race woman."
She added: "So you make a choice: continue living your life feeling muddled in this abyss of self-misunderstanding, or you find your identity independent of it. You create the identity you want for yourself, just as my ancestors did when they were given their freedom."