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10 celebrities open up about their heartbreaking experience with racism

Black Lives Matter protests are taking place across the world

celebrities faced racist abuse
Sharnaz Shahid
Sharnaz ShahidDeputy Online Editor
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With Black Lives Matter protests taking place all across the world in response to the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, many celebrities have been vocal in their support for solidarity. Here at HELLO!, we take a look at some of the stars who have shared heartbreaking accounts of their experience with racism in their day-to-day lives and in the industry.

Michelle Obama

She became the first black First Lady of the United States, who has since empowered countless women to fight for their rights. But during her time in the White House, Michelle has revealed she sadly endured racist remarks. Speaking at the Women's Foundation of Colorado's 30th anniversary celebration in Denver back in 2017, the mother-of-two said she was called an "ape in heels" and was told she had a "gorilla face" by government officials.

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According to Denver Post, she revealed: "The shards that cut me the deepest were the ones that intended to cut. Knowing that after eight years of working really hard for this country, there are still people who won't see me for what I am because of my skin colour." She added: "Women, we endure those cuts in so many ways that we don't even notice we're cut. We are living with small tiny cuts, and we are bleeding every single day. And we're still getting up."

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Meghan Markle

An old video of Meghan discussing her experience of racism has recently resurfaced online. The Suits star took part in a campaign video in 2012 in which she spoke about her hopes for her future children and her love of LA. In the clip, Meghan can be seen wearing a white T-shirt emblazoned with the words: 'I won't stand for racism.' She began by saying: "My name's Meghan Markle and I'm here because I think it's a really important campaign to be a part of. For me I think it really hits a personal note.

WATCH: Meghan Markle talks openly about racial abuse in unearthed video

"I'm bi-racial, most people can’t tell what I'm mixed with and so much of my life has felt like being a fly on the wall. And so some of the slurs I've heard or the really offensive jokes, or the names, it's just hit me in a really strong way. And, you know, a couple of years ago I heard someone call my mum the N word. So I think for me, beyond being personally affected by racism, just to see the landscape of what our country is like right now, certainly the world, and to want things to be better."

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Idris Elba

Last year, the actor expressed his disappointment over the racist backlash he endured when rumours emerged he could one day replace Daniel Craig as James Bond. Speaking to Vanity Fair, he said: "You just get disheartened, when you get people from a generational point of view going, 'It can't be.' And it really turns out to be the colour of my skin. And then if I get it and it didn’t work, or it did work, would it be because of the colour of my skin? That's a difficult position to put myself into when I don’t need to."

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Anita Rani

Back in 2018, Anita revealed she never really experienced blatant racism during her career – until recently. "I'd just posted a picture on Instagram of the thousands of anti-Trump protesters marching in London," she told HELLO!. "Then this guy wrote to me: 'Why don't you go and live in another country?' No one had ever said such a thing to me before and it really hurt. I never replied. I'm deeply proud of being from Yorkshire, of being British and of my ethnicity. How little have we evolved if in 2018 we still can't get beyond the colour of someone's skin?"

MORE: 9 powerful shows and documentaries about racial injustice that are essential viewing

The BBC presenter said she welcomes a change in direction when it comes to equality. "It's wonderfully empowering to hear women and people of colour finally being able to speak out about inequality," she revealed. "Our experiences and chances haven't been the same for generations. It's time we all accepted that and worked towards redressing the balance. Pay should be equal."

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Nadiya Hussain

The GBBO winner has previously said she sometimes "hates [herself] for breathing the same air" as people who say she doesn't deserve to be in the UK because she is Muslim. After winning the penultimate BBC series, the celebrity chef has said she faced racist abuse from the public. "I get abuse for merely existing. Too brown to be English. Too Muslim to be British. Too Bengali to eat fish fingers," she tweeted. "There is no end! I exist, we all do! Sometimes I hate myself for simply breathing the same air that I am so often told, I am not entitled to. Tear away your flesh, you are skeleton underneath like me, like everybody! So let's just breathe our air, let's exist, because what else are we supposed to do?"

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Dev Patel

The Oscar nominee is one of the few actors of Indian origin to have made it big in Hollywood. The Skins star, who has starred in Lion and Slumdog Millionaire, has previously been open about his background, telling San Francisco Times last year: "I get flak sometimes because people will say, 'Why aren't they giving these roles to a real Indian?' I wonder, what does that even mean? The only way I can converse with my grandparents is in Gujarati. Does that make me real enough?" He then added: "Or am I only allowed to witness the moments of prejudice and racism going through airports? Is that the only bit that I’m allowed of the culture?"

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Motsi Mabuse

Last year, ahead of her debut on Strictly Come Dancing, Motsi opened up about the horrific racist abuse she endured during her stint on Germany's version of the talent show. Speaking to Radio Times, the South African-born dancer revealed a former contestant on the show sparked outrage when he compared people from her native South Africa to "monkeys". She explained: "I've learnt the power of words. I've had the worst thrown at me." The star then added: "Racism is very extreme and it has become worse in recent years. People are feeling, for some reason, 'We can attack.' They write some bad stuff - they're going to 'hit you with a baseball bat' and call me 'monkey'."

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Jade Thirlwall

The Little Mix star has admitted that she "subconsciously" avoided talking about her race when she found fame on The X Factor. Her maternal grandfather is from Yemen and her maternal grandmother is from Egypt, while her father is white. Speaking on the No Country For Young Women podcast, the singer opened up about feeling "ashamed" about her background, saying: "I think because I was bullied quite badly in school because of the colour of my skin and for being Arab I wasn't very proud of who I was."

She added: "I think when I then entered the group I subconsciously didn't want to talk about my heritage or what my background was in fear of not being as popular, which sounds awful to say but I was only 18 years old and through years of being ashamed of who I was I found it quite hard to talk about it. I think it was through a lack of education as well. Even now I am constantly learning what the right things are to say and I would hate to talk about my race and my heritage and not say the right things."

READ: 13 powerful and essential books on racial injustice to add to your reading list

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Leigh-Anne Pinnock

On Friday, the Little Mix star broke down in tears as she shared her experience with racism, claiming she felt "invisible" at certain times with the band. Taking to her Instagram page to post a video, the newly-engaged singer revealed: "Like many of you, I have been feeling really heavy with everything that we are seeing online and hearing on the news. In the past I have mentioned some personal experiences that were triggered due to my race. More than ever I felt like it was time that I was completely open and honest with you all because finally, the world is awake and people want to listen, help and understand."

Explaining her decision to speak now, she added: "I'm not doing this video for sympathy or for you to watch and then go about normal life. I'm doing it because enough is enough and hopefully from sharing this we can all do more to understand the racism that takes place. In doing this we are able to approach the bigger issue and break down systemic racism. All we want is equality and justice for our black community."

MORE: 17 best children's books to help teach kids about diversity

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Leona Lewis

The X Factor winner also recently detailed her encounter with a "racist" shop owner. Recalling a visit to a Fulham-based shop with her dad a few years ago, the singer revealed she was looking for some things for her new home. "I didn't realise at the time that all of the other customers were white. Me and my dad were the only black people," she said. The father-and-daughter duo noticed the owner had began "hovering around" them. "Eventually, she came up to my dad and I and said, 'You need to put that stuff down, you're not allowed to touch it,'" she shared.

Leona then claimed the store owner became confrontational and had threatened to call police, adding: "It sparked a rage in me. I started saying, 'No, I'm not going to put it down, I'm going to buy it. Why are you targeting us?' [By now it was just] me, this woman, and my dad in the store. And... she became really defensive, really agitated, and ran behind the counter. She said she was going to call the police on us if we didn't leave the store now."

She continued: "I couldn't calm down because I was so angry. I knew what this woman was doing to us. But my dad has been in positions like this before and he knew that I needed to make myself smaller. And that just enraged me even more. [Eventually, her dad] managed to get me to leave the store. And I sat in the car that was parked around the corner, and I just sobbed, absolutely sobbed." A few minutes later, the owner had come to the car and apologised after she realised who Leona was. "She said, 'I'm so so sorry, I'm so sorry, I didn't know who you were.' And my heart kind of sank," explained the star. "I confronted her and said, 'You're racist. You're a racist. You targeted me and my dad, you wanted to throw us out of the store because we're black. You're racist.'"

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