If you’re a 35 year-old actress who happens to be stunning, smart, and suddenly on a global platform thanks to who your new boyfriend is, what do you do with that notoriety? You pen an emotional letter about a subject that’s near and dear to your heart, of course.
That’s the route Meghan Markle decided to take when she wrote a piece for Elle UK, opening up about some of the struggles she faced being biracial in Hollywood and how it hindered the beginning of her career.
“Being ‘ethnically ambiguous’, as I was pegged in the industry, meant I could audition for virtually any role. Morphing from Latina when I was dressed in red, to African American when in mustard yellow; my closet filled with fashionable frocks to make me look as racially varied as an Eighties Benetton poster,” she penned. “Sadly, it didn’t matter: I wasn’t black enough for the black roles and I wasn’t white enough for the white ones, leaving me somewhere in the middle as the ethnic chameleon who couldn’t book a job.”
The actress notes that it all changed when she was cast as Rachel in Suits, because that role wasn’t written for any particular race; it was a colourblind casting process that resulted in the biggest role of her life.
“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 continued. “In making a choice like that, the Suits producers helped shift the way pop culture defines beauty. The choices made in these rooms trickle into how viewers see the world, whether they’re aware of it or not.”
Of course acting has just been a part of the actress’s life. She’s also “a writer, the Editor-in-Chief of lifestyle brand The Tig, a pretty good cook and a firm believer in handwritten notes,” as she mentions. But she is also the daughter of a biracial couple who came to L.A. during a time when being a biracial couple wasn’t so widely accepted. The actress speaks to that in the essay as well, in the same heartfelt way.
“I was too young at the time to know what it was like for my parents, but I can tell you what it was like for me – how they crafted the world around me to make me feel like I wasn’t different but special. When I was about seven, I had been fawning over a boxed set of Barbie dolls. It was called The Heart Family and included a mom doll, a dad doll, and two children. This perfect nuclear family was only sold in sets of white dolls or black dolls. I don’t remember coveting one over the other, I just wanted one. On Christmas morning, swathed in glitter-flecked wrapping paper, there I found my Heart Family: a black mom doll, a white dad doll, and a child in each colour. My dad had taken the sets apart and customised my family.”
Sounds like the stuff TV dads are made of to us.
As for the essay, it’s certainly an inspiration for people of all ethnicities, but especially for those who also feel as though they’re constantly being asked to define “what” they are.
“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 push for colour-blind casting, you draw your own box,” Markle wrote. “You introduce yourself as who you are, not what colour your parents happen to be… You create the identity you want for yourself.”
Sounds like pretty good advice to us.