'Suits' Actress Meghan Markle Writes Poignant Essay on Her Biracial Identity
"It's either ironic or apropos that in this world of not fitting in, and of harbouring my emotions so tightly under my ethnically nondescript (and not so thick) skin, that I would decide to become an actress."
In an essay that was recently published on Elle UK's website, Meghan Markle talked about about growing up biracial and how that has impacted her career.
"Being biracial paints a blurred line that is equal parts staggering and illuminating," wrote Markle, admitting that she was scared when she first was asked to share her story.
Markle, whose father is Caucasian and mother is African-American, shared anecdotes about life in Los Angeles, including having her mother be mistaken for her nanny and an instance when her mom was called the n-word in a parking lot.
The Suits actress said her parents "crafted the world around her" to make sure she felt special rather than different. She recalls wanting a boxed set of Barbie dolls for Christmas; the sets came in black or white dolls and included a mom, father and two children. "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 color. My dad had taken the sets apart and customized my family," said Markle.
Markle also remembered struggling to know which box to check on a census, when the options were white, black, Hispanic or Asian. A teacher told her to identify as Caucasian since she had pale skin. Her father instead said, "If that happens again, you draw your own box."
"It's either ironic or apropos that in this world of not fitting in, and of harboring my emotions so tightly under my ethnically nondescript (and not so thick) skin, that I would decide to become an actress," wrote Markle. "There couldn't possibly be a more label-driven industry than acting, seeing as every audition comes with a character breakdown: 'Beautiful, sassy, Latina, 20s'; 'African American, urban, pretty, early 30s'; 'Caucasian, blonde, modern girl next door'. Every role has a label; every casting is for something specific. But perhaps it is through this craft that I found my voice."
Often pegged in Hollywood as "ethnically ambiguous" Markle remembered auditioning for a variety of ethnically diverse roles but being dubbed not black enough for the black roles or white enough for the white ones.
She credits her series Suits as 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. In making a choice like that, the Suits producers helped shift the way pop culture defines beauty," said Markle.
Speaking about the racial unrest in Ferguson and Baltimore, Markle spoke about the tensions that have boiled over in the U.S. "As a biracial woman, I watch in horror as both sides of a culture I define as my own become victims of spin in the media, perpetuating stereotypes and reminding us that the States has perhaps only placed bandages over the problems that have never healed at the root."
Markle said that she has made a decision to find her identity independent of "this abyss of self-misunderstanding."
"You push for colorblind casting, you draw your own box," wrote Markle.
After news broke that she was dating Prince Harry, Markle received a backlash of racist and sexist criticism on social media. Prince Harry released a rare public statement against the "wave of abuse and harassment" she experienced. "Prince Harry is worried about Ms. Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her," read the statement.
Markle originally wrote her essay for Elle UK in July 2015. She reposted it on her blog, The Tig, in November and Elle UK published it on its website on Dec. 11.