"Suits" star Meghan Markle was thrust into the international spotlight earlier this fall when it was revealed that she was dating England's Prince Harry. With that news came lots of unwanted attention, including some ugly racism, but Markle is using her newfound platform to speak out on issues that are important to her, including her experience of being a biracial woman.
In a powerful essay penned for Elle UK, Markle wrote about what it was like growing up with a black mother and white father, and how her mixed-race identity was a confusing topic for not only strangers to grasp, but for Markle herself to come to terms with. Though her parents did their best to shield her from outside ignorance, Markle remembers an assignment in seventh grade that asked her to check off her ethnicity in a box, choosing either white or black. Later, Markle's father urged her to "draw [her] own box," a lesson she's carried with her since then.
The actress also detailed her experience when she first started her career in Hollywood, admitting she felt excluded by the industry's "label-driven" restrictions.
"Every role has a label; every casting is for something specific," Markle explained. " ... Being 'ethnically ambiguous', as I was pegged in the industry, meant I could audition for virtually any role. ... 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."
Markle's big break came when she auditioned for her role as Rachel Zane on "Suits," where "producers weren't looking for someone mixed, nor someone white or black for that matter," she wrote. "They were simply looking for Rachel." That open-mindedness changed Markle's life, and, she says, hopefully opened some minds across the country who were seeing someone like her on their television screens for the first time.
The actress says she still struggles with her identity, specifically when it comes to some of the racial issues facing the country today, but is determined to be herself no matter what.
"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," Markle wrote. "To say who I am, to share where I'm from, to voice my pride in being a strong, confident mixed-race woman. That when asked to choose my ethnicity in a questionnaire as in my seventh grade class, or these days to check 'Other', I simply say: 'Sorry, world, this is not Lost and I am not one of The Others. I am enough exactly as I am.'"
Read Markle's entire essay here.
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