Meghan Markle's Essay About Being Biracial Reminds Us Everyone Has a Story


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Meghan Markle has been a star of Suits for several years now, but the confirmation that she's dating Prince Harry quadrupled her fame a few months ago. We all paused to look closely at her, and we saw a woman who's smart and pretty and successful and dating an effing prince and we just kind of assumed that life hasn't been hard for her. But in an essay that was recently republished in Elle UK, Markle explains that appearances aren't what they seem: She's biracial, she says, and that's made her life and her identity more complex than we ever could have imagined.

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Her essay, which was originally published in Elle in July 2015, is beautiful and moving, and it does a really excellent job of opening our eyes to the world she's been navigating since she was a kid.

She says the realization that she didn't fit neatly into boxes our society built started with boxes of Barbies: The store had a white Barbie family and a black Barbie family, but no family with a white dad and a black mom and a mixed race kid. There was no family that looked like her own, so her dad had to buy two sets and combine them into a new box for Meghan. 

More from CafeMom: 20 Actresses Who've Spoken About the Objectification of Women in Hollywood

Then there was the school census. You remember this part: Your teacher had you check a box to indicate if you were white, black, Hispanic, or Asian. But, as Meghan explains, the choice isn't always that clear:

There I was (my curly hair, my freckled face, my pale skin, my mixed race) looking down at these boxes, not wanting to mess up, but not knowing what to do. You could only choose one, but that would be to choose one parent over the other -- and one half of myself over the other. My teacher told me to check the box for Caucasian. 'Because that's how you look, Meghan,' she said.

Though Meghan says she got more comfortable labeling her own identity as she got older, once she started working in Hollywood, she found that nobody else knew what to do with her. They called her "ethnically ambiguous" and she could audition for any role, but she says, "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."

That's how she ended up on Suits -- they weren't looking for one race over another and they weren't looking for an actress to check any specific box. That's the kind of casting Meghan says she wants to see more of -- the kind that doesn't care what you are, just what you can do.

More from CafeMom: 20 Things Never to Say to Parents of Multiracial Kids

The Suits casting decision might seem fairly contained to just their TV show, but as Meghan points out, it's really not at all:

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. Some households may never have had a black person in their house as a guest, or someone biracial. Well, now there are a lot of us on your TV and in your home with you.

Though blind casting obviously isn't the right solution for every project, it's probably true that it's something we need more of. TV producers have the power to create some measure of change. Actors do, too, and that's why we were so glad to read Meghan's essay. She's using her platform for good, and we can't thank her enough. 

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