Prince Harry's girlfriend writes about biracial woes

In the essay, Meghan Markle also writes that she had found it difficult gaining acceptance in Hollywood.
In the essay, Meghan Markle also writes that she had found it difficult gaining acceptance in Hollywood.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • The girlfriend of Prince Harry, American actress Meghan Markle, has penned an essay for Elle UK magazine in which she reveals that it is not easy being biracial.

"Being biracial paints a blurred line that is equal parts staggering and illuminating," she said in the piece published on Sunday.

She wrote that she had been "scared" to talk about her mixed-race heritage in public and that it had been tough gaining acceptance in a "label-driven" industry like Hollywood.

"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'," she said.

"Every role has a label; every casting is for something specific. But perhaps it is through this craft that I found my voice."

 
 

Markle, 35, is the daughter of an African-American mother and a Caucasian father who are divorced. While she grew up in a predominantly white neighbourhood in Los Angeles, she said her parents made her feel "special" rather than different. Thus she never identified with one race or the other, she said.

"To describe something as being black and white means it is clearly defined," she explained. "Yet when your ethnicity is black and white, the dichotomy is not that clear. In fact, it creates a grey area."

She wrote: "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. 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."

Then she landed a role on the USA Network legal drama Suits, a part for which "finally I was just right".

"The show's producers weren't looking for someone mixed, nor someone white or black for that matter," she wrote. "They were simply looking for Rachel. In making a choice like that, the Suits producers helped shift the way pop culture defines beauty."

She was married to film producer Trevor Engelson from 2011 to 2013. She began dating Prince Harry, 32, this year, a relationship they did not acknowledge until Nov 8, when the British royal hit out at critics of his choice of girlfriend.

His communications secretary Jason Knauf released a statement saying a line had been crossed in the news coverage of the romance.

In the statement, he said Markle had been subject to "a wave of abuse and harassment" that included a smear on the front page of a national newspaper, racial undertones in comment pieces and "the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and Web article comments".

Prince Harry, who fears for his girlfriend's safety, "knows commentators will say this is 'the price she has to pay' and that 'this is all part of the game'", the statement continued. "He strongly disagrees. This is not a game - it is her life and his."

In her essay, Markle admitted: "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. To say who I am, to share where I'm from, to voice my pride in being a strong, confident mixed-race woman."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2016, with the headline 'Prince Harry's girlfriend writes about biracial woes'. Print Edition | Subscribe