Thandie Newton: How do you feel about being mixed-race?
Last updated at 10:33 PM on 10th April 2009
I was born in England, but we moved to Zambia not long afterwards, where we lived until I was three, when we returned to the UK.
My dad, Nick, an artist, is British, but my mum, Nyasha, is a princess of the Shona tribe in Zimbabwe. In Britain she worked as a district nurse, but she retained that incredible African dignity and poise.
Growing up in Penzance, Cornwall, my brother, Jamie, and I were the only black children in the area.
There were the usual cruel names: big ears or big nose. And none of the boys wanted to go out with me. I don’t remember any overt racism, but my mum and I have talked about this and I now know my parents kept us safe from a lot of stuff.
In some ways I’d say I come from Africa, but then I don’t speak my mother’s language, and in other ways I’m British through and through. I suppose I’ve never completely fitted in in either place.
I’ve never taken my husband, Ol, to Zimbabwe, or our daughters, Ripley, eight, and Nico, four. I’ve been waiting for the right time, but there never seems to be a right time to go to there any more.
My mum still goes back every year, and the last time I really wanted to go with her, but she’s very protective and it’s quite risky to travel there at the moment, so she didn’t want me to come. But I want my kids to understand where they come from.
I was in Mali last year visiting some charity projects, and I met a woman who thought I couldn’t carry a bucket of water on my head because I was white. I replied, ‘That’s really interesting because in England, where I’m from, they say I’ve got dark skin.’
She was amazed! So I joked, ‘If you think I’m lightskinned and in England they think I’m dark-skinned, where does that leave me?’ And she said, ‘Well you should come and be here with me – you’re in my family now.’
I thought that was lovely. There was a real feeling of being embraced, which my dad also felt when he went to Zimbabwe to ask my mother’s family for her hand in marriage. Apparently, grandmother just started dancing, which is how they express joy there.
I really enjoy Thandie Newton. And those girls are adorable! If you haven’t seen Run Fatboy Run, I recommend renting it. It’s funny and I really appreciate the true-to-life casting.