British | Mauritian
I am mixed-race British/Mauritian & a Christian. My Mam is British and my Dad is Mauritian. My Mam lived in Darlington, in the North-East of England and my Dad was training to be a nurse is Winterton, just a few miles away. They met at a friend’s engagement party.
I always knew that our family was different to everyone else’s. I grew up in a town with mostly White people. We were the only mixed-race family I knew. I thought we were unique. I didn’t realise there were other mixed-race families until I was at University and I watched East is East and I realised that there were other people like me. That was the first time I’d seen myself represented anywhere and the feeling of elation that I got from that, the realisation that we weren’t the only ones was incredible. I was walking around in a daze for ages. Can you imagine being 19 and only just realising that there are other mixed-race people around? That thought to me now is ridiculous. I’m glad the world is changing.
As far as my Dad was concerned his children were British. I remember when I was younger I tried to get my Dad to teach me Creole, but he wouldn’t. He just said that I was British and we spoke English. My identity is very much British, the colour of my skin is the only thing that gives away my duel heritage.
Mauritius was kind of a fictional place to me when I was growing up. My Dad came from this paradise island, the same place as the extinct Dodo is from. And he would tell us stories about riding on turtles and swimming in clear blue seas and sand that is seven different colours, so different to the reality that we had. He moved to England when he was 19 with one suitcase. He came to make his fortune, to become British. We didn’t have many ties to the Mauritian culture at all. I remember one time at primary school we had a Hindu assembly and my Mum came in and helped us all put our Saris on because she’d learnt how to do it when my Gran from Mauritius had visited. Sometimes my Dad would make curries and lentil soup, I loved lentil soup, and me and my Mam would make the chapattis with our hands.. or we’d try and then we’d have to use a rolling pin. Maybe we had Mauritian family values. I don’t know. Family was very important to my Mum and my Dad and so was education. But mostly we were British. My culture is British.
I think as an actor my job is quite challenging because I’m mixed-race, there’s not as many opportunities for mixed-race actors, but I think that is starting to change. We’re starting to see more non-White people on our TV screens and that’s a good thing. It’s annoying when people don’t believe me when I say I’m from the North-East. They always ask, ‘but where are you really from?’ I was born and bred in the UK, that is where I’m really from. I think our view of what a British person is needs to change.
People are intrigued by me, I’m quite an exotic mystery perhaps. I do have two strong cultures to draw on and I am proud of my parents, that in a time and place where mixed relationships weren’t at all the norm, they did it, regardless of what other people thought, and they loved each other and stayed the distance.
I always feel that I don’t quite fit into society, that I don’t belong to a specific tribe. We went on holiday to Mauritius once when I was in my 20s and I thought maybe I would feel like I would fit in there, like I would have some type of epiphany of who I was. But I didn’t. We were more of an oddity there because of our lighter skin. And culturally I felt so out of place. I was a fish out of water. It doesn’t bother me though, it’s just the way it’s always been. I don’t know any different. And I kind of like being unique.
I like the way I am and I wouldn’t change it. Maybe I would learn more about my Mauritian heritage and feel a stronger connection to that. But the UK is my home.