English/German | Irish/Brazilian
I’m a Brazilian-Irish-English, queer, agnostic. I’m 21 years old. Both my parents were born in the UK, my Dad in London and my Mum in Nottingham. My Mum has a European background (English & German), whilst my Dad’s parents are from Ireland and Brazil. I grew up in Nottingham and went to 3 majority White schools.
I think at Catholic School I was forced to become aware of my background because of being the ‘other’. The way people referred to me, and the questions I was asked were often racially stimulated. I see some of those people on social media nowadays and can’t help wondering if they know how uncomfortable they made me. I’ll never forget one of the boys telling me I couldn’t call myself mixed-race because I wasn’t dark enough. The awareness of how light my skin is has always weighed heavy in my mind when describing myself as a BAME person, because it comes with a lot of privileges, and I think comments like that are where those feelings of not belonging and unworthiness began. Not all of it was negative though, I remember my science teacher jokingly telling everyone that my Dad (who travelled a lot for work) was the head of the Brazilian mafia, which definitely gave me a bit of street cred.
I knew from a young age that my parents weren’t from the same place, but it was never an issue or topic of discussion. My Mum was brought up in a White household, with parents who were born, raised, and still live in Nottingham. My Dad’s parents, however, were both immigrants. His Father came to the UK for nurse training, same as his Mother, which is where they met. But my Dad’s Father left when he wasn’t even a teenager, to pursue a career and work across the globe, so my Dad’s Brazilian roots don’t often show through. I think his own mixed identity is something he wasn’t encouraged to understand, especially because his Mother comes from an Irish family that doesn’t much discuss feelings and other people’s business. All culture feels quite muted in my family as a result. I think when I start a family I’d like to educate them from an early age on where they come from, and hopefully instil some pride in them about their unique story, which is something I missed out on as a child and have only begun to learn about these past few years.
I think a challenge most mixed people experience is how unaware our world is of what a mixed person can be. Because it’s not so Black-and-White, because there are so many mixes, I think for people who don’t often think about race the spectrum is too big of a concept to grasp. And this confusion isn’t just reserved for single-heritage households. I went home last Christmas and found out that my own brothers identify as White! And why? Because they’d ‘never really thought about it!’. And so these siblings, the only other people I know that have the same mix of ethnicities as me, didn’t even know they were mixed. So if they’re confused, then what hope is there for everyone else?! Also, my career path is very much at the forefront of diversity debates right now. Training as an actor, I know how much of a safe bubble I’ve been in for the past 3 years. I know from other mixed actors how much judgement and prejudice is about to come my way. When I was younger, going to weekly acting classes back in Nottingham, I was told so often that I was ‘just so unusual. I don’t know what roles to put you up for!’. It’s taken me a while to realise that those comments were mostly racially stimulated. A lot of agents and Casting Directors are still uncomfortable and uneducated in the mixed-race lexicon, and fair enough. But I think just by being present in the acting World, and keeping my voice present in the race discussion, I’ll be able to instil change.
Although I’ve often tried to learn, (hours spent on Duolingo), I don’t speak Portuguese. Or Spanish. My Grandfather left without teaching my Dad any of the language, and so it was never passed down. In fact my Grandad left so early on, he has no idea I even exist. I’ve often been on the receiving end of people’s disappointment when they find out I’m part Brazilian, and yet I don’t speak the language. It feels like to them that part of my identity is voided.
I find myself most interested in my Southern American roots, and the wild stories of my cousins that are living across the States now. But my Nottingham upbringing is also a big part of me, as well as the Irish foods and history my Grandma has instilled in me, so it doesn’t feel like a cop-out to say that I just identify as someone with a lot of different backstories! My feelings about my background are constantly evolving, the more information my Grandparents reveal. It was only a few months ago I was told that one of my relatives was a political prisoner in Auschwitz during the Second World War, so for a few weeks that was all I could think about. So, I think what I connect with most, is how a prisoner of Auschwitz, a Brazilian writer, an Irish nurse and cook for the British Air Force are all connected through me!
When people ask where I’m from I say Nottingham, and proudly. It’s a smaller city, but it’s got a lot of history and a lot of successful people.
I love how unique I am. You’d struggle to find another Brazilian-Irish-English queer agnostic 21-year-old. And yes, it makes things like finding role models to look up to, and people to connect with a little harder, but it’s also such a beautiful thing. I really am the product of multiculturalism.
I can only speak for my mix but being mixed now is confusing. The issue of colourism and this phrase ‘White-passing’ I hear thrown around can make me feel degraded or like because of my shade I don’t really fit in any box. You can feel like the kid that gets picked last in PE class, the ‘I just don’t know where to put you’ syndrome. But, like I said, now that I’m becoming more educated and self-aware, not fitting in can be a very good thing.
If I had the opportunity to be reborn I would want to return exactly the same. But maybe with a better recorded family tree, because it’s hard to trace a family that spans 4 continents! (Or maybe as a giraffe. Something about their gangly elegance is very relatable.)