Race isn’t something I’ve talked about a lot here, although it is a topic I really enjoy writing about and base a lot of my university work around as a journalism student. Today, I want to share a little bit about my experience as a mixed (black and white) woman growing up in the United Kingdom. More specifically, growing up in a predominantly white area.

In my twenty years of living, I’ve learnt a lot about race. I know what it feels like to not belong. I know what it feels like to want to change yourself. And I know what it feels like to look in the mirror and hate what you see. However, I also know what it’s like to look in the mirror, after years off self-hate, and fall in love with your skin.

This post is one of the hardest I’ve ever had to write, but it’s also one of the most important. It’s something I’ve wanted to talk about for a very long time, but whenever I put pen to paper my mind goes blank. This Black History Month, I’ve made it my goal to share a small part of my experience as a bi-racial woman growing up in a white area.

Growing Up.

For the first eighteen years of my life, I lived in Devon. As lovely as Devon is, it’s one of the least cultured places I’ve ever been to. Of course there are a few black people dotted around (myself included) but for the most part, it’s a heavily white area. Growing up, I was one of the only black kids in my school. If I had to take a guess, I’d say there were maybe about ten of us between all seven of the year groups.

Without really knowing or understanding, I grew up resenting my blackness. My hair especially. I wanted nothing more than to have the long, straight, beautiful hair my friends and family had. Instead, I had to contend with unruly, frizzy curls and my disdain for it only grew as I aged. The problem was, I was the only person around with hair like it. It became a sort of novelty. I can’t count the number of times people would ask if they could touch my hair or even do it without my permission.

Honestly, my hair was my biggest insecurity as a child. When I was maybe ten, I remember buying myself a blonde wig from the local toy shop in the hopes that I could look like everybody else. It was around this time that I began to see things differently. I looked at the people around me and realised they looked nothing like me. I was the odd one out. Of course I knew that I was black and they were white, but I’d never thought anything of it until then.

Suddenly, I wanted to change everything about myself. I didn’t want my brown skin or my 3c hair anymore. I didn’t want the things that made me stand out from my peers; All I wanted was to look the same as everyone else. For a very brief period of my life, I wished that I was white.

Reflection

Looking back now, it breaks my heart that I ever felt like this. Of course it wasn’t purely down to where I lived. If I’d grown up in a more culturally diverse area, there would still be many elements of my appearance that I disliked. I live in London now and to this day I still hate my natural hair. I wish that it was something I could embrace but sadly, it’s not. 

It’s taken years of self-reflection, but I finally feel good about myself and my appearance. I no longer hate the fact that I’m ‘the odd one out’ in my hometown because I’ve come to accept and love the skin I’m in. I still have a long way to go, but I am on the right track.

My skin was my second biggest insecurity growing up and it’s now my favourite thing about myself. Yes, there was a time in my life that I didn’t understand anything about race and I wished that I could just be white like everybody else. Now, I’m completely happy with my skin and if anything, I’d actually like to be a little bit darker.

Unfortunately, my hair is still an issue for me. I do prefer to keep my hair straight and find it easier to maintain this way. Hopefully one day I will feel confident enough to embrace my natural hair, but for now I am happy with the way I look and I feel like that’s enough.

Leticia J Collins x

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30 Comments

  1. October 21, 2018 / 7:14 pm

    Always embrace who you are and the beauty in you!

  2. October 21, 2018 / 7:24 pm

    This was a bit sad to read as I can massively relate. I also grew up in a white area and the struggle was real. It took me ages to love myself, I was constantly made to feel different by people at school, because of my hair too. Identity issues where such a problem, I was almost ashamed to be black/mixed and this was simply because of how out of place I felt and how I was made to feel. I think it is so important now to teach young POC that they are perfect the way they are and the shouldn’t be ashamed about anything. It has literally took me YEARS to like my hair and even some days I get so fed up with it. You look amazing with straight hair but you would also look amazing with your natural curls too, I can give you some names of some great curly hair products if you like. You are right, one day you will feel confident to rick your curls but you look amazing now. Loved this post even though it made me slightly sad, it is a really important topic!! x

    • Leticia Collins
      October 22, 2018 / 5:55 pm

      It’s so sad that kids growing up in less cultured areas are made to feel like this. Yes it definitely is! Things like that are so easier said than done though unfortunately, especially when they don’t have other black people around them to help. I’m so glad you’ve been able to embrace your natural hair! Thank you so much! Maybe one day haha. I’m really glad you enjoyed the post

  3. October 21, 2018 / 7:49 pm

    Ah I loved reading this, especially as a mixed race woman myself. I hope one day you can overcome your hair insecurity. Honestly, accepting my curly hair was such a liberating experience for me, it just made me feel so ‘me’. These days its so weird, when I wear my hair straight I miss my curls! I’ve been wanting to write a post on mixed race identity for a while now and this has pushed me to do it! Great post x

    http://www.whatevawears.co.uk

    • Leticia Collins
      October 23, 2018 / 9:44 pm

      It’s amazing you’ve been able to do that! It must have been such a good feeling. Aw I’m so glad! xx

  4. October 21, 2018 / 8:30 pm

    Gurl, I can RELATE to this post on a level. Growing up in London, I had similar experiences to yourself and that’s in a diverse city but black people aren’t the majority, we only make up 3% of the population I believe.

    What we’ve been through has made up who we are today.

    We are strong, we are proud, we are beautiful, we are BLACK.

    Fran | http://www.franciscarockey.co.uk

  5. October 21, 2018 / 9:12 pm

    Really interesting piece. Didn’t know black history month ago existed. Thanks for sharing!

  6. October 21, 2018 / 10:22 pm

    I relate to this so much! I grew up mixed in a predominately white area and still live there. As a kid I also had hair insecurities. I just wanted to have pretty, shiny straight hair that blew in the wind like all the other girls so badly. I got made fun of and laughed at a lot by other kids. I still struggle with feeling self-conscious when I go natural. These days as an adult, I don’t get made fun of, but people go out of their way and over the top to tell me how ~COOL~ my curly hair is, and most of the time their compliments feel fake… it’s like they’re saying it just to point out how different I am and it’s just another way of being mocked. Maybe it isn’t their intention but I wish people just wouldn’t say anything, so I wouldn’t feel like an outsider all the time. Anyway, nice to read about someone with a similar experience to my own… you are beautiful and an excellent writer and fashionista!

    • Leticia Collins
      October 23, 2018 / 9:47 pm

      It’s just ignorance really, I’ve realised how ignorant people are where I live and it’s because they aren’t exposed to anything other than what they know. It can be really hard sometimes but it’s something that you have to overcome in order to be happy. Thank you so much xxx

  7. October 23, 2018 / 7:04 pm

    I think you are stunning my love! I live in Birmingham and fortunately it’s a very diverse place to be. It’s shocking how things can be so different even just a few hours away! Xx

    • Leticia Collins
      October 23, 2018 / 9:48 pm

      Thank you so much! Yeah it’s crazy how the world works

  8. Michelle Blackadar
    October 23, 2018 / 7:39 pm

    When I read the title I got a bit confused because I’m from America and our Black History Month is February but i loved this post so much. it makes me so sad to think you had such a tough time loving yourself growing up because you’re beautiful. im glad you spoke on this because i think it’ll help a lot of people. sending you lots of love xx

    mich / simplymich.com

    • Leticia Collins
      October 23, 2018 / 9:50 pm

      Yes, the American Black History Month is a lot more popular and many people don’t know that October is actually the UK’s Black History Month, even people from the UK. Thank you so much, I’m glad you took something from the post x

  9. October 23, 2018 / 7:54 pm

    This is a really important piece to get out there, I think, so even though you said ts one of the hardest things you’ve written, I think it’s really brave of you to write it anyway. I can’t relate on a racial level but I do know what it’s like to be a young girl and look at yourself in the mirror and hate what you see, and I wish we all appreciated ourselves more… but hey, it comes from a structural problem in our society and all we can do is work to empower each other. You are intelligent, strong and beautiful and you are loved by your friends for who you are x

    • Leticia Collins
      October 23, 2018 / 9:51 pm

      Society shapes the way we see ourselves so much and it’s so sad but learning to overcome this is one of the best things you can do. Unfortunately, it’s a very hard thing to do

  10. October 23, 2018 / 7:58 pm

    What a wonderful, personal post! I’m so happy to hear that you now love the things about you that made you different growing up 🙂

  11. Leticia Collins
    October 23, 2018 / 9:52 pm

    I’m glad you enjoyed it x

  12. Samantha Pereira
    October 25, 2018 / 4:06 pm

    Hair is what YOU want to do. Honestly, don’t let anyone tell you any different. I have curly hair (people like to call it the acceptable kind until I’m in interviews and get told to straighten it) that I almost never have straight. It’s because I’m lazy more than anything BUT if I want to straighten it, I do. Our image of ourselves is the most important and if you prefer to have your hair straight, it’s your call, not anyone else’s. Hair is a pain and really expensive. Also, it’s a struggle to accept ourselves almost everywhere so know it’s a work in progress over half the world is doing with you! 🙂

    S .x https://samsramblings91.blogspot.com/2018/10/lets-be-real-about-birth-control.html

  13. October 25, 2018 / 5:55 pm

    You are gorgeous! I’m sure your hair would look awesome unstraightened as well. I had straight hair growing up and always wanted curls! Even when I curled it 30 minutes later it would straighten.

    -busytykes
    http://Www.busytykes.com

  14. October 26, 2018 / 2:34 pm

    As much as I really enjoyed reading this I feel sad that you felt this way about yourself when you were younger. So glad you embrace your beautiful self (and hair!!) now!

    Liv x
    http://www.seabreezecorner.com

  15. November 2, 2018 / 8:35 am

    Really interesting read, I didn’t know we had a black history month!
    Take care,
    Hayley x

  16. November 2, 2018 / 10:20 am

    Beautifully written blog post lovely x

  17. November 5, 2018 / 1:19 pm

    This is such an empowering post lovely! It’s so sad to hear about how you felt about yourself growing up, but I’m so glad you have embraced who you are now! x

    Lucy | http://www.lucymary.co.uk

  18. November 7, 2018 / 9:25 am

    Thank you for sharing and I hope you can one day find the joy in your hair in its natural state. It doesn’t mean you have to wear it natural, it’s about loving it even if you weave it out or wig it out. I wrote a post about my natural hair and how it made me love myself more https://www.olliviette.com/my-17-year-natural-hair-journey-helped-me-love-myself-more/ if you want to read.

    I will add, I think this is why talking about blackness is important. When people ask, why bother it’s causing division – no. I grew up in a home where my parents talked about black pride ALL the time and it has helped shaped me into a woman who KNOWS her skin is beautiful, that her blackness is deeper than the skin she has, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. That phase of questioning why am I different in relation to blackness never happened because of the environment my family provided for us. I remember my cousin putting on a hannah montanna wig talking bout good hair and we sat her down and talked. Today she is natural, she looks back at that time is thankful for the conversation and for the injection of love we gave her. But a lot of people will say leave it alone…we don’t need to chat about race.

    I wish you look as you continue to grow and evolve.

  19. November 21, 2018 / 3:50 am

    You’re so beautiful and should be happy with who you are! It’s so sad that the people could be so ignorant. It can be difficult to find self-love when people are so rude, but I’m glad you’re becoming more comfortable in your skin!
    http://expeditiontoeuphoria.com

  20. November 27, 2018 / 6:46 am

    Wow, I’m so happy you wrote this, because it sheds light on being black in the UK. I think people who aren’t from the UK aren’t even aware of the community. I’m from America and didn’t even really know much about the struggles that the black community receives outside of the U.S. until most recently. I really thought it was a U.S. thing until I started educating myself on the issues at hand. That’s why it’s so important for blog posts like this because you’re inspiring others to be aware of experiences across the border. I always thought this was just a U.S. issue, but I’m glad you were open with your readers to share your experience.

    http://www.trendyera.com

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