What’s your full name?
Chloé Ifeoluwa Rolland
How old are you?
Where were you born/brought up?
Born in Paris and brought up in its burbs. I moved to the UK 10 years ago.
What do you do for a living?
Finishing up my studies to be an orthodontist. People usually think I do something “cooler” like being a Jazz singer but they haven’t heard my voice..
What’s your ethnicity?
Half French, Half-Nigerian.
How did your mum and dad meet?
They met at a university in Eastern Nigeria in their 20s where they were both lecturing in architecture. They fell in love and after my Dad moved back to France, he proposed. I think my Mum making the decision to uproot for love wasn’t approved of by her family at the time but it’s love all around now.
How old were you when you became conscious that people saw you differently? What impact did that have on you?
My parents remember me being very upset when I came back from kindergarten; I must have been 4. Apparently a little girl had told me we couldn’t play together because I was black. I asked my mum if it was true because I was completely unaware of race at the time.
Did you want to change your appearance when you were a child?
As a child, I wanted to be either one or the other (black or white), I hated my position of limbo; I felt that I could never be completely accepted by either group. There were times I wish I could be another race altogether – maybe Indian so that I could keep my skin tone and have luscious, long, straight hair so that people would be able to understand more readily why I looked the way I did.
Describe your most memorable moments when you were made aware of being mixed race.
I can’t remember a defining moment but I was always made to feel like I was different to the white kids and the black kids. Sometimes I could use this uniqueness to my advantage but I craved being just like everyone else. I remember deeply resenting my parents for having me, deciding to have a mixed race child, because it felt like it was so out of the ordinary at the time.
Do you feel your parents prepared you for life as a mixed race person?
Not really but I think that’s a really hard task when neither of them are mixed. My mum made me believe that because I was perceived as black, life would be so much harder for me. Unhelpfully, my mother also believed my Dad could not really contribute to the topic since he has never really been perceived as “other”. I think I’ve carried a lot of this defensiveness in my interactions with people, even when they ended up being more accepting than I think.
What ignorant comments have you heard about being mixed-race that really rile you?
I remember a boy in high-school going on a rant about mixed-race unions and immigration diluting French culture. I remember taking that very personally.
What do you wish people who aren’t mixed-race understood?
It’s hard to say. I think people need to be open to the fact that we all have different viewpoints. It’s important not to make assumptions that you know what someone else has gone through because you know someone else who is mixed race.
Do you think mixed race people/families are well represented in the media?
I think mixed girls who look like me (with curly hair and of Caucasian and Afro-Caribbean descent) are most represented. It’s great for me now because I didn’t grow up seeing these girls but I unfortunately rarely see other examples of mixed-race individuals.
Back in the late 19th century/early 20th century being mixed race held a stigma, as it was clear proof of interracial relations which was seen as an affront to society’s morals. Do you think it’s easier nowadays to be mixed race or is it more that racism has become subtler?
I think people celebrate it more now; the “ethnically ambiguous” are embraced. The unfortunate thing is that I think non-mixed ethnic minorities sometimes see it as a negative as they feel less represented.
Is being mixed race a burden or a blessing for you?
It has been such a blessing. It has taken me a while to appreciate it but I appreciate it now because it is part of my identity and has shaped my personality both good and bad.
Have you felt a struggle with your identity? If so, how did you deal with it and if you are now at peace with who you are, how did you come to a place of self-acceptance?
Realistically, I cannot describe myself as either French or Nigerian; I don’t identify as black or white. I’ve accepted that I’m an odd, multi-cultural, confused human being but it’s what makes me special.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I’d say be bolder and be forgiving of people’s assumptions. I’d want to try to make more of an effort to educate people rather then because hardened by their comments.