What’s your full name?
Danielle Lea Nagawa Sams
How old are you?
Where were you born/brought up?
What do you do for a living?
Study and model.
What’s your ethnicity?
White and Black African/ half Ugandan, half English
How did your mum and dad meet?
Good question! I have no idea!
How old were you when you became conscious that people saw you differently? What impact did that have on you?
I can’t say an exact age, because I have felt different from everyone in my family for as long as I can remember, I suppose as early as 3 or 4 years old, especially as I’m an only child and my family are pretty segregated as my mum and dad never married, so I was either the only one of black heritage (except the occasional presence of my half siblings) or the only one with white heritage and I vaguely remember it being pointed out. Sometimes I just felt like I didn’t know where I belonged or if they saw me differently and I guess I became very conscious of it when I was about 8 or 9, when people started classifying me as either white or black.
Did you want to change your appearance when you were a child?
Yep, all the time. From wanting to be white, to black, to having straight hair to curlier thicker hair. Skinnier, taller all of that.
Describe your most memorable moments when you were made aware of being mixed race.
- Whenever I’m stereotyped as a typical mixed person.
- Whenever I go to Uganda and they just see me as a white person.
- Whenever I’m the only one of my skin colour in a group i.e. a large group of white or black people.
- Whenever people ask me what I am.
Do you feel your parents prepared you for life as a mixed race person?
What ignorant comments have you heard about being mixed-race that really rile you?
It’s easy being mixed race, everyone loves you. Typical lightie doesn’t reply to messages (and similar comments). You’re so black/you’re so white. You think you’re so special because you’re mixed. Ugh.
What do you wish people who aren’t mixed-race understood?
Our skin colour doesn’t dictate our personality. It’s the way people treat us and how we are raised and our overall experience with life, JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER HUMAN BEING.
Do you think mixed race people/families are well represented in the media?
No way! I think everywhere we are the minority. Additionally, we are always called black rather than presented as mixed race which for me, I think takes away from our identity by not acknowledging our mix.
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?
It’s hard to say. You see interracial couples and so many people have negative things to say about them, e.g. black women say that the white women are taking their men, or that it won’t work because of culture differences etc. etc. Is that racism or prejudice? People try to categorise mixed people as black or white with the general consensus being mixed people are black (assuming this is mixed black and other we are talking about), so we experience the racism that black people experience (although to a lesser extent) and the prejudice/discrimination white people experience and I suppose your ties and affiliations with each of those groups will affect how you see it and how you feel about it. So basically, more subtle.
Is being mixed race a burden or a blessing for you?
100% a blessing. Sometimes I feel like proof that humans can get along regardless of colour and that’s awesome.
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?
Definitely. I never considered myself either black or white, despite the fact that I was brought up with my white grandma, surrounded by my white family until I was 6 before living with my black mum, being raised with my black family and having mostly black and mixed friends. Generally, I felt more pressure to choose the black side. I guess I just came to a realization that I’m never going to be fully accepted by either community. I love that I know where the majority of my roots are and can connect with both sides of my heritage, and that my family and close friends accept and love me regardless of my skin colour. I use my experience to educate anyone who wants to learn and that’s great.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Find your own way, stop copying others to find yourself because that’s a terrible method and tell your mum you want to do arts, not science because science is just memorizing and it’s boring and you are far to fickle and energetic for that. Read more books, watch more documentaries and don’t lose your confidence you need it.