Delphine Chui

What’s your full name?

Delphine Sue-Ming Chui.

How old are you?

29.

Where were you born/brought up?

Born in Croydon and brought up in South London

What do you do for a living?

I’m a digital editor who writes and produces content for titles like ELLE, Cosmo, Esquire, Country Living etc.

What’s your ethnicity?

My mama’s Belgian and my papa is from Hong Kong (and yes, I still call them that.)

How did your mum and dad meet?

In a hostel in Woolwich! My dad was coming to the UK to study and my mum followed her friend down for a UK break. Their first date was in Wimpy…   

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How old were you when you became conscious that people saw you differently? What impact did that have on you?

It was probably not until university that I really felt conscious of how people saw me. I came from a very diverse upbringing in the area that I lived in and my childhood friends so it wasn’t until I was around predominantly private school alumni, who were mostly white, that I felt any different. It probably didn’t help that I then entered a predominantly female and white industry (magazines) where I’d get some tokenism comments like “well, you can’t be racist” or “but you’re coloured too, right?”


Describe your most memorable moments when you were made aware of being mixed race.

I grew up with only immediate family in the UK so while everyone else had cousins they’d play with during the weekends or aunts they’d go to for Christmas, I was talking about family in Hong Kong, Belgium and Australia. My parents, my siblings and I would celebrate satellite holidays together here like St. Nicholas Day (basically the day Belgian kids get their Christmas presents) and Chinese New Year - and the disconnect between the two events was probably my first realisation that I had two sides to me.

Do you feel your parents prepared you for life as a mixed race person?

I honestly don’t think they thought about it. Even though their relationship was quite controversial back in the 70s, they weren’t immersed in British culture enough to know how to prepare us for life here. They inadvertently did in the sense that they sent me to a predominantly BAME state school growing up and living in South London was the most ethnically diverse place we could be!

What ignorant comments have you heard about being mixed-race that really rile you?

For me, the assumption always is that it’s my mum who’s Asian so for me, it’d just be people assuming something before knowing the facts. And, people who just straight away think I can speak Cantonese, Mandarin, French and Flemish – and then judge me silently for not being able to. I find it weird I’ve never spoken to either of my parents in their native tongue but their communal language to each other was English so that was all we spoke at home.

What do you wish people who aren’t mixed-race understood?

That yes, we are “lucky” to have multi-cultural backgrounds, but it can also be really isolating too. I never saw anyone who looked like me in the public eye growing up and I had some experiences that I didn’t feel resembled anyone’s else’s – which can feel lonely.

Do you think mixed race people/families are well represented in the media?

Not really – but things are definitely changing slowly. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before was one of the first films I’ve ever seen where the kids were actively from a half-Caucasian and half-Asian household so it really resonated with me, but that only came out now and I’m 29!

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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 it’s definitely more socially acceptable and even praised nowadays, especially in the UK but I’m well aware of the challenges still present. I recently went to The Whitney Plantation Historic District (a museum devoted to slavery in the Southern United States) and was heartbroken by how enslaved communities, and mixed-race children, were seen and treated, as recently as the 70s. I think it’s too easy to think of these kinds of treatment as something historical but I was born in 1989 and had experiences of being called a ‘half-caste’ or had comments like ‘well you’re not Chinese enough to know’ thrown at me. It’s true that the world is becoming more multicultural though and I think that’s something to embrace as it’ll help us all understand each other better as humans, rather than what we look like.

Is being mixed race a burden or a blessing for you?

I think it’s a total blessing. It’s given me a hunger to learn about others and an empathy that I think I inherited from being something I never quite understood. I’ve had those battles of feeling like I was British born-and-bred, but knowing that people didn’t see me like that, as well as ironically having racist comments thrown at me in both Hong Kong and Belgium by people who wouldn’t call me theirs at all. But, ultimately, I wouldn’t change a thing. 

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?

I think often when you’re mixed – and one of those sides are white – people just see you as the visually more dominant race. But I’ve never really seen myself as looking very Chinese so I’ve always gravitated towards being different but not knowing what box I fell in. I’m too used to ticking the ‘mixed race: white other’ box and I suppose that’s what I always felt like: an ‘other.’ But, now I somehow have found myself surrounded by quite a few friends who have similar heritages to mine and sharing our experiences makes me feel better understood. But, embracing that I have three sides to me: Belgian from my mum, Chinese from my dad and British from living here has been what’s helped me realise who I am.  

What advice would you give to your younger self?

One day you won’t want to be like everybody else at all – and embracing your uniqueness is so freeing and will allow you to finally find yourself.
 

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