Lekhani Chirwa

What’s your full name?

Lekhani Chirwa.

Where were you born/brought up?

I was born in Lancaster Hospital and grew up in Kendal, Cumbria.

What do you do for a living?

I’m an actress and a writer.

What’s your ethnicity?

I’m Malawian & English.

How did your mum and dad meet?

My Mum and Dad met working together at a restaurant in London, my Mum was my Dad's manager at the time.


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

When I was in primary school in reception I realised I was different when one boy referred to me as burnt toast, I tried to say it back but he said he can’t be burnt toast cause his skin isn’t burnt. It really impacted me in realising that people see me in that way, up until that point I thought I was the same as everyone else.

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

When I first moved to London guys would ‘move’ to me and I’d explain that I’m ok/not interested very politely. Then I was called a ‘lightie’ and that I thought I was ‘too nice’ I didn’t understand. It kept happening and I asked one of my London uni mates and they then went on to explain to me that there is a stereotype around light skin mixed race girls. I was really surprised as I’d pretty much always been referred to as black back home. So to be in this city and be once again othered I couldn’t understand the judgement/prejudice.

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

No not really I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with them about race let alone my mixed-race experience and it's a conversation I'm unfortunately never going to be able to have as my father passed away a few years ago and my mum has a disability that makes communication difficult.

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

That we must choose a side to identify with more. Why can't I just love both?

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

That it’s really hard to fit in. Often you’re seen as too black in white spaces and too white in black spaces. You face rejection from both ends.

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

Not really. I can’t think of anything/anyone off the top of my head and that’s not good.


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?

No, particularly not where I’m from. The racism is still there but way more subtle. People stare, people make comments. I think there is ingrained ignorance from the older generation. I can't wait for the day that it's not made into a big thing.

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

I’d say both, I feel blessed to be a part of two cultures but it’s often hard having to switch up my identity depending on who I’m with.

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?

Yes definitely, I didn’t really know myself growing up and felt very lost as there was only the white side to relate to. I think since moving to London generally just being immersed around black culture I have really connected with that side and I feel I’m at peace with knowing and accepting myself. I’d say I came to this place through writing my own one-woman show which completely explores my identity around my hair - ‘Can I Touch Your Hair?’. The feedback has been amazing and sharing my truth has been so liberating.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

You are enough. You don’t need to pretend to be someone you’re not to impress others. Be yourself always and if people don’t like you that is not your problem. You are worthy and stop being so bloody hard on yourself.

Is there anything more you’d like to say?

I think anyone reading this should go read books on race such as Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race, Brit-ish, Natives by Akala and The Good Immigrant (all these books are under the Resources section of HaluHalo’s website). It will help you learn more about structural racism, white privilege and then you don’t have to ask black or mixed-race people to educate you cause we're really tired of that shit.