Samia Djilli

What’s your full name?

Samia Djilli.

How old are you?


Where were you born/brought up?


What do you do for a living?

Theatre producer/writer - co founder of Lemon House Theatre.

What’s your ethnicity?

I’m half Algerian and half English

How did your mum and dad meet?

They met in London.


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

I became aware at a young age. People would look at me and my Dad really weirdly as we look very similar but are different skin colours, so it would always take people a second to realise I was in fact his daughter.

I guess you could say it impacted me negatively. When we were in Algeria people didn’t bat an eyelid, but here everyone would stare. It made me want to run away to my other home...

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

I would say I was always aware I was mixed as people would often make a point of it to me, but the most memorable moment that changed things was when my Dad came to pick me up from school one day. All the boys in my year started asking me where I was from, and suddenly I became the mixed Arab girl. It was weird because I’d always thought of myself as 100% Algerian and 100% British, but that day it was like a piece of red tape was placed in the middle of me as a constant reminder that I was two halves, not a whole.

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

Not really, but how can they when they don’t know what to prepare you for? As far as my Dad was concerned, I looked like him (to a certain extent), ate the same food as him, and prayed to the same God as him. I don’t think he ever really realised how much he missed out in terms of teaching me how to be content in my cultural identity, but I don’t blame him, it’s more I blame a society that constantly judges people on how they look and what their name is.

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

Anything that fetishizes mixed people really riles me!

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

That sometimes, it can be really confusing to come from two cultures. I know there are some mixed race people that may feel completely confident in their heritage, but for a lot of us, we’re trying to figure out where we fit in. I don’t ever forget that my mix has afforded me with a lot of privileges, but it can also come with a lot of cultural loneliness.

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

Not in the slightest. I have never seen a family like mine represented anywhere in mainstream western media, which I just can’t understand. I’m producing a play called Different Sand coming to The Bunker Theatre this September about two British-Algerian sisters, with the whole core creative team being mixed Algerian, and I’m dumbfounded as to why this will be the first time I see this on stage in London!


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 varies from country to country and city to city. There is going to be a stigma around being mixed race as long as racism exists. In England we’ve hit a stress point politically, which is having a negative effect on those who identity as mixed, BAME or a person of colour, but (and this may sound a bit cheesy) we have each other. When I look at my friends and see that every single person’s heritage lies in a different part of the world, I can see the progression and acceptance. If only everyone also felt that way…

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

Both. I can and always try to see the privileges I’m afforded for being a white presenting Algerian woman, but I have dealt with a lot of cultural confusion, and trying to be grounded in my cultural identity has not been easy.

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, I’ve definitely struggled with it, but I identify with being both a Londoner and being Algerian. People are always trying to make you choose a side, and I’ve definitely played into their hands before, but I’ve started to realise now more than ever that I am who I am. I’m Algerian and I’m English. I eat Algerian food and I travel to work on London buses. I wouldn’t say peace is the thing I’ve reached, I would say its pride. I’m proud to be Algerian (and that was before we won the cup) and I’m proud to be a Londoner. 

What advice would you give to your younger self?

That it’s okay to not be like everyone else, actually it’s something you’ll be really proud of one day.