What’s your full name?
Sarah-Louise Maillet (aka Wild Adoration, my alter ego)
How old are you?
27 years old.
Where were you born/brought up?
I was born in Morocco in the North but I was brought up in France.
What do you do for a living?
I am a musician, singer, songwriter and producer for my solo project Wild Adoration and writer, writing my own stories and for magazines.
What’s your ethnicity?
I am North African, West African and Iberian. I recently discovered it thanks to a DNA test I did. I knew I was mixed-race because I knew being Moroccan wasn’t my entire identity even though I was born there. There wasn’t any way for me to know about my origins or biological parents and therefore I didn’t really have a sense of self or identity until I discovered who I was and where I came from early 2019.
How did your mum and dad meet?
I do not know. I was adopted by a white single mother in a white family when I was really young. I grew up with this idea that I was white because of my family and the environment I lived in in France. I struggle about talking about my adoption, first because I was born in a country where there are thousands of abandoned children each year but also because it makes people feel uncomfortable when you say that you are adopted. People like to place other people as most of the time they can’t imagine someone not knowing their biological parents. It is quite taboo and it makes me feel like I am a victim when I shouldn’t think and feel that way.
How old were you when you became conscious that people saw you differently? What impact did that have on you?
When I was 11 years old. I realised that people were asking who my mother was and kept asking because my mother is white. They couldn’t believe that she was my mother and that I could be different because of my skin or my hair.
I was really sad because I was wondering who I was. I started to question my identity and wanted to know more about my origins in order to be able to tell people where I was from so they could just stop asking and judging me. It is only now, at 27 years old, that I know. Though I keep feeling like I need to justify my identity for different reasons and that is exhausting.
Describe your most memorable moments when you were made aware of being mixed race.
Finally knowing where I come from and also who I was and who I am.
Do you feel your parents prepared you for life as a mixed race person?
Absolutely not. They were too focused on me not making waves, not having my own identity and history and on them appearing as saviours.
What reaction do you tend to experience from people when they find out your ethnicity?
Weirdly enough white people accept my ethnicities. They like to know and they do not question me, which is still racist because I can see that their interest isn’t about me properly but more about “why do I have afro hair for such a light skin”.
I had a hard time with a few black or mixed-race people I have lived with unfortunately. They didn’t think my ethnicities were valid or because I am light skin that I wouldn’t experience racism, not like them, not like a black woman. I could almost hear “proper black woman”. Recently I experienced from someone I thought could understand me and support me that she didn’t consider me as mixed-race. My identity didn’t matter because I am mainly North African according to her.
I have lived in France almost all my life as a mixed race person and have lived racism everyday since my birth. In France Arabic and Black people are targeted with racism everyday, to the point that myself, when I thought I was white (because raised in an entire white family that dismissed my origins) I was wary of Black and Arabic people. But when growing up I started to realise how conditioned I was by my upbringing and the society and culture I lived in. I was living in white cities and villages where I was the only mixed race person. I was the alien. I didn’t have any support from my family, they didn’t know why I needed to know about my origins so much. I educated myself, tried to understand, stop judging and started to say stop when some white people were acting a bit aggressively with me because I wanted to speak up. I know in some ways some people can think I am privileged because I might not have experienced the same trauma and racism that they did but I have different traumas and experiences. I particularly remember when I was living in Paris after the two terrorist attacks, Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan - I was shocked about what had happened, I knew people or of people that died. The places where I would go out with my friends were targeted, even if luckily we weren’t going out that night. It moved me deeply. But what shocked me even more is after these terrorist attacks, people started to look at me differently. I wasn’t the friendly, crazy hair, always wearing black with red lipstick French woman. I was part of the enemy. People started to be suspicious around me ; in cafes, in public transport, in the street, at train stations. To the point that someone refused to serve me, less than a year ago, when I was out having a coffee on rue Soufflot in Paris with one of my dearest friends. She was shocked but I was voiceless. I was so stunned by the racist behaviour of the waitress that I stayed quiet. We left the cafe without ordering anything. But I kept thinking about this for hours and hours. It still moves me today when I think about it and I promised myself, maybe stupidly, that I wouldn’t live in France again. I have been through hell for years and years. I don’t want to go through that again. So when other mixed race/black people tell me my experience as a mixed-race person isn’t valid it hurts. A lot. Because I had experienced racism since I was little and I still do.
What do you wish people who aren’t mixed race understood?
Mixed race or not, I want people to understand that you can’t judge someone else’s experiences based on yours. I have justified my experiences to white people, now to mixed or black people. I am exhausted. I just want to be accepted for who I am.
Do you think mixed race people/families are well represented in the media?
No but it is starting to change. There are more shows and movies on Netflix and other platforms that show black and mixed-race people. And I am happy about it. For example, I always loved Doctor Who but the last Doctor (Jodie Whitaker) and her companions are great. They show different races, without a lot of stereotypes, and it starts to implement ideas and concepts about the fact that we are all the same, no matter how different we look. I also really like shows such as Dear White People, Insecure, …
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?
Racism has become more subtle. They won’t be straightforward about it (which is for me very English) but you can see in their eyes. I remember one employer that was quite rude (but I guess this is the question that everyone is asking themselves when they see me) “no but where are you from from ?”. That made me laugh just because I pity her. We’ve become so entrenched in our sense of identity linked to race that people are mostly insecure.
But I think the future is mixed. We can’t close borders and we can’t stop people loving each other (bollocks to Brexit!) I am also European so to me borders do not exist and should not exist. I might be super optimistic but I believe in the best in people, I believe that we can grow from our trauma and past so we can heal, love, accept ourselves and other people. No more “us versus them”.
Is being mixed race a burden or a blessing for you?
Both. It is a burden when people act differently towards me compared to any of my white friends, or when I am judged based on my origins or my looks.
But it is also a blessing because I am proud of who I am, I am proud of my heritage, I am proud of the fact that being a bit different compared to the majority gives me different insights and I hope more open-mindedness and acceptance. I have lots of different identities in me : I am mixed-race, born in Morocco, raised in France and living in London. I am, to a certain extent, a cultural melting-pot. I am curious about the world and people around me and I hope it is and will be the same for everyone.
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 have felt lots of struggles, especially since I started to say no to certain behaviours relating to my identity.
Because I am mixed-race and especially because I was raised by a white family, I am sometimes also wondering if the way I see things is a privilege, if I am blinded by my own upbringing, etc. I try as much as possible to question myself and to be open-minded. And when I have a discussion or debate, I always take a few hours or few days (or more) to think about it, to process it, to understand it. I don’t like ignorance. I don’t like people that will think only in black and whites (in the extremes - that’s actually funny because it is a French expression and I didn’t notice its meaning before...) as to me it means narrow-mindedness.
I have come to a place of self-acceptance by not judging myself for my own fears, doubts, thoughts and feelings. I know I still have a lot to learn but like anyone else. To me, life is a journey, a very long but precious experience. I am not wise, I am not a know-it-all. I keep building myself everyday, sometimes going backwards, sometimes moving forward. And because of that, I am trying to accept myself as much as possible. Of course I will always be triggered when people question my views or my identity. But that’s ok, I can handle it because I am perpetually evolving. But I do not accept any disrespect anymore, from anyone. Because I came to a place of self-love and my experiences and identity can’t be dismissed or belittled. I want to learn but I won’t be patronised. I am making mistakes but I don’t want to feel guilty about them.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Find your identity and love in yourself, not in others. Lots of people project their own fears, insecurities and traumas. They aren’t mine to bear. So yeah I would give my younger self this advice - love yourself unconditionally for who you are, who you were and who you are yet to be.
Is there anything more you would like to say?
Yes! Thank you for giving this opportunity. This is wonderful to have the possibility to speak-up and to be heard. Sometimes, I feel like I am alone. Either because I am “stuck in the middle” and I only talk to people that are on one side or the other, or because I don’t have a community I can trust. I only have few mixed-race friends living in London that aren’t judging my identity. One actually. I wish it was more. But there’s hope. And we need to speak up and to have things in place, so we can also give our experiences, whether we are Brit-ish, French-ish or any other ish in the entire world.