What’s your full name?
Vanessa Maria Wilson.
How old are you?
Where were you born/brought up?
I was born in Dortmund (Germany) but I grew up in Stepney Green in East London and I spent my summers in Iceland where my mum now lives on a dairy farm!
What do you do for a living?
I am a DJ, Presenter and Trainee Production Management Assistant at the BBC.
What’s your ethnicity?
Dual heritage- German and Jamaican.
How did your mum and dad meet?
They met working in what was called the Swiss center in London in the 90s (I think!). They both worked in the kitchen as my Dad was a chef and my mum was a pastry chef and the rest is history.
How old were you when you became conscious that people saw you differently? What impact did that have on you?
I think I was about 6 or 7 in Germany when I was in an indoor play centre and a boy came up to me and said I wasn’t allowed to play because I was black.
Describe your most memorable moments when you were made aware of being mixed race.
It would have to be realizing in year 4 or 5 that I didn’t fit in at school in London because I was German (people would call me Hitler’s daughter) but I also didn’t fit in in Germany because I was black.
Do you feel your parents prepared you for life as a mixed race person?
Nope my mum was notoriously colour blind and failed to ever really mention race to me and my sister. Unfortunately my dad was out the house from when I was 7 so he was not there to influence or educate.
What ignorant comments have you heard about being mixed-race that really rile you?
“Oh wow you’re so exotic!”
What do you wish people who aren’t mixed-race understood?
That liking nature, healthy food and animals isn’t my “white side” coming out lool it’s just me. But interestingly enough I’ve always wanted to understand/ know what it feels like to belong to one culture.
Do you think mixed race people/families are well represented in the media?
Nope! We have a long way to go before people of dual heritage or people of colour in general are well represented across media and the creative industry. In particular, I think we need to do better at representing darker skinned people of colour. All too often light skinned people are given a platform because they are a ‘palatable’ or ‘acceptable’ form of blackness which I think is just disgraceful.
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?
Overall, I believe racism today has become more subtle, it’s still rife but it’s institutionalized which makes it difficult to pin point and call out. It exists in policies, laws, recruitment procedures etc. But we also need to talk about colourism. I think it is easier to be light skinned. Lighter skinned people have privileges that often aren’t spoken about enough - I am continuously shocked and disgusted by the difference in treatment that my darker skinned friends receive. For example, I am often told by white people that criticisms of black people don’t apply to me because I am different and “not like the others”- I’m sorry but that’s actually disgusting.
Is being mixed race a burden or a blessing for you?
It has felt like a burden when I was growing up but it is most definitely a blessing now. I feel like I can relate to a lot of people.
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 always felt like I didn’t fit in (too white for the black side and too black for the white side) but I would say I made peace with it when I was around 20/21. I think I just realized that I would never fit in and that was okay. I realised that if I accepted myself, then that is all that really matters. Once you accept yourself, you become very comfortable and confident in your own skin and naturally people gravitate towards you. I think being alone and spending time with myself really helped me to figure out who I am, what makes me happy and my direction in life.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Speak to someone about how you feel sooner and own your flaws and insecurities- they make you special!
Is there anything more you would like to say?
Thank you so much for this interview and the opportunity to share my experiences! It’s so important to have platforms which celebrate mixed heritage so I am honored to be a part of this.