I don't remember coveting one over the other, I just wanted one.
On Christmas morning, swathed in glitter-flecked wrapping paper, there I found my Heart Family: a black mom doll, a white dad doll, and a child in each colour.
'Dream girl' in Hollywood terms had always been that quintessential blonde-haired, blue-eyed beauty – that was the face that launched a thousand ships, not the mixed one.
Sadly, it didn't matter: I wasn't black enough for the black roles and I wasn't white enough for the white ones, leaving me somewhere in the middle as the ethnic chameleon who couldn't book a job. It's the Goldilocks of my acting career – where finally I was just right.There was a mandatory census I had to complete in my English class – you had to check one of the boxes to indicate your ethnicity: white, black, Hispanic or Asian. Not as an act of defiance, but rather a symptom of my confusion.There I was (my curly hair, my freckled face, my pale skin, my mixed race) looking down at these boxes, not wanting to mess up, but not knowing what to do. I couldn't bring myself to do that, to picture the pit-in-her-belly sadness my mother would feel if she were to find out. I left my identity blank – a question mark, an absolute incomplete – much like how I felt.It was called The Heart Family and included a mom doll, a dad doll, and two children.This perfect nuclear family was only sold in sets of white dolls or black dolls.You could only choose one, but that would be to choose one parent over the other – and one half of myself over the other. When I went home that night, I told my dad what had happened.He said the words that have always stayed with me: 'If that happens again, you draw your own box.'I never saw my father angry, but in that moment I could see the blotchiness of his skin crawling from pink to red.There couldn't possibly be a more label-driven industry than acting, seeing as every audition comes with a character breakdown: 'Beautiful, sassy, Latina, 20s'; 'African American, urban, pretty, early 30s'; 'Caucasian, blonde, modern girl next door'.Every role has a label; every casting is for something specific.My dad had taken the sets apart and customised my family.Fast-forward to the seventh grade and my parents couldn't protect me as much as they could when I was younger.