Prince Harry's actress girlfriend Meghan Markle struggled with her biracial identity as a child, because discrimination was all around her.
The Suits star, whose mother is African-American and her father is Caucasian, praises her parents for making her feel "special" throughout her childhood, but the 35-year-old always felt nervous talking about her ethnicity.
The actress recalls an incident in her seventh-grade English class, where she had to fill out a U.S. census form and choose her race on the paper. The actress was left with only two options, African-American or Caucasian, and she wasn't sure what to pick.
Her teacher instructed her to pick Caucasian because of the way she looked, but deep down she knew that wasn't right and she chose to leave the paper blank. Meghan went home that night and told her father what happened.
"He said the words that have always stayed with me: 'If that happens again, you draw your own box'," she wrote in an essay for ElleUK.com on Sunday (11Dec16).
"I never saw my father angry, but in that moment I could see the blotchiness of his skin crawling from pink to red," she continued. "It made the green of his eyes pop and his brow was weighted at the thought of his daughter being prey to ignorance.
"Growing up in a homogeneous community in Pennsylvania, the concept of marrying an African-American woman was not on the cards for my dad. But he saw beyond what was put in front of him in that small-sized (and, perhaps, small-minded) town, and he wanted me to see beyond that census placed in front of me. He wanted me to find my own truth."
Meghan, who recently went public with her royal romance, continued to experience racism and discrimination, but she reveals she began to "find her voice" when she became an actress.
Although she initially struggled to land roles because of her "ethnically ambiguous" looks, her hit TV show has made her feel like she belongs.
"This is precisely why Suits stole my heart," she continued. "It's the Goldilocks of my acting career - where finally I was just right. The series was initially conceived as a dramedy about a NY (New York) law firm flanked by two partners, one of whom navigates this glitzy world with his fraudulent degree. Enter Rachel Zane, one of the female leads and the dream girl - beautiful and confident with an encyclopedic knowledge of the law. '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."
"But the show's producers weren't looking for someone mixed, nor someone white or black for that matter," she added. "They were simply looking for Rachel. In making a choice like that, the Suits producers helped shift the way pop culture defines beauty. The choices made in these rooms trickle into how viewers see the world, whether they're aware of it or not.
"Some households may never have had a black person in their house as a guest, or someone biracial. Well, now there are a lot of us on your TV and in your home with you. And with Suits, specifically, you have Rachel Zane. I couldn't be prouder of that."