Mum said stay calm... even when I’m told I’m not black enough
by GARTH PEARCE
BRITISH actress Thandie Newton is one of Hollywood's leading ladies.
She started her film career at just 16 and has since gone on to star in blockbusters Mission: Impossible II, Crash and 2012.
She was born in London to a Zimbabwean mother, Nyasha, and an English father, Nick, both pictured with Thandie below, but she was brought up in Penzance, Cornwall.
The 38-year-old is married to British writer and director Ol Parker. They have two daughters - Ripley, ten, and six-year-old Nico. Her new film, For Colored Girls, co-starring Whoopi Goldberg and Janet Jackson, is out now.
"MY mother taught me to remain calm and decide what is worth fighting for.
Lessons learnt ... Thandie grew up in Cornwall with her
English dad Nick and Zimbabwean mum Nyasha
She had a wide experience of life, which she passed on to me. It could have been difficult being an ethnic minority in a small seaside town, but she always made me feel unique and special.
Perhaps it was the confidence she gave me which made me never think of racism. I just did not encounter it.
There has been, how shall I put it, clumsiness with racial stereotypes. I remember having a meeting with a Hollywood studio head and talking about a role when she said: 'Yeah, Thandie, but are you black enough for this role?'
There was discussion when I took a role in the film Crash and I was told: 'But is it believable that your character has a degree?' I said: 'But I do have a degree, from Cambridge.' And the reaction was: 'Yes, but you're different.'
Even black filmmakers think I am not 'street' enough. But I am an actress - I can play anything.
How do I deal with such things? I remember my mum's advice and remain calm. If I fight for something, I do it without raising my voice or losing my temper.
If I do have doubts about black roles in films, it is about how the character is portrayed. Too often it is either a gun-toting, drugged-up role - or too poetic.
As for my own life, I do wish I had behaved differently at times. I was so young when I started acting - just 16.
It was an upsetting time in many ways. I was involved in a relationship which did not work and that affected me hugely. I was much too young. It is very easy for young women to be exploited by this industry. You see a loss of innocence everywhere - even on Big Brother.
Going to university just gave me a glaze on my mask.
Even having the world's best mum at times like these does not help!
But I wouldn't be here now, would not have met my husband, would not be the person I am, if I had not gone through that.
There is nothing else in my life in which I have been engaged so intensely as my relationship and marriage. I am a real romantic and a fairytale creator. Ol is unique, precious and gifted.
When I met him, I fell in love for the first time.
As for my career, the idea that you have a grand plan is nonsense. I just take the best of what is around at the time.
I've made many mistakes. My worst fashion one was at the premiere of Jefferson In Paris. I went to get a facial. But it was a matter of tweezing and pulling and by the time of the premiere I looked as if I had been through a mosquito air raid.
My parents gave me a happy upbringing and good education. My mum has always been there for me. She's even been on location with me to look after my daughters.
When I compare my life with my mum's, I know I've had an easy time. What has been happening in Zimbabwe (where Mugabe has brought the country to its knees) is painful for my mum. She still has sisters over there.
I have been waiting to go back to visit - it is a beautiful part of the world with very friendly people, but it has got worse and worse.
So my own life has been blessed - and I fully appreciate what I have."