“The World Wasn’t Ready For What I Represented”: Lisa Bonet On Struggles Of Growing Up Biracial
From the mid-80s to the early 1990s, Lisa Bonet was everywhere and everything. The actress became a huge star thanks to her style choices, her beauty, and of course, her roles on The Cosby Show and A Different World as Denise Huxtable. Guys wanted to date her, and gals wanted to dress like her. But growing up, the now 50-year-old actress says she wasn’t feeling the love.
Born and raised by a white single mother and the child of an absent Black opera-singing father in 1960s San Francisco, life was complicated for Bonet. Her own relatives often made her feel out of place.
“The world wasn’t ready for what I represented, the merging of these two races,” she said in an interview for Net-a-Porter’s Porter magazine. “I didn’t always feel welcome – in my mom’s family, in my school. So I sheltered myself by always withholding a bit, because I didn’t always feel safe.”
Bonet told the magazine that if she could have handled things differently, she would have told her younger self to not be so hard on herself: “Try not to internalize the disdain and hate that was projected onto me.”
Her struggles with being mixed may sound familiar. Her daughter, actress Zoe Kravitz, said in 2017 that she’d also grown up feeling very much like an “other.” Since both Bonet and her father, rocker Lenny Kravitz, come from white and Black parents, Zoe dealt with pains similar to her mother’s. However, she said she has since fallen “so in love” with being Black, something she had issues accepting as a young girl.
“I am definitely mixed. Both my parents are mixed,” she said. “I have white family on both sides. The older I get, the more I experience life, I am identifying more and more with being black, and what that means — being more and more proud of that and feeling connected to my roots and my history. It’s been a really interesting journey because I was always one of the only black kids in any of my schools. I went to private schools full of white kids. I think a lot of that made me want to blend in or not be looked at as black. The white kids are always talking about your hair and making you feel weird. I had this struggle of accepting myself as black and loving that part of myself. And now I’m so in love with my culture and so proud to be black. It’s still ongoing, but a big shift has occurred. My dad especially has always been very connected to his history, and it’s important to him that I understand where I come from.”