Monthly Archives: January 2016

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET LEE!


I met Lee soon after I moved to Los Angeles because we had a mutual friend. I’ve leaned on Lee multiple times to assist with various marketing projects and gotten to know him and his girlfriend Korrina in the process. Lee always has a smile on his face and has such a kind energy! I was intrigued by him growing up half Persian in Alabama and was so happy when he agreed to share his story on growing up multiracial. 

Enjoy getting to know Lee! 

– Jen 


NAME

Lee Kholafai

 

WHAT MIX ARE YOU?

Cherokee Indian, Persian, and Irish from Alabama.

 

WHERE DO YOU CURRENTLY LIVE? 

Los Angeles

 

IS THE COMMUNITY YOU LIVE IN NOW DIVERSE? 

Yes

 

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?

I am from Mobile, Alabama and no it was not very diverse. People never really treated me differently and I never really felt different. I identified myself with a lot of races actually because I could always find something in common.

 

 

HOW DID YOUR PARENTS MEET?

My father came to Alabama for college and my mom was a waitress at a Mexican restaurant.

 

WERE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT OBSTACLES IN THEIR RELATIONSHIP?

I mean yea there were some racist people but no one really paid them any attention because they were closed-minded and ignorant anyway so to even worry about their opinion is a waste of time.

 

HAS YOUR EXTENDED FAMILY ALWAYS BEEN SUPPORTIVE OF YOU BEING MULTIRACIAL?

Yea, I like it. It makes me different.

 

DID YOU CELEBRATE TRADITIONS FROM BOTH SIDES OF YOUR FAMILY?

Yea sure, to totally disregard part of my culture would be pretty lame if you ask me. On my Persian side we celebrated Persian New Year called Norooz. We would also jump over a bonfire for ‘Chahr-Shanbeh Souri’ to shake off the darkness of winter and welcome the lightness of spring, a Persian ritual passed down since ancient Zoroastrian times. The Persian New Year Festival is called Chahar-Shanbeh Souri, which literally means ‘ Eve of Wednesday’ because the festival is always held on the last Tuesday of winter, just before the Vernal Equinox or first moment of spring.

 

WERE THERE MULTIPLE LANGUAGES SPOKEN IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD?

Yes, there was but no I do not unfortunately. I didn’t feel the need to learn another language as a child because everyone spoke English, so I didn’t see the point. Now I really regret not learning another language at a young age because I think it’s really a benefit to do so.

 

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR CULTURAL BACKGROUND?

All of it really. I am a very open-minded person that loves spontaneity and new things. I hope I am not the only one who thinks eating the same food or listening to the same music over and over is boring. 

 

WHAT ACTIONS DID YOUR PARENTS TAKE TO TEACH YOU ABOUT YOUR DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS? 

They pretty much just taught me to be proud of who I am. I would ask questions and they would answer them but nothing was forced upon me.

 

DID YOU TALK ABOUT RACE A LOT IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP?

Not really. It was never really an issue.

 

DO YOU IDENTIFY AS MIXED OR SOMETHING ELSE?

Yea, I would say I am a trio.

 

DO YOU THINK BEING MIXED HAS BENEFITTED YOUR ACTING AND MODELING CAREER OR IT HAD IT’S CHALLENGES? 

For me, being mixed made it easier because there’s always a white guy, black guy, asian guy and then me for all the other markets lol. My first two commercials I booked were for the Latin market. 

 

DOES RACE WEIGH INTO WHO YOU CHOOSE TO DATE? 

I just go for what I am attracted to, My girlfriend Korrina is Latina.

 

WHAT DOES BEING MIXED MEAN TO YOU?

Not just being from one source.

 

DO YOU HAVE A LOT OF FRIENDS WHO ARE MIXED? 

Yea, and we are all the same with the ultimate goal to just spread love, joy and peace.

 

ARE THERE ANY COMMENTS YOU ARE REALLY TIRED OF HEARING FROM PEOPLE IN REGARDS TO RACE? 

Answer goes here…. People who look for pity because of their race. There are strong and successful individuals in every race so what’s their excuse?

 

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM FOR THE FUTURE OF AMERICA IN REGARDS TO RACE?

That we care less about the race and more about the heart.


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FEATURED MULTIRACIAL FAMILY: MEET THE GRANGER-DAW FAMILY


I met Nora 8 years ago through a mutual friend. At the time it was a much needed mommy night out for her and a night for me to entertain friends. I was elated to meet her from the start, she had such a warm vibe, great giggle and was such a beauty.  We reminisced recently on the night we officially met.  A large group of us went to a Denver club and, while neither of us are drinkers, we had a wonderful time chatting and dancing the whole night.  We continued the night by going to eat pho, another Denver tradition that I shared with my friends.  My boyfriend, Tchad, joined and drove us.  He entertained Nora and Vandy (mutual best friend)  by playing a Dave Chapelle video over the entertainment system and kept us all laughing the whole way to the pho restaurant.  

At the restaurant, we shifted the conversation to Nora, Tchad and I speaking about the Qur’an and the difference between religion and spirituality.  We became fast friends bonding over humor, religion, politics, world issues, history, family and being mixed.  Our friendship stayed strong as I moved to another state and she later gave birth to her youngest daughter.  I was blessed to be apart of her baby shower and was asked to speak as the celebration sharing how special of a friend, wife and mother Nora is.  I consider myself fortunate to, not only have bonded with her, but also with her husband and four amazing children, who give the absolute best hugs!  Her family history is deep and rich, I am honored to have met her parents and siblings as they shared their history, religion and home cooked meals with me. She is one of my dearest and closest friends, I hope you enjoy reading about her family.

 

~ Jenn


MEET THE GRANGER-DAW FAMILY: 

Jun, age34

½ Korean (mom’s side), other half is a mix of Cajun French, Irish, German and includes 1/16 Cherokee Indian (dad’s side, Jun’s Great Great Gma is full Cherokee). Jun was a army baby, born in Seoul, South Korea, Moved to Louisiana as a toddler, moved back to South Korea for half of Elementary school, then to TX. In Middle School he moved to Germany and finished most of Middle school then. Jun moved moved to Kansas for the first two years of High School to Colorado to finish out high school and where he still lives presently.

Nora Mariam, age 30

½ Cambodian mixed with Thai, East Indian and Chinese on my mom’s side. Dad’s side is mix of English, Welsh, Irish, and Swedish. Mom is Muslim born in Cambodia, had 15 bio siblings from same mother and father plus one adopted sister. When she was 14yrs old in 1974 the Khmer Rouge began. Her and her family were kicked out of their homes, put into concentration camps to work as slaves until 1979. At this point 7 of her siblings plus her father had been killed. what was left of her family escaped to the refugee camps and stayed there until 1981 when they were sponsored by a church in Minnesota to take refuge in the U.S.
Dad was born in Aurora, IL. Converted to Islam when he was 23 yrs old. At 26 yrs old he moved to CO and was looking for a wife. He and my mom were set up and had an arranged marriage in 1982. My mom did not speak english at the time, though they have now been married happily for 33yrs.

Isaac Malik NurMuhammad, age 11, multiracial
Aliyyah Bushra, age 8, multiracial
Safiya Yusra, age 8, multiracial
Amina Mysha, age 3, multiracial

WHERE DO YOU LIVE?

Thornton, CO

HOW DID THE TWO OF YOU MEET?
We met through a mutual friend while bringing in my car to his mechanics shop to get repairs.

WERE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT OBSTACLES IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP CORRELATED TO YOUR BACKGROUNDS?
Just really young and madly in love. This was never an obstacle though I was born Muslim while Jun was born Christian. When we met Jun was Agnostic and amazed me with his knowledge and love for Islam. One of the things that made me fall even more in love with him. He seemed to know more about this religion that I was born into than I did. ;/ He converted shortly after meeting me and we had our Nikah (Islamic wedding) on Aug 11th 2006.

WHAT TRADITIONS DO YOU CELEBRATE IN YOUR HOME? 
All the islamic traditions are practiced and holidays are celebrated. One of our favorite times of the year is the Ramadan when we fast from sunrise to sundown. Then Eid is celebrated. We also celebrate holidays like Cambodian and Korean New Year, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CULTURAL FEATURE/TRADITION OF YOUR SPOUSE’S RACE?
I love Korean food, and have began to cook many dishes in my house. Same goes for Cambodian food.

IS THE COMMUNITY YOU LIVE IN DIVERSE?
Yes, My children go to a public school full of many different ethnicities One of the things I love my community for is the Masjid near my house in which my kids attend Sunday school and the youth group. My family also attends Juma prayers on Sundays. I am so very thankful for these programs through the Masjid as it is difficult to raise my children Muslim in the U.S. today with the attention and media portrayal of Islam.

DO YOU OR YOUR PARTNER SPEAK IN MORE THAN ONE LANGUAGE IN YOUR HOME?
English primarily, though little bits of Korean and Cambodian here and there though neither of us are fluent in those. We do however speak Arabic when praying which is done 5 times a day.

ARE YOUR EXTENDED FAMILY SUPPORTIVE OF YOUR MULTIETHNIC RELATIONSHIP?
Yes, very much so.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR PARTNER’S ETHNIC-CULTURAL BACKGROUND? 
I’m absolutely in love with the Cambodian, Korean, Cajun and Islamic roots in both of our backgrounds.
 

Cambodia: Love the foods, traditional dress and cultural roots which are greatly influenced my East India. Love that one of the 7 wonders of the world (Angkor Wat) is in Cambodia. Also I feel a sense of pride for what my mom’s generation of Cambodia overcame..
Korea: Love their culture, traditions, dress and food.
Islam: My biggest love in life. It’s what has taught me love, compassion, beauty, knowledge and all things good in this life.

Juns family has so much Cajun French history and most of his family still resides in New Orleans LA.

My Great great great grandfather Joy Tarble  was one of the first settlers of Aurora, IL. He was also a stonemason who built many of the town’s buildings that are still there to this day and started work on the railroad systems in IL. Joy and his 3 sons (my Great great uncles) All served on the Civil War. My great grandfather Avery also served in WWl as a top ranking general. My grandfather worked as a scientist for Sears on the 52nd floor of the Sears tower until he passed. I still remember visiting him there as a young young child. So lots of history in IL to be pretty proud of. 😉  

DID YOU FIND BIG DIFFERENCES IN THE WAY YOU GREW UP VS. YOUR SPOUSE DUE TO DIFFERENCES IN RACE?
Not too many beside the fact that Jun lived in so many different places vs me who was born in Boulder and lived in CO my whole life. Both come from asian mamas so quite similar upbringings.

ARE THERE ANY COMMENTS YOU ARE REALLY TIRED OF HEARING FROM PEOPLE IN REGARDS TO RACE/CULTURE?

Questions regarding terrorism and Islam.

WHAT ACTIONS HAVE YOU TAKEN TO TEACH YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT EACH OF YOUR BACKGROUNDS?

They spend lots of time talking to the grandmas 😉

HAVE YOUR CHILDREN ASKED ABOUT RACE? 
Yes, around 4 or 5 yrs old
 

DO YOUR CHILDREN IDENTIFY AS MIXED OR SOMETHING ELSE?
Mixed

WHAT DOES BEING MIXED MEAN TO YOUR CHILDREN? 
They are very proud of it!

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM FOR YOUR CHILD’S FUTURE AND THE FUTURE OF AMERICA IN REGARDS TO RACE?
I’ve tried and hope to teach my children that diversity is beautiful and one of the worlds biggests assets. As Islam has taught me, I hope they will grow up with the urge and desire to expand their knowledge and learn about the beauty in all cultures, races, and religions.

I would hope that more people in this world could find the beauty in all of god’s creations as that is what I believe would truly bring peace. Love for all of the world’s diversity.


BREAKING THROUGH A SEA OF SAMENESS


People often ask me why it is that I primarily date men of different races than myself. I’ve thought about the answer many times. My usual response is that I am more attracted to people who have traveled different paths in life then myself. I enjoy the contrast, both in life experience and in skin tone.

I have been like this for as long as I remember. Searching for people who could teach me something. As a young girl in preppy Connecticut I definitely fit in. My blonde bob, Esprit bag, plaid skirt, Benetton shirt and penny loafers fit the mold. It was an ideal upbringing, the type of life you would see in sitcom. But I was uniquely curious about what else was out there. As I got older this desire became more prominent. I had a desire to travel, meet new people, and experience the energy of cities instead of my safe suburb.

I have a bit of gypsy in me. As a child we lived in multiple states, our most significant move came when I was 14 and about to start high school. We left sheltered Connecticut and moved to California. The two environments were vastly different, but I really embraced the change. This excitement for change and has followed me into my adult life. I love adventure and I’ve never been scared of leaving a comfortable place. In fact I feel most creative when I am in uncomfortable positions. It sparks something inside of me and pushes me. Now that I am older I can look back and see that there were many times when I purposely put myself in challenging positions in search of that push.

I think I can say the same about the interracial relationships I have been in. All of my long-term relationships in my 20s and 30s have been with black or mixed black men. These relationships have challenged me, as all partnerships do. But I think interracial relationships have a set of unique challenges. I’ve never dated anyone who I met and thought, “wow our lives are so similar”, “our parents would be best friends”, “your family reminds me so much of my own” – none of that, quite the opposite in fact.

There are uncomfortable moments being a mixed couple. Whether it is disapproving comments and looks or moments where you wonder if you are just too different to make something work.

I also think for me there is something deeper that is behind my desire for difference. And I think some people might feel uncomfortable with this statement, but I feel like I am contributing to making the world a better place by choosing to partner with men of a different race than myself. I know that might sound kind of strange. It sounds a little strange to me even. But I think growing up in a sea of sameness has pushed me to create a world for myself that is the opposite of that. Not in a bad way, because I loved my friends and the childhood I had. But it sparked a deep passion inside of me for creating a community for myself that was diverse- a Swirl Nation.

This of course goes beyond men and into female friendships as well. I have a great group of women in my life who are very diverse ethnically and personality-wise. I learn so much from everyone I am connected with and I can say there are times it is not completely comfortable. But I remember my ex-boyfriend Mike would tell me that as soon as a relationship gets “too comfortable” it is doomed and I have to say I agree with him 100%.

Many might disagree with my perspective. I have witnessed many people who find it much safer to stay in one place, partner with people very similar to themselves, and surround themselves with friends who look and talk like they do. My hope is that someday they recognize the sea of sameness they are living in and feel the urge to step out into uncharted territory. I recently read a stat that 75% of white Americans ONLY have other white people in their social networks, similarly 65% percent of black and 46% of Hispanic Americans also have homogeneous social networks.

This is a big problem. It shouldn’t surprise us that we are so divided as a nation when the majority of people do not have any close relationships with people of another race. Clearly this is a big opportunity for people to embrace difference and diversity.

Those of us with mixed families are certainly leading the way and are in the position to share our stories on blogs like Swirl Nation and on other platforms and hopefully inspire. I will continue to live life looking for new paths to travel and finding amazing people along the way to accompany me on my colorful journey. 


All artwork is by the talented artist Brian Kirhagis. I discovered him on Instagram and fell in love with the sexiness of his work. Follow him HERE.

RUBY LIPS AND FRESH GLOW


Photo: adworks.pk  
Photo: adworks.pk  

This is a favorite Fall/Winter look for me.  It’s quite simple and looks amazing on EVERY women.  I have become increasingly obsessed with Koh Gen Do products. A majority of products for this look are Koh Gen Do.  I strongly recommend this brand for ALL skin types.  The complete product line is free of artificial fragrances, petroleum-based mineral oils and synthetic pigments.  They do not test on animals or contain chemicals whose safety cannot be determined.  The ingredients include plant based extracts, among others naturally-occurring, that have been proven healthy and safe in cosmetic products.  Okay, with that said, let’s begin on the steps to get this look:


TEARS FOR DETROIT

I cried today. Sobbed actually. I saw a video on Detroit schools. Mushrooms growing up the wall, mold, rodents, playgrounds and gyms deteriorated beyond use, no arts, no supplies. A shot of the bathroom is what sent me over the edge. It’s criminal. Between the water in Flint and the schools in Detroit, that whole region needs to be under federal control. And people need to go to jail. Money should come from the weapons industry ($400 billion annual; six of top nine companies located in the US). Sorry, I rant…it won’t be the last time.

I try to be optimistic about how things are going in this world and stick to solutions, but Detroit/Flint is ridiculously complex. These schools need immediate repair. Flint is being poisoned. I mean…I’m kinda speechless. What happen to the humanity of the people who knew? How did they look themselves in the mirror every night? They had to have known this day would come. Greed? Racism? Stupidity? What kind of mind allows someone to know a city is being poisoned and just do nothing? How did someone like that get elected Governor? 

His fate will be decided. Focus must now be on solutions. The human race will always strive for better and we are working hard to manage this unfathomable experience called Life. Flint and Detroit need a little extra attention right now. Praying our leaders do what is right, fair, kind and just.


All photos from @TeachDetroit  Twitter account

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL KID: MEET PRASHANT!


Prashant is the kind, thoughtful cousin of Swirl Nation founder Kourtney and I was lucky enough to meet him during his visits when they lived in Venice, CA. Prashant has always been a thought leader and in 8th grade he won an essay content and the prize was a four year college scholarship! He also started his own tie-dye sock company while still in middle school. 

So clearly Prashant has a bright future ahead of him and we are very excited to share his perspective on Swirl Nation Blog, enjoy getting to know him! 

– Jen


NAME AND AGE

Prashant, 18

 

WHAT MIX ARE YOU? 

I am many different ethnicities, but if you want me to check a box it would be black and white.

 

WHERE DO YOU LIVE?

Lawrence, Michigan (Earth 😉

 

DO YOU THINK YOUR TOWN IS DIVERSE?

Not at all, but I’m not home much.

 

DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF MIXED OR SOMETHING ELSE?

I don’t really think about it much because it doesn’t matter to me but yes, I suppose I’m mixed.

 

WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT BEING MIXED?

I look different

 

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU DON’T LIKE ABOUT BEING MIXED?

Nothing

 

IS YOUR SCHOOL DIVERSE? DO YOU HAVE A LOT OF FRIENDS WHO ARE ALSO MIXED?

My high school wasn’t very diverse. The majority were Mexican and white, so I have a lot of white and Mexican friends. However my college is very, very diverse.

 

ARE THERE TRADITIONS YOU LIKE FROM BOTH SIDES OF YOUR FAMILY? 

Yes, my sister Kama does African drum and dance and I love that. My mom’s side of the family is really cool as well, they just have a different perspective; which is good.

 

DO YOU SPEAK MORE THAN ONE LANGUAGE?

Spanish and English

 

WHAT’S SOME THINGS YOU HAVE LEARNED FROM FRIENDS WHO ARE A DIFFERENT RACE OR CULTURE FROM YOU?

A plethora of things. I have learned words from various languages from them. Another thing is that many of them see the world differently than most people, and that’s a really, really neat thing.

 

WHAT IS ONE WISH YOU HAVE FOR AMERICAN WHEN IT COMES TO RACE AND DIVERSITY?

That more people would change the context of their minds to see that we are all equally human beings.


IN MY HEADPHONES: JHENE AIKO


Nothing relaxes me the way Jhene Aiko’s voice does. She has gotten me through many hours of L.A. traffic and busy days at work. I don’t remember how I came across her originally, but the moment I heard her voice I bought like 10 of her songs and played them to death. She has a really beautiful energy that comes through in her music.

She got into music really early on in life, but then things didn’t work out the way she thought they would so she took a break from music for awhile. Thankfully she came back to her passion because she has so many great messages to share with the world. She says in her “Behind The Seen” Documentary that her main influences are Dr. Seuss, Sade and Tupac. I think this is interesting because she really does embody that unique combination of playful wisdom, sexiness and street.

She really connects with her audience and you can tell she really feels everything she writes and sings about. I also love following her life as a single mom on Instagram. She comes from a very diverse background; she is African American, Japanese, Spanish, Dominican, German Jewish, French and Native American so she definitely has a multiracial perspective. 

Get to know Jhene a little better here:


FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET ALIX!

This week I am excited for everyone to meet Alix! I got introduced to Alix through her future mother in law, Debby, who is a good friend and neighbor of my parents. It’s been great getting to get to know Alix through this process and hopefully one day I will get to meet her and her fiance in real life!

Also as we post this on January 23rd it is Alix’s Birthday, so Happy Birthday Alix!!!

– Jen 


NAME AND AGE

Alix Davis, 30 (31 on Jan. 23)

 

RACE/ETHNICITY

Via DNA testing – Great Britain, Ireland, Nigeria, Senegal. I’m sure there are few more, but those are the main ones.

 

WHERE DO YOU CURRENTLY LIVE?

Spokane, WA

 

IS THE COMMUNITY YOU LIVE IN NOW DIVERSE?

We only moved to Spokane a few months ago, so I would say there is some diversity, but it seems like a predominantly white community.

 

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?

I’m from Modesto, California, but I moved up to Washington five years ago from San Diego, California.

I’m sure if you looked up Modesto statistics, the majority of the community would white, but I grew up with friends with all different ethnicities – white, black, Asian, Hispanic, etc.

 

HOW DID YOUR PARENTS MEET?

My mother met my dad in a college Geology class. He asked her for a paper, and pencil.

 

WERE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT OBSTACLES IN THEIR RELATIONSHIP CORRELATED TO YOUR BACKGROUNDS?

Yes, my mother was fired from jobs, they were refused housing, they were followed by police, and the list goes on. I had to ask my mother a few questions and she just said, “the stories are endless.”

 

HAS YOUR EXTENDED FAMILY ALWAYS BEEN SUPPORTIVE OF YOU BEING MULTIRACIAL?

Yes! I’ve never been treated any different by family for being biracial.

 

DID YOU CELEBRATE TRADITIONS FROM BOTH SIDES OF YOUR FAMILY?  

Every year we open Christmas crackers. It’s an English tradition that my grandmother brought over from England when she moved here to be with my grandfather, after WWII. It’s my favorite tradition, and I’m so happy to share it with my new family.

 

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR CULTURAL BACKGROUND?

I couldn’t be prouder to know that a piece of me is from Europe. I love Europe, especially Great Britain, and knowing I’m connected to a place that means so much to me is very special. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

 

WHAT ACTIONS DID YOUR PARENTS TAKE TO TEACH YOU ABOUT YOUR DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS?

None, that stand out.

 

DID YOU TALK ABOUT RACE A LOT IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP?

No, it wasn’t a topic in our household. Unless, it had to do with my hair. My mother and I have very different hair types.

 

DO YOU IDENTIFY AS MIXED OR SOMETHING ELSE?

 

I identify as mixed/biracial.

DOES RACE WEIGH INTO WHO YOU CHOOSE TO DATE? 

I’ve primarily dated white men, and my fiance is white. I’ve never dated a black man, but that mainly has to do with who my dad is, and not his race.

WHAT DOES BEING MIXED MEAN TO YOU?

I’m proud to be mixed. I don’t place too much emphasis on it.

DO YOU HAVE A LOT OF FRIENDS WHO ARE MIXED? 

Who’s not mixed? I’ve learned friendship from all of my mixed friends.

ARE THERE ANY COMMENTS YOU ARE REALLY TIRED OF HEARING FROM PEOPLE IN REGARDS TO RACE/CULTURE?

I’m tired of people asking what I’m mixed with before they ask me my name. Hi, I’m Alix!

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM FOR THE FUTURE OF AMERICA IN REGARDS TO RACE?

Defining someone by their race or sexuality will be a thing of the past, and that we’ll only learn from our mistakes instead of repeating them.


FEATURED MULTIRACIAL FAMILY: MEET THE LEE-LEVY FAMILY!


I first met Christine when our daughters attended Coeur d’Alene Elementary in Venice, CA. Christine and Kourtney were leaders of the parent booster club at the school and were always giving tons of their time and energy to making sure the school was an incredible environment for the parents and kids. I really admired the dedication the two of them had. Christine has a very welcoming personality and as we got to know each other I was lucky enough to meet her whole family!

Stuart and Christine met in the movie business and have so many great stories, they also take wonderful adventures with their daughters that coincide with films Stuart is working on all over the globe. I know you’ll love getting to meet this “Chine-ew-ish” family from Venice Beach! 

-Jen 


MEET THE LEE-LEVY FAMILY:

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Christine Lee, age 45

·       3rd generation Chinese but from two different cities.  My Mother’s side of the family, The Yu/Wong side is from Shanghai, China.  My Father’s side, the Lee family is from Guangzho (formerly Canton). Christine identifies with being a Chinese American.

Stuart Levy, age 52

·     Generally from Russian-Jewish heritage.  He’s in the process of researching.  We learned recently that Stuart’s father’s name should actually be Saxon (Saxonovich) but upon arrival to the USA, the name was changed to Levy.  Go figure! Stuart identifies with being a cultural Jew, not a religious one.

Sophie Levy, age 13

·       Biracial, self identified “Chine-ew-ish” 

Willa Levy, age 11

·       Biracial, self identified “Chine-ew-ish”  

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WHERE DO YOU LIVE?

We live in Venice Beach, CA.

 

HOW DID THE TWO OF YOU MEET?

Stuart and I met while working for Oliver Stone on his epic football movie, Any Given Sunday.  This was my third film working for Oliver as an assistant editor but my first time actually editing.  Several editors had been fired and Stuart got hired to cut a big game sequence.  He didn’t know, but Oliver had told us that if he didn’t do a good job on this game, he’d let him go. I was afraid to get to know him. Thankfully he did a great job and got to stay on.  Lucky for me!

 

WERE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT OBSTACLES IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP CORRELATED TO YOUR BACKGROUNDS?

We did not have serious issues that related to our ethnic background nor did we have any issues at all, really. I think Stuart’s biggest concern was that he had been a vegetarian for over twenty years and didn’t want my family to think he was weird.  He broke his vegetarian streak with his sister, Lauren, with an order of Chinese spareribs and has never looked back.  Sometimes I think he’s more Asian than I am – he’ll eat anything!

WHAT TRADITIONS DO YOU CELEBRATE IN YOUR HOME?

We celebrate Christmas, as was my tradition in my family, and we celebrate Hanukkah, especially when Stuart’s parents are available.  Both holidays are about family and food and not at all about religion.   We enjoy a Passover Dinner when we are with either Stuart’s family or with other Jewish friends and we celebrate Chinese New Year Dinner with my family.  Funny how food and gifts of cash can solidify a tradition.

 

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CULTURAL FEATURE/TRADITION OF YOUR SPOUSE’S RACE?

My favorite cultural feature about Stuart’s family is their sense of family.  It was also my families’ best feature, too, however it has splintered somewhat since the passing of my parents and my grandparents.  Being a part of Stuart’s family has been comforting and reaffirms my belief that family is an important part of any cultural identity.  

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IS THE COMMUNITY YOU LIVE IN DIVERSE?

Our community in Venice Beach is very diverse.  We have a lot of tourists in our neighborhood from all over the world in addition to many ethnic groups living in Venice Beach.  I do not feel like a minority in our neighborhood.  I was born in Pasadena and felt like I was the only ethnic kid for a very long time.  Well, no longer!

 

DO YOU OR YOUR PARTNER SPEAK IN MORE THAN ONE LANGUAGE IN YOUR HOME?

We speak only English, sadly, but I want our kids to speak another language, if not two!  I took French all the way through College and have used it during my travels in so many countries.  It’s helped me to get by in many European countries, even China.  I do pick up languages easily and I think Sophie & Willa could too, if I don’t wait too long to get them classes.  It’s a disservice to our young people that language is not offered in public school!  Stuart only speaks English and says he’s terrible at learning languages.  But he did used to write code (Java and others) – I’ve heard some schools think this is more important than learning languages.  Hard to imagine!

ARE YOUR EXTENDED FAMILY SUPPORTIVE OF YOUR MULTIETHNIC RELATIONSHIP?

Yes. I think there may have been a time when my grandparents were weary of the fact that I never seemed to like Chinese men. This was in the 80’s and no other family members had really married outside the race (and been successful).  But I know they would have liked Stuart.  He’s respectful, attentive, and loves the idea of family.  In fact, my extended family (aunts, uncles, and cousins) seem to like him more than me!  Stuart’s family has always been welcoming and cordial to me.  I have never felt any discrimination from any of his family members.

 

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR PARTNER’S ETHNIC-CULTURAL BACKGROUND?

I can’t say my husband’s family is ethnic and cultural, even though they do identify with being Jewish.  One could generalize that Jews are liberal and I do appreciate that about them.  My family is politically conservative, quite bluntly, they are mostly Republicans.  I have always felt a fish out of water in that respect.  I do identify very strongly with Stuart’s family and their sense of duty towards society.  My in-laws are inspiring philanthropists who donate time and money to the San Jose Opera and several wildlife organizations.  Stuart’s step-sister is married to the Treasurer of Iowa and was Obama’s campaign treasurer during the Iowa Caucus.  That’s cool!

 

DID YOU FIND BIG DIFFERENCES IN THE WAY YOU GREW UP VS. YOUR SPOUSE DUE TO DIFFERENCES IN RACE?

The setting in which we grew up were very different – Stuart lived in New Jersey and New York and I in Pasadena.  He grew up in a mostly culturally Jewish environment (in a single parent home) whereas I lived amongst WASP Rose Queens and “Little Old Ladies from Pasadena.”  There is one major similarity, however, we both have very strong families.  Our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were -and continue to be – a huge part of our lives.  

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WHAT IS THE MOST SURPRISING THING YOU’VE LEARNED ABOUT EACH OTHER’S CULTURE? 

Stuart says that he never expected that the men in my family would be “a bunch of badasses.”  I guess what he means is that my Dad and my Uncles and even my Grandfather are/were very atypical Asian men.  Many of them are around 6’ tall and have a kind of swagger. Stuart gets such a kick out of my Uncles because they are are opinionated and can be a bit caustic, yet alluring. He also respects their business sense and their extreme socialness. Stuart says the Lee Family is as unpolitically correct as his family is politically correct. While that may make Stuart’s family sound a bit boring, to me, it’s very refreshing.  My family has a lot of drama and I appreciate that Stuart’s family is very nice to one another.  If they do not approve of things, they don’t say it.

My family, however, does not hold back.  That can be very exhausting and we have suffered many severed relationships within the family.  Since my entire immediate family has passed away- my Dad, my Mother, and my Brother – I feel like life is too short so I really try to be the neutral one in my family and just get along with everyone.  And that suits Stuart’s family, too.

WHAT ACTIONS HAVE YOU TAKEN TO TEACH YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT EACH OF YOUR BACKGROUNDS?

There are a lot of interesting family stories -especially ones that involve how my grandparents came to the USA and their immigrant experiences.  Food has also been the touchstone for my heritage.  I am very happy when my children enjoy eating the foods that I grew up eating – Chinese dinners with family or dim sum.  They look forward to seeing my family and eating Chinese food and being a 3rd generation Chinese who does not speak the language – this is as much culture as we are going to get, I am afraid.  I do look forward to visiting China and exploring our family history someday.  Last year we traveled to Berlin and the night before we were to take a tour, Stuart realized that he needed to explain the Holocaust to them.  They didn’t really know very much about it and certainly did not know that their heritage was directly affected by it. It was important for Stuart that Sophie and Willa know what it means to be a Jew.  In addition to learning a lot of history about WWII, we also visited a concentration camp outside of Berlin. They read Anne Frank’s Diary and we visited her annex in Amsterdam a week later. Heavy stuff for tweens but they accepted it and I am glad that they have been exposed to these hard historical truths. 

 

It’s very important to me that they also learn how WWII affected my family in China.  My Grandfather sent my Mother’s family to live in the United States and Cuba during some very harrowing war years evading the Japanese while he was working for the Bank of China.  Teaching our children about their race means learning a bit about history, too.

 

HAVE YOUR CHILDREN ASKED ABOUT RACE?

I have not had to explain race.  I think my children inherently understand it because Stuart and I are different skin tones.  My family is so obviously Chinese and his, Caucasian.  In addition, our elementary school is very diverse.  My kids have never known anything different but diversity and I would be curious to see how they would react being in a homogenous community.  

 

DO YOUR CHILDREN IDENTIFY AS MIXED OR SOMETHING ELSE?  

This is kind of interesting. My eldest daughter passes as being Caucasian whereas my younger daughter has a much darker skin tone and looks more Chinese or maybe Hawaiian.  Sophie is rather proud that people don’t know she’s Chinese and sometimes I wonder if she’s embarrassed when her friends meet me?  Would she rather “pass” as being Caucasian?  I’m not sure.  It reminds me of that movie, “Imitation of Life.”  My younger, daughter, Willa, seems rather proud to be “brown” or “tan.”  I do think they do identify being of mixed race and, in general, are proud of both of their heritages.

 

 

HOW DO YOU RAISE YOUR CHILDREN TO HONOR DIVERSITY IN OTHERS?

We honor diversity by having ethnically diverse friends, staying connected to what is going on in the world, and being open to ideas.

 

WHAT UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS DO YOUR CHILDREN HAVE FROM YOU AND YOUR PARTNER?

Sophie has the “smiley” almond eyes of my Grandfather, Frank, and yet they are large and brown likes Stuart’s mother, Peggy.  She has Stuart’s freckles, long eyelashes and but my long face.  I am so glad neither of my children inherited my lousy eyebrows though I do see my Dad and Grandma when I look in the mirror!  That’s okay 🙂  Willa has Stuart’s curly hair and I think if she didn’t brush it, it would be very kinky with ringlets.  She has my skin color and my almond shaped eyes.  I think she gets her figure from my Dad’s Mother who was 5”7.  I think that Sophie looks more like Stuart and WIlla looks more like me but I’ve had people tell me the opposite.

  

WHAT DOES BEING MIXED MEAN TO YOUR CHILDREN?

Sophie says it means that she and Willa get tan faster than some of their friends. Willa says she’s happy that she gets “presents for Hanukkah & Christmas” and she “gets to eat dim sum all the time.”  Obviously they have not had to ponder the deeper meanings of being of mixed raced heritage and, for now, may take it for granted.

 

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM FOR YOUR CHILD’S FUTURE AND THE FUTURE OF AMERICA IN REGARDS TO RACE?

My hope for my children’s future is that they can honor their own cultural heritages while being respectful and compassionate of others. I want them to identify with being American because it’s a gift to have so many heritages in one country.  So many different kinds of people have come to the US with just a few dollars in their pockets and done so much – and it is my wish that they appreciate not only their experience but others’ as well – and know that anything is possible.