AS: Have you ever felt like you've been in racial limbo? How have you dealt with it, or how are you still dealing with it?
JK: Not so much as I used to. I understand who I am as a person, but I am also very aware of where society is. Growing up, I was a military brat. Both of my parents served in the US Air Force, and my racial and cultural development began when I was in second grade living in Turkey, which is so far removed from race relations in America. Being at that age and never having lived in the United States — even though my parents are American — I really didn't face any discrimination . . . but I noticed it.
"You don't have to fit into whatever box people try to put you in. You can really, truly be whoever you are."
My parents got divorced when I was around 5 years old, and they both remarried. My black mom married a white man, and my white dad married a white woman. My twin sister, Simone, and I would have to go back and forth between houses, and I would always think, "OK — when I'm at my dad's house, I have to act white, and when I'm at my mom's house, I have to act black." I remember vocalizing this to my sister, who was just like, "What are you talking about?" And that was what made me realize that despite being identical twins, we had very different timelines when it came to understanding our cultural identities. It was when I got to college at the University of North Texas that I really got to dive into black culture. I was in every black organization, and I became a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and was president of my chapter.
Growing up, my mom always told my sister and I that we are black women, even though we're mixed. When we walk into a room, people are not going to think that we're white. That was another big catalyst in my natural-hair journey. It's actually a huge part of why I even do what I do: the beauty of being multicultural and finding out that you can create your own place. You don't have to fit into whatever box people try to put you in. You can really, truly be whoever you are. You just may have to go through a process to get to that point, but anyone can get there if they have the courage to do it.