Shay Mitchell opens up about experiences with racism: ‘I was bullied’

Shay Mitchell is ready to approach conversations about race with her daughter. (Photo: Getty Images)
Shay Mitchell is ready to approach conversations about race with her daughter. (Photo: Getty Images)

Since Shay Mitchell became a mother in October 2019, she's shared daughter Atlas Noa Babel's milestones, moments of parenting joy and more on social media. But she shared with Women's Health some of what's taking place behind the scenes, like conversations about race with the couple's one-year-old.

"Matte [Mitchell's partner] is half white — his dad is from Trinidad. And Atlas is a mix of all of us. But she’s very fair-skinned and has light eyes and hair, so she doesn’t look like either of us," Mitchell told the publication. "We’re learning how to have those appropriate conversations. It starts with her dolls, with the toys she plays with, and the books we read to her, that have all different colors and ethnicities."

The 34-year-old actress explained that these conversations aren't new to her, being a child of mixed race herself to a Filipino mother and a white father. Mitchell even reflected on the racism that her parents faced when they began dating.

"It’s something my mom has dealt with her whole life," she said. "When she and my dad were dating in the 1980s in Toronto, their relationship was looked down upon. On the bus with my dad, she would get the worst looks. They would tell me about going into a restaurant and people not serving them."

Mitchell went on to say that she too "saw it in real life" as people began to make comments around her, both about her mom and herself. "My mom would get derogatory remarks like, 'Are you the cleaning lady? Are you the nanny?' And she was like, 'No, but what is your issue if I was?'" Mitchell recalled. "In school, I was bullied — I’d get questions like, 'Are you going to go clean the bathrooms?'"

Still, being familiar with the importance of this dialogue didn't make Mitchell more prepared for motherhood, revealing that her "prepartum depression" made it more difficult to come to terms with the fact that she was becoming a caretaker. "A new version of you will be birthed with this baby," she recalled her doula telling her. "Yes, you are going to lose something — but what you gain, obviously, is so worth it."

And while she doesn't have parenting and the numerous challenges that come with it completely under control, Mitchell doesn't seem too fearful of taking it all on. "Seeing Atlas for the first time, I forgot everything," she said of the worries she had during her pregnancy. "Moments after she was born, I said to Matte, 'Okay, I’m ready to do this again!'"

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