15 Celebrities Shared The Racism They Encountered In Their Everyday Lives, And My Heart Hurts

Note: This post mentions harassment and violence.

While we've seen some progress in recent years, racism remains deeply entrenched in our society. We recently wrote up famous people dealing with discrimination in Hollywood. Now, here are 15 celebrities who've spoken about the racism they've faced in their everyday lives:

1.Priyanka Chopra

Priyanka Chopra
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In her memoir, the Quantico actor revealed that her uncle jokingly made fun of her skin color as she was darker than many other family members. This, combined with the "premium put on light skin in Indian society," led her to trying to lighten her skin at 13 years old. When she moved to the US, her classmates bullied her for being Indian and told her to "go back to your country," which left her struggling to maintain her "sense of self-worth."

Priyanka Chopra
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2.Arden Cho

Arden Cho
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Last year, the Teen Wolf actor was the subject of Anti-Asian harassment. While she was walking her dog, a man hurled racist insults at her and threatened both Arden and her dog. "I haven't been this scared in years. He was a couple feet away and started coming toward me. I grabbed Chewy and ran as fast as I could," she wrote in an Instagram post.

Arden Cho
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The harassment occurred during the recent wave of Anti-Asian violence, which Arden said brought back the trauma of being attacked and hospitalized as a child. "I didn't realize how much that incident shaped my life. How much fear I've always lived with," she concluded.

Arden Cho
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3.Leona Lewis

Leona Lewis
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In 2020, the singer shared an Instagram video where she recalled being racially profiled. She and her father were the only Black customers in a shop in London, and they were checking out the merchandise when the shop owner told them they needed to "put that stuff down" because they were "not allowed to touch it."

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"I couldn't calm down because I was so angry," Leona continued. "I knew what this woman was doing to us. But my dad has been in positions like this before — same as me but in a different way — and he knew that I needed to make myself smaller, and I needed to make myself calm, and that just enraged me even more. He managed to get me to leave the store, and I sat in the car that was parked around the corner from the store, and I sat in there, and I sobbed, I absolutely sobbed."

Leona Lewis

Leona's father grabbed one of her CDs from the car, went back into the shop, and returned with the store owner a few minutes later. "She said, 'I'm so, so sorry, I'm so sorry, I didn't know who you were.' And my heart kind of sank. ... I confronted her and said, 'You're racist. You targeted me and my dad, you wanted to throw us out of the store because of our color. You're racist.'"

Mike Marsland / WireImage / Getty Images

4.Lucy Liu

Lucy Liu
Jamie Mccarthy / Getty Images for Hudson River Park

During an interview with the Seattle Times, the Elementary actor recalled being just 9 years old when she encountered racism. "I was with my mother, and she was asking somebody who worked there a question. And he was very condescending and rude to my mother because she had a very strong accent. And I remember being really angry — and as a child, you don’t ever speak up — thinking, 'My mother knows how to speak two languages, and you only know how to speak one.'"

Lucy Liu
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"I remember I was angry and wanting to stand up for her and being so frustrated because I wanted them to SEE. She's a biochemist. Yeah, she’s asking where the toothpaste is, and perhaps it’s not as clear as you’d like it to be, but there was a certain respect that was missing that really angered me. So, I stand up for things that I find are injustices."

Lucy Liu
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5.Don Cheadle

Don Cheadle
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On an episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, the Marvel actor recalled no issues with the police when he lived in a predominantly Black neighborhood. But when his family moved to the suburbs, everything changed. "We were the minority there; it was very different," he said. "That's when a lot of bullying started when I was at school and definitely predicated on race. And that's when it started to be clear that, yeah, the cops were not on Team Don, and there was a different treatment."

Don Cheadle
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Once he moved to LA, things got even worse. "We would get stopped — I mean, I got stopped more times than I can count. Guns put to my head. I always 'fit the description.' ... This is something that was happening over and over again."

Don Cheadle
Amy Sussman / Getty Images

6.Rita Moreno

Rita Moreno
Jamie Mccarthy / Getty Images for 20th Century Studios

After moving from Puerto Rico to New York, the West Side Story actor encountered racism for the first time. "I was being called [racial slurs]. The trouble with that is that you grow up believing that you don't have any value," she told CBS News. "I grew up filled with self-loathing because I was a Puerto Rican. When you're little, you're told you're not worth anything, you believe it."

Rita Moreno
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7.Nadiya Hussain

Nadiya Hussain
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On Instagram, the cookbook author shared a time she was discriminated against, back before she won The Great British Baking Show. She saw an ad in the paper looking for hand models to advertise jewelry and made an appointment. "I was met by a woman who came and greeted me. I figured it was my turn to show off my hands. She said, 'I'm sorry, I didn't know you were Black.'" Nadiya responded, "Yes, right, but the ad wanted hands, I have hands." The woman replied, "Black hands don't sell jewelry."

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8.Jameela Jamil

Jameela Jamil
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During an interview with HuffPost, the British actor said, "I was Pakistani in a country that really wasn’t very kind to Pakistani people. ... I was physically and verbally [abused] very badly at school. Like, beaten senseless by kids for being from a Pakistani family and for being poor. That was before the age of 10, and that went on until I was about 16. Most of my school years, I was bullied very badly because of my race and also because of my weight."

Jameela Jamil

"I was very chubby on and off at school. I didn’t look like the other girls. I was much taller than everyone else. I had bad skin and braces. I was bullied about appearance, but I was mostly bullied for my race as a child, and very violently."

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9.Charles Melton

Charles Melton
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In an essay written for Variety in response to rising anti-Asian violence, the Riverdale actor wrote, "I’ve been thinking a lot about my mother. My earliest memories are with her, out in the world among friends and strangers. But there was always pain in these interactions. I remember people talking down to my mother as if she didn’t belong. It demeaned her and in turn triggered something in me that I’ve long buried deep inside. A truth that at my young age, I didn’t know how to protect her, and it broke my heart."

Charles Melton
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"Comments from friends about my house smelling funny because of my mother’s home-cooked Korean meals and kimchi caused me to carry shame. At school, I never learned about my Korean American history — or Asian American history at all. If you never learn about your own history, how can you really exist?"

Charles Melton
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10.Anita Rani

Anita Rani
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The BBC presenter told Hello magazine that someone made a racist remark after she posted a picture on Instagram. "This guy wrote to me: 'Why don't you go and live in another country?' No one had ever said such a thing to me before, and it really hurt. I never replied. I'm deeply proud of being from Yorkshire, of being British, and of my ethnicity. How little have we evolved if in 2018, we still can't get beyond the color of someone's skin?"

Anita Rani
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11.Yara Shahidi

Yara Shahidi
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During an interview with Glamour UK, the Black-ish actor said, "There are micro aggressions on a daily basis. There are reminders of not being in the mainstream. ... There are so many moments whether it’s my hair, comments on people preferring it straight, whether it’s comments on Iran, Blackness, and what people expect of a Black human."

Yara Shahidi
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12.Francia Raisa

Francia Raisa
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Two years ago, the Grown-ish actor posted an Instagram story where she recounted a harrowing experience. "I was just on the 405, and I got stuck in that stupid Trump rally, and they f**king boxed me in, and they're pointing at me and laughing at me, saying, 'Ha ha,'" she said, visibly shaken. "And literally, I almost crashed because they wouldn't let me out."

Francia Raisa
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"I could have f**king died right now. That was so f**king dangerous, pointing at me and laughing at 'a Mexican.' That was really f**king dangerous."

Francia Raisa
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13.Simu Liu

Simu Liu
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A passionate advocate of the Stop Asian Hate movement, the Marvel actor wrote an essay for Variety last year. "For decades, I’ve watched as you’ve regarded them with impatience, cold indifference, and a total lack of compassion," he wrote. "I’ve seen cashiers, servers, transit operators, bank tellers, and customs officers speak much too quickly on purpose as if it pained them to have to spend another second of their lives conversing with my parents. I’ve heard people mock everything from their accent and their cooking to the shape of their eyes. Of course, I’ve also heard the classic 'go back to China' more times than I can count."

Simu Liu
Axelle / FilmMagic / Getty Images

"Most disappointing of all, I’ve watched as you, the bystanders and witnesses, have stood idly by and simply not cared enough to speak up. Most of you don’t even believe that racism against Asian people exists. ... Anti-Asian racism is very real, and it will not be solved with an opulent rom-com or Marvel superhero, but with you — the bystanders — acknowledging the validity of our pain."

Simu Liu
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14.Shay Mitchell

Shay Mitchell
Araya Doheny / Getty Images for Baby2Baby

With a white father and Filipina mother, the Pretty Little Liars actor grew up hearing stories about how her parents would get nasty looks and were denied service in restaurants. "I also saw it in real life," she told Women's Health. "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?'" And Shay faced racist comments herself. "In school, I was bullied — I'd get questions like, 'Are you going to go clean the bathrooms?'"

Shay Mitchell
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15.And finally, Gabrielle Union

Gabrielle Union
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Last year, the Bring It On actor recalled a terrifying moment in her memoir. She and her friends were in Dubrovnik, Croatia for a convention and decided to explore the city as it was the main filming location for King's Landing in Game of Thrones. They walked into what they thought was a gay bar. However, "the whole place was covered in racist decorations," Gabrielle wrote. Her friend was called a racial slur, and two men lifted their sleeves to reveal swastika tattoos. When she and her friends left, the "Neo-Nazis" followed them until they were outside of the old city's walls.

Gabrielle Union
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"I've never experienced that level of hatred and the threat of physical violence," Gabrielle told People. "It was such a jolt. And the fear and adrenaline of what happened left us all numb. ... We think we're post-racial, but we're not. And that is beyond disappointing. I don't think people understand the violence that comes with racism, whether it's if you're being chased, or you're having to watch someone wear blackface to collect a paycheck. It's violent."

Gabrielle Union
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