The Bold Type actress Aisha Dee has opened up about being bullied during her younger years because of the way she looked.
The 26-year-old, whose mother is Anglo-Australian and father is African-American, said growing up on the Gold Coast in Queensland was “tricky” because of the racial taunts she faced in the school playground.
“I never really questioned whether I was a person of colour or not because I was the only one around,” Aisha told HuffPost Australia. “I didn’t really see anyone else who looked like me and it was felt like it was something that was important to other people than it was to me.
“I always just saw myself as Australian but other people would constantly point out the fact that my hair was crazy or my skin was, you know according to the kids at school, it looked like poo, or I had pubes on my head.
“I actually think props to them for being so creative for calling me pube-head.”
After having moved to the US at age 16 and now 10 years into her successful international acting career, Aisha can look back at her experiences and appreciate they shaped the confident woman she is today.
“It was kind of a tricky way to grow up. It definitely shaped me in a way but not in a way I’m not grateful for,” she explained.
“I think it’s just now it’s just a part of who I am and it kind of motivated me to really search for examples of people that look like me that felt empowering to me.”
After having not seen many people who look like her on TV growing up, the biracial actress embraced the opportunity to explore her cultural identity on screen through her role as Scarlet magazine social media director Kat Edison on The Bold Type.
The second season of the popular Stan program showed Kat exploring her identity and white privilege after a black colleague encouraged her to describe herself in her bio as Scarlet magazine’s first black department head.
“That was something I remember in season one, I was bringing up, ‘Hey we could talk about this too, you know. Kat’s a woman of colour and I think we should talk about it’,” she said. “And I’m really glad we got the opportunity to do that in season two.”
Aisha explained that delaying the storyline to the second season had a silver lining, and complemented her multi-dimensional character who was also exploring her sexuality.
“I almost feel like the fact that we didn’t talk about it in season one gave us an opportunity to look at it from a different perspective,” she said.
“Kat being sheltered and a bit of a late bloomer, it took her a while to explore her own sexuality and realise she likes more than just one gender, so it would make sense that it would also take her a while to fully realise who she is in terms of her race. Not that that’s all of who she is, but it’s definitely a big part.
“I think it’s really cool that we get to see her explore that as an adult because often we see that kind of growth as something that’s reserved for children and then as soon as you turn 18, you’re done growing, and that’s just not the case.”
Now the series, which also stars Katie Stevens and Meghann Fahy, is returning for a fourth season, and Aisha said the renewal is a true success in a cut-throat industry.
“It’s pretty crazy. I’m so used to being cancelled,” she laughed.
“It’s been really nice that people get on board and having something for such a long time means you get to explore characters in a different way.”
While she agreed the show is “like Sex and the City and Devil Wears Prada”, she said “it also feels like a Sunday school special where we’re all learning life skills”.
The Bold Type season four premieres on Stan on January 24.