Hollywood stunner Garcelle Beauvais couldn’t find what she was looking for. She was at the bookstore amazed that nowhere to be found on shelves were books that reflected her family. She and her ex-husband Mike Nilon have twin boys—they’re biracial—and there wasn’t something there she could read to them or have them read themselves that helped field questions they may have about their lineage.
So she took matters into her own hands. This week, she released I Am Mixed, the first of a book series that will deal with parenting issues. She was inspired to pen the book because she didn’t want her sons to be approached and asked why she was brown and their father was White and not be able to quite understand the differences (and why others broached the differences) themselves.
EBONY.com talks with Beauvais about the book, that Cheerios commercial, and why brown women are taking over Tinsel Town.
EBONY: Walk us through what made you want to write I Am Mixed.
Garcelle Beauvais: We’d go to bookstores and libraries all the time and I was like, “Why aren’t there any pictures of kids that look like my kids?” Or sometimes I’d have people come up to me and say, “are there any books for mixed kids?” Through that I got the idea. I took the kids to the park one Sunday morning and they were playing with this other little boy. So I started talking with the dad, and after we talked for a while, I asked the dad, “So, what do you do?” He said, “I’m a publisher. I just published my first kids’ book!” And I’m like, “OK, this is a sign!” I believe in signs. I’m Haitian. We’re superstitious, and I met this man for a reason.
EBONY: It almost seems silly that in 2013 a book like this isn’t already on the shelves.
GB: I couldn’t agree with you more. Absolutely. And with the things happening, like with the Cheerios commercial and just the world being more diverse now and people more open-minded, why shouldn’t we have this?
EBONY: I’m glad you brought up the Cheerios commercial. Did that shock you, the negative response that the commercial incited?
GB: I cried; I couldn’t believe it. I kept on saying, “Wait a minute, it’s not a dream, it’s not a nightmare.” I can’t believe in this day and age that something so beautiful and so simple as being about love could garner so much hate. You know? It just shows you that as much as we’ve moved forward, obviously there are people that are not that forward. I was blown away by it; I was sickened by it. It just sort of teaches you that the world hasn’t changed completely.
So a book like this is necessary. Conversations between parents and kids are important, about race issues, about all kinds of things, about heritage. I think now also with the Trayvon Martin issue, these are times to have conversations with your kids.
EBONY: What shocked you more: the fact that you saw something that we don’t normally see in commercials—an interracial couple and a mixed little girl—or that kind of outrage because of it?
GB: Oh, definitely the kind of outrage. Absolutely. When I saw the commercial I went, “Wow! Finally!” Finally it’s about love, it doesn’t matter what color your skin is, it’s about having… how about an intact family? How about that?! I mean, the fact that the dad and the mom were living in the same home? There’s so many beautiful things about that commercial that for somebody to find hate, it was just insane.
EBONY: How do you talk to your boys? And at what age would you suggest other parents start talking with their children?
GB: I think you can start talking to them as early as possible. It’s just giving them the right information for their age. Like I think with my kids, I can have a conversation about heritage, about mommy being Black and daddy being White and having a conversation. They’re not ready yet for the Trayvon Martin conversation yet, because they’re too young. They can know aspects of it, but they don’t need to know everything. Because you have to go with how old they are and what kind of information you give them. But I think as early as possible. For me, it was really giving my kids an early start in terms of knowing that someday somebody may say something mean to them or may not understand what they’re made of.
EBONY: Switching gears, what do you respond very well to with regards to your career?
GB: I’m getting opportunities to play characters that I wouldn’t have played before. I’m about to start a movie called Loose with Meagan Good and Naturi Naughton. I play an alcoholic mother of Naturi and it’s really an emotional. It’s sort of like a coming-of-age for all three of us within the story. I’m excited about playing a character where it’s not about the glamour, it’s about the layers of the character.
EBONY: You’ve said you want to go behind the scenes. The season is so ripe for that right now for Black women. Shonda Rhimes definitely has led the pack, I see Ava Duvernay is directing at least one episode of Scandal, Debbie Allen too, and so on and so forth. Are black women finally getting a strong footing in Hollywood?
GB: I think so many times we have to create it in order for it to happen. [Shonda Rhimes and Ava Duvernay] are leading the way, and I hope to follow in their footsteps. I don’t have the desire to direct, but I would love to produce. I think directing takes so much time, and I want to be with my family. I feel like if I produce the project, I could do that and be creative and yet still be home.