5 Classic Hollywood Stars Who Hid Their Ethnicity

5 Classic Hollywood Stars Who Hid Their Ethnicity

Beyonce, Jessica Alba, Mariah Carey – these are only some of the biggest names that symbolizes beauty in their own way. For many years, Hollywood has been a place that epitomizes beauty and glam, regardless of the color. While Hollywood today has become open-minded in terms of skin color and ethnicity – hello, Lupita Nyong’o – it wasn’t as open and accepting as it was decades ago.

Because of this, there have been a number of Hollywood stars who played with their skin color to make it look whiter. Blame it on racism or the history between black and white, but these stars will do whatever it takes to make them more pleasing to the American culture and taste.

So who are these stars? Are there really ashamed of where they came from? Let’s take a look.

Carol Channing, Theater Actress.

Even before Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth made it big on Broadway, there was Carol Channing. This Broadway sensation has been known for her impeccable performances when she started her Broadway debut in 1941’s, “Never Take No for an Answer.”

With her megawatt wide-eyed grin and raspy voice, did you know that his paternal grandmother was black?

Born on January 31, 1921 in Seattle, Washington, Channing is the daughter of George Channing, a newspaper editor and renowned Christian Science lecturer. However, it was only when she turned 16 that she found out that her paternal grandmother was black.

Still, that didn’t stop her from showcasing her talents. Since her 1941 debut, Channing starred as Lorelei Lee in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” – though she lost the role to Marilyn Monroe in the 1952 film version – and played Dolly Gallegher Levi in the blockbuster musical “Hello Dolly!

Channing was quite proud of her ancestry, although she only revealed it in 2002, when she released her memoir, “Just Lucky, I Guess.” She said that having a black ancestry actually made her a better performer, something that is natural among blacks. Still, you have to wonder, if she’s really proud of her heritage, why didn’t she admit it in the first place?

Raquel Welch, Model and Television Actress.

When Marilyn Monroe died in 1962, the world needed someone who will replace the sex goddess and continue to pump up men’s libidos. Although Marilyn Monroe left some big shoes to fill in, the term sex symbol was found when Raquel Welch hit the movie scene.

Welch was born as Jo Raquel Tejada on September 5, 1940, in Chicago, Illinois, with a Bolivian father and Irish-American mother. According to Raquel, she grew up in a home where her Latin ancestry was ignored, as if there is something wrong with being from Bolivia.

Nonetheless, she turned out to be a gorgeous babe and quite a knockout, as evidenced by the number of teen beauty titles Raquel won as she grew up.

She got married to her high school sweetheart in 1958, but they later divorced. After that, Raquel packed up her bags and her kids, and hopped over to Dallas, and then to Los Angeles. Along the way, she found work as a model and waitress. She made the rounds with various, but minor roles, both on television and in the movies. Eventually, 20th Century Fox noticed her beauty and acting talents, so they signed her on.

Apparently, there was unrelenting pressure in Hollywood to look and become white back in the day. In the world where Marilyn Monroe was still remembered, film executives reportedly urged her to lighten her skin and auburn hair, because they believed that was the only way to sell movies. And since they wanted her to replace Marilyn Monroe as the sex goddess of the day, she needed to be blonde, too.

Still, all that didn’t stop her from going back to her Latin roots. In 2005, Raquel went to Bolivia to learn more about where she came from. She also played some interesting Latino characters, including a role in Gregory Nava’s “American Family.”

Merle Oberon, Actress.

She earned an Oscar nod for her 1953 performance in “The Dark Angel.” She also gained ample recognition for playing Cathy in the 1939 production of “Wuthering Heights.”

She may be one of the most striking performers during the early years of cinema, but did you know that Merle Oberon is not particularly fond of her origins?

Born as Estelle Marie Thompson on February 19, 1911, Merle claimed that she is a native of Tasmania. Living a lie, it turns out that she was born in Mumbai, India, with a Eurasian mother and British engineer father.

Since her mother was only 15 at the time she was born, her grandmother raised her while pretending to be her mother.

Merle started to act on stage as part of the Calcutta Drama Society. She met an actor who had a romantic interest in her and suggested she move to France to try out for a film. She went to France with her grandmother, whom she passed off as a maid – which is better than disowning her entirely…sort of. Later on, Merle travelled to England to try her luck.

Finally, she was noticed by the big Hollywood moguls and invited to do her first American movie, where she got lucky. Sadly, in the shooting of her third film, “I, Claudius,” Merle got into a car accident and sustained injuries that made it difficult for the doctors to correct.

Did she admit her Indian descent? Apparently not. Ever. When Oberon visited Tasmania, she was hounded by the press, forcing her to admit that she wasn’t really born there. Still, she did not admit to being an Indian, which led to a documentary “The Trouble with Merle,” that talked about her lies about where she came from. What a shame.

Fredi Washington, Actress.

Fredi WashingtonWhen you’re black and you lived hundreds of years ago, one thing’s for sure – you might be ashamed of yourself because of your color.

It may be sad to read, but blacks were regarded as slaves, thanks to the sad history of the white people who abused the blacks. Apparently, that’s not the case for actress Fredi Washington who lived under the painful stares and discrimination of white people against her race.

Call her lucky, but despite her black descent, Fredi turned out to have fair skin, green eyes and flowing hair. In other words, all the necessary traits that will make her look white. And because of these features, she landed a role in the 1934 movie, “Imitation of Life,” as Peola, a Washington woman who denies her black mother in order to cross the color line.

Fredi’s performance was so good, people started to associate Peola to her in real life. Thankfully, Fredi is just the opposite. In fact, she is a proud, beautiful black woman who refused to deny her heritage. She advocated for blacks in the entertainment industry and even married black trombonist, Lawrence Brown.

Although there is one instance that she passed on as white to buy snacks, because this discriminating establishment refused to serve her husband and his bandmates due to skin color. Aside from that, Fredi didn’t even bother to turn back to her roots.

She may be mistaken often for a white woman, but deep down in her veins, she is a black person by heart – and proud of it.

Michael Jackson, King of Pop.

If you’re looking for a person that will best describe a celebrity who tried to look white, you have to look at Michael Jackson – may his soul rest in peace – will be on top of the list.

Since he debuted with his brothers with the Jackson 5 in the late 60’s and 70’s, Michael Jackson was black with a strong African-American looks and an Afro hair style to prove it.

Over the years, his color started to lighten and up until his death, he remained as white as ever, some even describing it as paper white.

Allegedly, he was not ashamed of his color and not trying to become a white man. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 1993, the King of Pop claimed that he was “a proud Black American and is proud of his race.” Apparently, his appearance showed otherwise.

So what happened?

By 1980’s, Jackson’s hair texture and facial features started to change and his skin lightened significantly. His once broad nose, a trademark of black people, became more aquiline and wait, did you see the cleft chin right there?

According to Jackson, his “transformation” was due to a skin disease called vitiligo where his immune system was attacking the cells that produce melanin, a pigment that determines skin color. While some empathized with him and his rare skin condition, there are still many others who believe that he was a product of too much skin bleaching and whitening products.

Only the King of Pop will know whether or not he went through various cosmetic surgeries to become white. Thankfully, his voice remained the same, and there were still traces of African American heritage in his talent and the way he performed. Love it or hate it, but there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to your skin color, no matter how black or white it may be.

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