Jodie Turner Smith: I always said that ‘I wanted to have Black, Black babies’

Jodie Turner Smith was recently cover-profiled by Elle UK to promote all of her projects, including her role in Murder Mystery 2. Jodie gave birth to her daughter Janie in April 2020, during the pandemic/lockdown, with her husband Joshua Jackson there for the home birth. Can’t believe it’s been three years already, because I almost wrote “Jodie recently gave birth.” The pandemic really f–ked up my sense of time, but I think it did the same for everyone else too. Anyway, I reference Janie Jackson (how cute is that name) because Jodie talks a lot about what it will be like for her to raise a biracial daughter. Some highlights from Elle:

Her little nepo baby: “I love this little girl so much. She’s so funny. It’s a big job to prepare children for the world. The best thing that we can do is let them touch the earth and be grounded and real – as real as one can be when you have the level of privilege that obviously my child has. I’m not acting like she’s not a nepo baby. ButI worked damn hard to have a nepo baby!

Her daughter will experience the world differently: “She is going to have a completely different experience in the world than I did, because I have given birth to a mixed-race girl. It’s interesting because I had a lot of resistance to becoming a mother and, throughout my life, I always said if I were to have children, I wanted to have Black, Black babies so that I could affirm them as children with the love that I felt I needed to have been affirmed with by the outside world. Then I fell in love with my husband and we talked about having kids. To decide not to have a child with somebody you love, just because they’re white, was insane to me. But, at the same time, I did have this mini pause, where I was like, ‘She’s going to be walking through the world not only having an experience that I did not have, but looking like people that, in a way, I’d always felt a little bit tormented by.’ Now that I’ve got this little, tiny, light-skinned boss, I feel like it’s the universe teaching me lessons. I’ve been given a daughter who looks this way to heal my own conversations around colourism.

On colorism in Hollywood forever: “I was watching an old movie the other day, Stormy Weather [1943] with Bill Robinson and Lena Horne. It’s an all Black cast, and there is not one single dark-skinned woman. Back then, it was OK to have a dark-skinned male lead, but the woman had to be light. That was what was held up as a kind of beauty. If it was a dark-skinned Black woman, then it’s a Mammy character, a desexualised character. For a longtime in entertainment any sort of dark-skinned figures were held up as unattractive. That has a huge effect on the zeitgeist and it trickles down….you’ve never seen anybody who looks like you held up as beautiful. That definitely affected my psyche. Anyone who has known me throughout my life would say, ‘Oh, Jodie has very high self-esteem.’ But it affected me, I just faked it till I made it. It wasn’t until adulthood that I began to come into myself. For a long time, people would even say to me, ‘You’re so pretty…for a dark-skinned girl.’

[From Elle UK]

That’s one of the realest conversations I’ve ever read about colorism within the context of motherhood – a dark-skinned woman wanting a dark-skinned child so she could give the child the love and validation that she never got. And then ending up with a white man and having a light-skinned daughter. It’s very real! I always think about what the Duchess of Sussex went through, with all of that ridiculous and racist attention given to what color their children would be… and then she gave birth to two pale ginger babies. I’ve always wondered if there was part of Meghan which was like “I secretly hope these babies come out dark as hell, because f–k all of these people.” Seriously though.

Photos courtesy of Cover Images, Avalon Red. Cover courtesy of Elle UK.

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38 Responses to “Jodie Turner Smith: I always said that ‘I wanted to have Black, Black babies’”

  1. Pinkosaurus says:

    I love her honesty. This is such a sensitive topic and difficult conversation. The layers and tiers of racism are exhausting and it takes prominent intelligent people to share their real life experience, I think, to unearth and validate these struggles so they can be exposed for how ridiculous these embedded beliefs are.

    • Christine says:

      I love her honestly, too, and it doesn’t just apply to racial conversations, but conversations about families in general. I am an adoptee, and while I am white, like my family, I look nothing like any of them, and people feel completely at home telling me exactly how much I didn’t look like my family, like it was a pity they didn’t get a child that looked like them? How is any of it okay, and it is so much more layered when you are talking about race and color.

      People like Jodie are my hero, she will lay it all out there, and give zero fucks if it makes anyone angry or uncomfortable.

  2. AJ says:

    As a Bi-Racial child I feel this intensely. My Mother is a dark skinned beautiful black woman and my Father is a pale Canadian of Irish descent. When I was born I had blonde hair, blue eyes and the whitest skin you’ve ever seen. The amount of people who would mistake my Mother for the nanny was probably heartbreaking for her but I never felt any less loved than my darker skinned siblings. (There’s 8 of us and it’s pretty split down the middle whether we look like Mom or Dad and we love how different we all look from each other) I loved my Mom so much as a kid I always wanted to look more like her but she always made us all feel beautiful and loved. The irony is that now that I’m older I look so much like my beautiful Mother, just an extra pasty version.

    • MrsF2u says:

      Opposite family dynamic here! My late father had beautiful reddish brown dark skin. My mom is of Celtic, German and French Heritage.

      If you had told me 30 years ago I would not be marrying my college boyfriend whose parents were immigrants from Ghana? I would have said you are crazy.

      Instead – I married a Calabrese ethnic/region immigrant from Italy. By chance only – we did not have any of our babies born – but my husband (for our little girl we lost at 4 months) was praying and hoping she would look like me 😅.

      This woman has guts. These discussions never seem to happen outside of our family living rooms. But they happen.

      Thinking back to when I was little and my mom’s family – in particular her Maternal Gramama who I was very close to and was waaaaaay ahead of her time?

      She was tickled pink at my dark curls, darks eyes and tan skin. She knew Josephine Baker ( my great grandfather was from France and they traveled there extensively after their marriage) – she said ” Josephine would be jealous of my dear girl!’

      • Isabella says:

        So sorry to hear of the loss of your little girl. You and your husband sound like wonderful, grounded people and I loved your childhood insights.

      • BothSidesNow says:

        @ MrsF2u, my deepest condolences for you and your husband. I wish that there was something that I could say that would take away your pain and grief but please accept my deepest sympathies for you both.

        I am utterly smitten with your family history too!! What a wonderful childhood you had!! You both sound like such a lovely and wonderful family too!!

      • Christine says:

        I am so sorry, MrsF2u!

    • GrnieWnie says:

      I see that a lot and hate it when people can’t get past colouring to notice when facial features look the same. You don’t have to have the same colouring as your child/parent, etc., to look exactly like them.

      • BQM says:

        I saw a photo of young Barack Obama with his white grandfather and the resemblance was so strong. It was like Barack was just a darker version of him.

      • AnneL says:

        That’s so true. I’m white and so is my husband. but we have different ethnic backgrounds and complexions. So my son has my husband’s coloring, and people always say he looks “exactly like Dad.” Except he doesn’t. He’s olive skinned with dark hair and brown eyes, but his features really come from my side of the family. He actually looks a lot like my father. People are always looking at color first, it seems to me.

      • Decowell says:

        It amazes me that our complexions stuper people so much. My mother is a dark-skinned black woman and my father is a light-skinned black man. My complexion falls in the middle of the two but most close family members agree that I’m my dad’s mini-me when it comes to facial features. However, extended family always insist that my younger brother (who got my dad’s complexion but feature wise looks like mom) is his twin. They also always comment that I look like my mom to which she smirks/laughs and says, “Does she?”. It’s mostly harmless but last year my dad, brother, and I volunteered at a multi-day event and when introduced to the organizer he seemed unable to comprehend that my father was my father because of these differences. I won’t go into details but there were some pretty specific moments where his disassociation of our relationship felt intentional.

  3. Ameerah M says:

    This honestly made me tear up. I am a light-skinned Black woman. I recognize the privilege that has afforded me as I moved through predominantly white spaces growing up. The topic of colorism within the Black community is a firebrand and I thank Jodie for being so honest and open about her feelings about raising a light-skin daughter and her experiences as a dark-skinned woman. And I also just want to say – Black is beautiful. From the darkest skin Black woman to the lightest. Our beauty deserves to be celebrated, seen, and recognized.

    • Moneypenny424 says:

      Right? This is so beautiful. I love that she said all of this. My daughters are both lighter than me (I’m a little on the lighter side of medium, I’d say) and I’ve wondered if that would make life easier than mine was. I have black family members who liked me less than other cousins because of my skin tone (and I LOVE being outside, so I can get dark in summer). It takes enough to love yourself as a black woman in this world and our own community needs to continue to recognize that we are beautiful with ANY skin tone.

  4. HeyKay says:

    Goodness she is a stunningly beautiful woman. 💕

    • BothSidesNow says:

      She is!!! How did JJ get so lucky?? Every time I read an interview that JTS has given, I have grown to love her on a deeper level with immeasurable respect and appreciation. JTS isn’t afraid of being unapologetically honest, raw and vulnerable and speaking out about generational racism and showing how deeply layered she is. JTS is an amazing, powerful and inspiring woman for every age and demographic!!

    • SIde Eye says:

      She always takes my breath away. She is so incredibly gorgeous. I wish she had heard this more growing up.

    • JanetDR says:

      Absolutely stunning!

  5. L4Frimaire says:

    The headline is provocative but what she said is actually realistic to her current life situation and makes sense. Life said otherwise to her assumptions when she married Joshua Jackson. They’re a cute couple and have a beautiful child. Her kid is definitely Black, but will but also has a white dad so her experiences will definitely be different from her mom’s. So many people still can’t process multi-racial families and children.

  6. Kittenmom says:

    I’m biracial too, mixed Asian/Caucasian. I have 2 children that have the same ethnic appearance as me (vaguely ethnic, dark eyes/hair with light olive complexion, most often mistaken for Latina/o/x) and 2 that could not possibly look whiter. I was often mistaken as the nanny for those 2. My Asian family and heritage were always most important for me growing up, and it is bittersweet that my 2 younger kids feel no personal connection to that at all, because of course, the world doesn’t see them that way, nor do they see it in themselves.

    • Abigail says:

      I’d say that cultural connection is a construct, if you want them to have it you can, just teach them.
      My own father is North-African and my mother Eastern European. I look like him and his family and nothing like my mom or her family. But they broke up when I was little and I’ve lived with my mom ever since. I have zero connection to him or his culture or background nor do I consider myself as having heritage from that part of the world. I only have a genetic connection and that’s it. And nobody who meets me can tell because I am culturally and behaviourly very Eastern Europe.
      It’s all about the environment you grow up in, not genetics.

  7. ClaireB says:

    I appreciate her honesty on such a difficult topic.

  8. Twin Falls says:

    What a great interview and article.

  9. Coco says:

    This was a fantastic read and I love her honesty On the topic.

  10. Laura says:

    She is amazing.

  11. GrnieWnie says:

    I love Jodie…to me, she’s the only one who rivals Angelina Jolie in terms of beauty. Perfect symmetry, so beautiful and very clever.

  12. Delilah says:

    I am in such awe of Jodie. She is unequivocally beautiful. I Were I in her shoes, you couldn’t tell me nothing. I’m East African and a dark beauty myself, and certainly dealt with everything Jodie did (except for the whole celebrity actress modeling success thing).

    I had a gorgeous Scandanavian husband with whom I unfortunately had no children due to fertility issues. And I always thought I would have black black babies but he ended up as my person.

    Everyone was sure we would have beautiful children as an interracial couple because of their biracial status, which I resented b/c I felt our children would be beautiful b/c of our phenotypic beauty not his being white and Coloriism.

    I once had hairdressers ask if I was with a white man so I could have a white baby.

    When I was younger and first only attracted to men of color, specifically black, I was told I would end up with a white man b/c in our community—small town in the Midwest light skin was lauded as the beauty standard to the effect dark skin girls were relegated to a position of being passed over by black men so that the remaining option was supposed to be white men.

    In any case, I rejected Colorism and evaluated beauty and worth per the person not color. I was insulted whenever I was upheld as an exception of the undesirable, passed over dark/skinned girl trope.

    A light skinned black teenager once told my biracial gf to tell me being dark didn’t affect me at all, so I told her to tell him being light didn’t help him.

    It was immature and against my code but that was the best I could do to communicate my revulsion and rejection at that age.

  13. Kitten says:

    Wow. I got chills reading this interview, especially this part: “She’s going to be walking through the world not only having an experience that I did not have, but looking like people that, in a way, I’d always felt a little bit tormented by.’ Now that I’ve got this little, tiny, light-skinned boss, I feel like it’s the universe teaching me lessons. I’ve been given a daughter who looks this way to heal my own conversations around colourism.”

    That’s so beautifully said and yes, I can see how the birth of her daughter could lead to a bit of self-reckoning. She sounds like such an introspective, thoughtful, and profoundly caring person. This article was like a little trip through her consciousness and man, there’s just so much DEPTH there. I hope Josh treats her like a queen because she really does seem like the total package.

    • ThatsNotOkay says:

      It was quite an experience traveling in these short spurts through her thoughts. Amazingly candid and profound.

  14. Myeh says:

    Jodie has educated herself on these matters and has lived experience. She will take raising her daughter in stride. I have unfortunately witnessed white women furiously brushing their bipoc kids hair in an effort to tame/straighten their hair and other acts of racial harm they have perpetuated and wounded their children with. I wish everyone would educate themselves on these matters and have empathy for those who are unlike them.

    • Kitten says:

      Yep seen it too. And I feel like that’s the danger of having a biracial child, but not having close black friends in your community. Like, I could see how a white mom would be totally ignorant on how to handle textured hair and you’d hope that she’d take the time to educate herself, but even better is having trusted black friends to give you advice.

  15. TaraBabara says:

    I feel this. I’m mixed race but present pretty black. Having a white mom made things difficult and I longed to have children that looked like me.

    Married another mixed race black presenting person. And yet somehow our daughter has come out looking completely white. I struggle to know how to led her through a world that she will have default privilege in. I will know very little about how the world will meet her.

    • Scotchy says:

      I am the same as you. Mixed race but with African presenting features. So while my skin is light I am not white presenting so do not comfortably navigate those spaces. Being mixed is surprisingly confusing, hard and can be lonely. So hopefully Jodie knows her little light skinned boss will still need that affirmation and acceptance.

  16. j.ferber says:

    I saw a pic of Janie and her daddy together and that child is gorgeous and darling.

  17. BQM says:

    This is obviously metaphorical but I can’t understand how she (and lupita along with others) couldn’t be considered beautiful by any objective standard by anyone. But people can be blinded and prejudiced. I first saw Jodie in tnt’s The Last Ship tv series and from the start was like ‘holy shit she’s gorgeous and sexy af’. Like her legs are INSANE. Like the type that makes you question your sexuality. 😆

  18. JackieJacks says:

    Jodie and Denee Benton both have such beautiful and symmetrical faces and they truly remind me of dolls with how beautiful they are. Can’t wait to see what other roles they get because they are both amazing and some of my favorite artists to see!

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