Jasmine Guy is quite famous for playing Whitley Gilbert on the 80s/90s show, “A Different World.” But many do not know the hurdles she had to cross as a result of her skin color.
“A Different World” often explored racial themes, especially as regards the African-American community, and for Guy, that storyline hit closer to home than most people understood.
THE STRUGGLE TO FIT IN
Born to a white mother and a black father in 1962, the actress found that she could hardly fit in anywhere in her Atlanta environ. She recalled getting into a couple of fights as a young girl when her dark-skinned classmates accused her of being proud and uptight.
Guy told People:
“I remember getting into several fights in grade school because black kids would think I thought I was pretty because I had light skin and long hair. They said I always tried to talk properly. But I wasn’t trying to seem better. I just wanted to be me.”
Young as she was at the time, the “School Daze” actress already felt a desperate need to be identified and accepted. She began to lose her personality while trying to win that acceptance.
A FATHER'S PAIN
Her father, William Guy, explained how difficult it was for him and his wife to see what their daughter was going through:
“She was holding herself back, not developing her full potential. She was doing it to fit in. It drove me crazy when she spoke bad English—it wasn’t even an imaginative dialect, it was just bad. But I could tell she was hurting. I told her to just go on her own way and be herself.”
COLORISM IN HOLLYWOOD
Guy outgrew that stage and learned to be confident in herself, but many years later, she would face a similar struggle. As an upcoming actress in Hollywood, she was not white enough to get the many roles available for white girls, and she was not black enough to be considered for the few that went to black females.
Eventually, when she got her first film role, it was for “School Daze,” a movie that touched on issues of color and race. Guy admitted:
“The role was difficult for me because it brought back ugly memories. Again I had to face the reality of how the world sometimes views people only on outward appearances. I don’t like being prejudged.”
MAKING LEMONADE OUT OF LEMONS
Guy’s experiences helped her with raising her daughter, 21-year-old Imani. In a 2014 interview with OWN, Guy said she asked God to keep her from getting in the way of whoever her daughter was supposed to be.
The “Harlem Nights” star added in a separate interview last year:
“My daughter is her own person. She should follow her dreams.”
Guy was recently on the cast of BET’s “The Quad” that was canceled in April. She played the character of Ella Grace Caldwell.