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Karyn Parsons AKA Hilary in 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' Grew up Biracial & Endured 'Offensive Words' from White Dad

Gracious Egedegbe
Oct 01, 2021
09:30 P.M.

American actress Karyn Parsons was known as the daddy's girl in "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" but was going through a challenging childhood at the time.


American actress Karyn Parsons is best known for portraying Hilary Banks on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" from 1990 to 1996. To most of the show's viewers, she was the daddy's girl and a lovable character.

However, many did not know that Parsons' character was a far cry from her experiences in real life. The actress has revealed how she grew up as the only child in a biracial family.

Her mother, Louise Parsons, is an African-American from Charleston, South Carolina. However, her dad is a British-American of English and Welsh ancestry.

In a 2017 chat with DJ Vlad, Parsons opened up about her childhood. She revealed her parents were married in 1963 when interracial marriages were not legal in some states.

She discussed what it felt like growing up in a biracial family when such marriages were not wholly accepted in some places. She explained she was really raised in the late 1960s and 1970s.

Karyn Parsons attends 2021 Collectorfest Autograph Supershow at Wayne P.A.L. on June 13, 2021. | Photo: Getty Images

Karyn Parsons attends 2021 Collectorfest Autograph Supershow at Wayne P.A.L. on June 13, 2021. | Photo: Getty Images


According to her, she grew up in Santa Monica, California, which was sort of a hippie area at the time. Hence, she did not experience anything overt coming her way.

She had minor incidents when she was called funny names, but there was nothing huge at the time. However, as Parsons got older, she started becoming far more aware that she was biracial.

Parsons' relationship with her mom differed from what she had with her dad.


Parsons said she had a close bond with her mom, who taught her how to deal with such prejudices. She described her mom in glowing terms and said she was always in awe of her and proud to call her mom.

The actress revealed she tried to emulate and follow the lead of her mother, who was graceful in all she did, rarely talked about race, and handled people as individuals and situations individually.

Parsons' relationship with her mom differed from what she had with her dad. She revealed she was always trying to challenge her father because of his views and some of the things he used to say that she found offensive.


Parsons explained her father would sometimes say things that did not sit right with her and would not even realize he was doing it. She said such things are easier to handle as an adult. However, being a biracial teenager with a white father who would say certain hurtful things made her go crazy.

She further explained that her mother was used to her dad and handled him well. Eventually, she learned to follow her mom's lead with how she handled things gracefully.

Parsons admitted she does not act so much lately nor make much effort towards it.


Parsons also discussed her parents' mixed experiences as a biracial couple. She said her mom and dad had different memories of how things went down.

Her dad always maintained there were no issues. However, her mom revealed her dad was fired at work when it was discovered they were dating. Her mom remembers their experiences as a biracial couple much more than her dad.

In 2019, Parsons, who also starred in the 1995 movie "Major Payne," published her first novel, "How High the Moon." Following the book's publication, she sat down for an interview with Shondaland.


During the chat, Parsons was asked if she thinks of herself as a social justice person or a feminist. In her reply, she said she does not label herself, adding:

"I don't reject being called some of these things. It's just that I'm human. I understand why, but part of me feels like nobody should have to call themselves a feminist."

Parsons was also asked if she identifies as Black or biracial, and she said she identifies as biracial but does not want to feel in any way that she is denouncing her white dad.


When asked if she thinks her dad would be offended if she called herself a Black woman, Parsons said her answer was not about him but herself. The beautiful actress added that she is not thinking heavily into white culture when she says she is mixed.

In 2004, Parsons founded the production company Sweet Blackberry, a nonprofit organization. The company has produced illustrated shorts like "The Journey of Henry' Box' Brown," "Garrett's Gift," and "Dancing in the Light: The Janet Collins Story."

She founded Sweet Blackberry to preserve and make known the achievements of Black Americans throughout history. In her chat with Shondaland, she said of the company:

"I think what Sweet Blackberry has to offer is knowing about these stories from the past, and how they serve us moving forward, especially young people."


She added that her company shows children what they can do and teaches them more about themselves, who they are, and what they can be.


In another interview, Parsons talked about when she transitioned from acting to filmmaking. She explained that her venture into filmmaking and finding Sweet Blackberry came out of trying to get stories to children.

Parsons revealed her husband had their kids in mind for their roles in the film from the very beginning.


Before then, she went to New York University Film Intensive after "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" ended in 1996. She learned so much in film school and did some short films. Parsons further said:

"I don't think of any of them are really related, because I wasn't going down a straight career path."

She said she was doing things more out of the desire to do them, while in the case of Sweet Blackberry, she just wanted to get stories out to kids.


Parsons has been married twice. Her first marriage was to "The Young and the Restless" actor Randy Brooks in 1987. The union lasted just three years as they divorced in 1990.

In 2003, she married director Alexandre Rockwell, a white man. Hence, she followed in her mom's footsteps by being in an interracial marriage. They share a daughter, Lana, and a son, Nico.

Parsons recently returned to acting when she starred in the movie "Sweet Thing" alongside Lana, 19, and Nico, 15. The film was written and directed by her husband, Rockwell.


In a chat, Parsons revealed her husband had their kids in mind for their roles in the film from the very beginning. However, he did not have her in mind to portray their mother from the start but told her somewhere along the way he wanted her to do it.

Parsons admitted she does not act so much lately nor make much effort towards it. The mother of two explained this is because she has more important things right now: her family, Sweet Blackberry, and writing.

In 2021, Parsons and the rest of her "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" co-stars came together for a reunion special that excited fans worldwide.

She revealed how she and her co-stars have a close relationship and how their love and acceptance boosted her confidence. She also feels honored to have been part of a wonderful television series like "Fresh Prince."

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