What am I? Tatyana Ali on race and being Afro-Caribbean

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Video by: Ignacio Torres

This is the first installment of our series “What Am I?” where NBCLatino asked prominent Latinos across all fields about Latino identity and how they describe themselves to others.

Actress Tatyana Ali grew up on television as the adorable Ashley Banks on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” playing the youngest sibling on one of America’s most iconic sitcoms. And while Ali fully embraced her role as part of the country’s beloved black families, at school grappling with her identity was much more complex.

“I remember black friends and white friends saying, ‘why is your hair different’?” recalls Ali, whose mother is from Panama and whose father is Indian, from Trinidad.  “It was so hurtful and confusing, when you’re little.”

Years later, the actress and singer has come into her own and says she’s proud to describe herself as a black girl as well as Afro-Caribbean.

“It’s always interesting how people discuss culture and race,” remarks the 34-year-old. “It’s hard sometimes for people to realize you can be more than one thing.”

Watch Ali talk about the moment she fully embraced her identity as a black Latino woman of color.

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