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WATCH: Film Actor Jennifer Beals Interviewed On 'Chelsea Lately'

WATCH: Young Jennifer Beals Talks About 'Flashdance' On 'The Tonight Show'

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ARTICLES AND BOOKS BY WRITER BEN AROGUNDADE

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Jennifer Beals: She's Black, She's Irish, She's American — “The Whole Idea Of Race Has Got To Change”

THE PLACE OF RACE: Is film star Jennifer Beals black, white or biracial? What is her ethnicity and nationality? These are just some of the questions Internet users ask about the celebrity actor each month. In fact her parents are of African American and Irish American heritage.

THE ETHNICITY OF AMERICA is changing fast, as people of multi-racial ancestry, such as actor Jennifer Beals, continue to flourish. But how will they navigate traditional color lines? By Ben Arogundade.

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AESTHETICALLY, SHE HAS much in common with Mariah Carey, Rosario Dawson, Zoe Saldana, Paula Patton and Alicia Keys — other celebrities of mixed ethnicity who could pass for a range of nationalities. Actress and former model Jennifer Beals, star of the films Flashdance (1983), Devil In A Blue Dress (1995) and the hit TV show The L-Word (2004), was born on the south side of Chicago, Illinois on December 19, 1963. Her parents were from different ethnic and professional backgrounds — her mother, ex-schoolteacher Jeanne Anderson, is of Irish American ancestry, while her late father, Alfred Beals, was an African American grocery store owner. He died when Beals was nine.

BIRACIAL OUTSIDER
Jennifer grew up in a predominantly African American neighbourhood, where she was teased about her biracial heritage by local children, who called her “Whitey”, on account of her light skin tone. It was experiences like this that turned her into a loner — a feeling she was later able to harness and channel into her acting. Of her role in the TV show The L-Word, she said, “Because I’m biracial, I’ve always lived sort of on the outside. The idea of being ‘the other’ in society is not foreign to me.”

BLURRED ETHNICITY HELPS AND HINDERS
While Beals' ethnicity and racially ambiguous beauty may have awarded her a diverse range of film roles over the years — she played a Latina in In The Soup (1992) and a white Brit in Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994) — like many other light-skinned African American actresses and models of her generation, she has often been passed over for black roles. “People say that I don’t look black enough,” she told Vibe.

But today, these traditional racial colour lines are blurring fast. Beals belongs to the growing group of Americans (led by Barack Obama) of racially mixed heritage — seven million, according to the 2000 census. “I think that America is going to have to wake up and realize that the dominant face of this country is not white,” said Beals. “It’s many things...The whole country is changing, and the whole idea of race has got to change.”

The new book BLACK BEAUTY by Ben Arogundade is out now.

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Actor Jennifer Beals in the film poster for Flashdance (1983). Throughout her career her biracial ethnicity has allowed her to cross over, but has excluded from overtly 'black' roles.

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Jennifer Beals parents, above, are of mixed ethnicity and nationality. Her mother Jeanne, is of Irish American ancestry, while her late father Alfred was African American.

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Jennifer Beals and her mother at the Flashdance movie premier, 1983.

*JENNIFER BEALS ETHNICITY ACCORDING TO GOOGLE SEARCH

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The number of people worldwide who Google the question, “Is Jennifer Beals white?” each month.

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The number of people worldwide who Google the question, “Is Jennifer Beals biracial?” each month.

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The number of people worldwide who Google the question, “Is Jennifer Beals black?” each month.

*All figures for “Jennifer Beals Ethnicity According to Google Search”, supplied by Google. Stats include global totals for laptop and desktop computers and mobile devices.

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THE REAL RIHANNA
9 Articles Explore Her Beauty, Ancestry, Identity.

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TOTAL BEYONCE
6 Articles On The Hair, The Skin-Tone, The Eye Color, The Ancestry.

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FLESH & PLASTICS
Is Nicki Minaj Real?
3 Articles Explore The Aesthetic Construct Of The Queen Of Rap.

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NEW EBOOKS
BLACK = UGLY - The Shocking History Of Black History.

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THE NEW FACE OF AMERICA
The Obama's Ethnicity And What It Means For The Future Of Race.

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INSIDE INDIA'S BEAUTY FACTORY
Bollywood Creates Its Own Killer Beauties.

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ENTER THE EAST
Fashion Finally Opens Up To East Asian Supermodels.

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FROM RACISM TO RICHES
13 Stories About The Rise Of Black Supermodels.

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HOLLYWOOD AND RACE
Why Do Today's Black Female Leads Look Like This? Get The History.

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WHEN FASHION MET CIVIL RIGHTS
Hair And Beauty According To Martin Luther King Jr. And Malcolm X.

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HOT HISTORY
5 Stories About Pioneering Black Celebrities Of Yesteryear.

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BEAUTY REVOLT
Black Beauty: Ben Arogundade's Top 10 Rules For The 21st Century.

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SHAKESPEARE'S AFRICAN
Othello Reassessed In 8 Articles.

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NEW EBOOKS
Sex, Drugs And Civil Rights: 60s Model Donyale Luna - Vogue's First Black Cover Girl.

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NEW EBOOKS
From Triumph To Tragedy: Stories Of Purpose And Pain From The Olympic Archive.

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NEW EBOOKS
New Shakespeare Play: Othello And Romeo And Juliet Re-Cast In Gay Comedy Mashup.

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INSIDE THE ENIGMA
Shakespeare Facts Reassessed.

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WORLD OF TYRA
5 Articles Dissect The Beauty Icon, TV Star And Business Mogul.

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NOLLYWOOD NOW!
Nigeria Makes More Movies Than Hollywood - And They're Getting Good.

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NEW EBOOKS
Promiscuity & Intrigue In 'The Sexual Language Of Strangers', by Ben Arogundade.

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MOST VIEWED SECTIONS

THIS MONTH'S PICK

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AESTHETICS & RACE
Is Singer Mariah Carey Black? 65,000 Online Fans Don't Know. Get The Story.

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10,000 FANS Google Questions About Mission Impossible Star Paula Patton. Find Out What They Want To Know.

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NEXT: MORE ABOUT BIRACIAL CELEBRITIES

NEXT: ALICIA KEYS ON GROWING UP BIRACIAL

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ENTER THE EAST:
The World's Top 10
East Asian Models According To Google Search:
NEW NO.1

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The Sexual Language of Strangers
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ABOUT BEN AROGUNDADE

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