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Kaylee Golding: “I believe in love – I wouldn’t have existed before”
The presenter on repping your flag, mixed trauma and not knowing where she sits
Hi, welcome back to Mixed Messages! This week I’m speaking to presenter and DJ Kaylee Golding, who is of mixed Jamaican and white British heritage. Birmingham-born Kaylee has made history by presenting the first weekday show on Radio 1Xtra from outside of London. Instead, she’ll be broadcasting from our shared hometown every weekday. I couldn’t wait to speak to a fellow Brummie about her mixed-race experience – read Kaylee’s story below.
What’s your family background?
My dad is British-born Jamaican and my mom [editor’s note: we say ‘mom’ in Birmingham] is English.
I call myself mixed-race. Growing up I’d be called Black, but over the last few years I’ve stopped calling myself that because I’m very much mixed-race. I might say that I’m from Black heritage. For the longest time, people said ‘if you’re mixed-race, you’re Black’ and that’s just what it was, so it took a few years of unlearning that.
What was it that shifted to the point where you preferred calling yourself ‘mixed’ over ‘Black?’
When the Black Lives Matter movement happened, there was a lot of conversation about what it means to be Black and what it means to be mixed-race. If you go further north like Birmingham and Liverpool, if you’re mixed-race you’re very much Black. In London, you’re mixed-race. I didn’t want to be offensive to people that are full Black, so I unlearned that. The struggles and journeys of mixed-race people are different, even if there are some similarities and crossovers.
You’ve lived in both Birmingham and London – have you felt a difference between the cities in terms of racial identity?
For sure – a lot of things felt culturally different. In Birmingham, a lot of Black people are Jamaican and they really celebrate their country and ethnicity. Even people who weren’t Jamaican would claim it because it was the only culture people were flying the flag for! I noticed that people from other cultures wouldn’t say where they were from.
In London, everyone’s proud of the individual countries they’re from. I think that’s a generational thing as well, people are now more proud to say ‘this is the country I’m from’ rather than saying ‘I’m Black’ and that’s it. There’s more identity to being Black, the same way that there’s more to being white. You could be Polish, English, Irish… There's so much identity behind being a skin tone.
How have you connected with your heritage over time?
My dad isn’t around, so it’s complex. Growing up, I’d go to family parties with uncles – friends of my aunty’s partner, who’s Jamaican. Even though my mom is white, she’s very engrossed in Jamaican culture. She learned how to cook Jamaican food and I never grew up not listening to reggae, dancehall and old-school R&B. Even though that’s not Jamaican, it’s Black culture. She did the best that she could, but as a white woman she couldn’t teach us absolutely everything.
It wasn’t until I was a teen that I went looking for it. At 13 or 14, I wanted to go into Birmingham city centre to the hair shop to find people that looked like me. I wanted to make friends and go to parties with the music I liked to listen to. It was me trying to find my identity.
In terms of connecting with my British side, we live here so we naturally connect to it. But when we talk about British life, there’s also Black British culture.
Did you ever speak to your family about being mixed?
Yeah, once I got older. I asked my mom, ‘is it a little bit strange for you, having children who look nothing like you?’ When I look back, I didn’t know I was having an identity crisis. I didn’t know where I sat or where my focus was.
Those were comfortable conversations. My mom gets it. She’ll hurt when she sees us hurt. There can be anger towards my dad because he left us, having to try even harder to make us feel included and connected to a culture that she’s not even part of.
During Black Lives Matter [in 2020], I remember seeing family members and people I went to school with saying racist things on Facebook. Having a whole side of you that is from a white community can be difficult. You realise you’ve got two sides, one side that are really hurt by [the murder of George Floyd and antiracism] and people who are literally related to me arguing against that.
Do you think being mixed has impacted your personality, and your career?
I’ve always loved music, and growing up around that was definitely part of [me becoming a radio presenter]. I always wanted to be the aux lead girl at parties!
As for how it’s affected my personality, it’s difficult because I don’t know anything else. I’ve always been curious – whenever I speak to artists from the Midlands, I’m curious about whether they celebrate their country. I think it’s always important to celebrate where you come from and the communities you’re a part of – whether that’s your ethnic background, city, sexuality... I’ve built my whole brand doing that, and maybe that’s because, growing up, I felt different to everyone else – both in school and my family. Maybe I felt I had to celebrate all of this because I didn’t feel celebrated before.
Do you think there’s a stereotype people hold about mixed people?
I do feel like a big stereotype is that mixed people think they’re better than everyone else. I think it comes from this idea that a lot of people are attracted to mixed-race people. I think that led to people thinking that mixed-race people think they’re elite, but that’s not the case.
On Love Island, people say they like ‘mixed-race’ people, but that fetishisises people’s ethnicity. It goes back to colourism within the Black community, and how the lighter slaves would be positioned closer to the home. I completely understand why that’s frustrating, colourism is disgusting. It’s really complicated. It’s just about having conversations in the right spaces.
Mixed people come with a lot of trauma. It’s different to what people in the Black community can face. I think because white people sometimes see mixed-race people as Black, we get put into this same category as if we all have the same problems. That’s not the case.
What’s the best thing about being mixed-race for you?
I love the mix of cultures and that I’m part of both of them. We’re also an emerging culture. Mixed-race is the fastest growing ethnicity in the UK, eventually the majority of the world is going to be mixed-race because everyone’s been able to live with who they want. I also believe in love, I feel proud of that. Before I wouldn’t have existed, and that’s really sad.
Can you sum up your mixed identity in a word?
Exploring. I’ve spent a lot of time exploring my identity and who I am.
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Mixed Messages is a weekly exploration of the mixed-race experience, from me, Isabella Silvers. My mom is Punjabi (by way of East Africa) and my dad is white British, but finding my place between these two cultures hasn’t always been easy. That’s why I started Mixed Messages, where each week I’ll speak to a prominent mixed voice to delve into what it really feels like to be mixed.