Raven-Symoné Clarifies ‘African American’ Comments From 2014 Interview


Raven-Symoné is looking back on some of her most viral comments and clarifying a few things. During the latest episode of her Tea Time With Raven and Miranda podcast, hosted alongside her wife, Miranda Pearman-Maday, the That’s So Raven star discussed her controversial 2014 interview with Oprah Winfrey.

During the conversation with Winfrey, Raven addressed her disdain for having to label herself, both in terms of race and sexuality. The then-28-year-old actress had come out in 2013, and explained that she had been aware of her sexuality since she was fairly young. “In that topic of dating and in love, I knew when I was, like, 12. I was looking at everything,” she said.

And when Winfrey asked how she would label her sexuality, Raven pushed back with the claim that she doesn’t like labels. “I don’t want to be labeled gay. I want to be labeled a human who loves humans.”

“I’m tired of being labeled,” she continued. “I’m an American. I’m not an African American — I’m American.”

Raven-Symoné – Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty Images

The media mogul was seemingly taken aback, warning Raven that she would receive “flack” for saying she wasn’t African American. “Oh girl, don’t go set Twitter on fire,” Winfrey cautioned.

“I will say this. I don’t know where my roots go to,” Raven persisted. “I don’t know how far back they go. … I don’t know what country in Africa I’m from, but I do know that my roots are in Louisiana. I’m American. And that’s a colorless person.”

“I don’t label myself,” she added. “I have darker skin. I have a nice, interesting grade of hair. I connect with Caucasian. I connect with Asian. I connect with Black. I connect with Indian. I connect with each culture.”

Despite the conversation taking place a decade ago, Raven’s comments gained a second life after the clip resurfaced on a recent episode of Real Time With Bill Maher during a discussion about race.

Looking back on the public’s reaction to her comments at the time, the now-38-year-old admits that when the interview aired, she “felt like the entire internet exploded and threw my name in the garbage.”

Confessing that the conversation “has haunted me since 2014,” Raven tells her wife on their podcast, “There was so much backlash from my community and others that misunderstood slash didn’t hear the exact words that I said.”

“And the exact words that I said is that, ‘I’m an American, not an African American,'” she says. “A lot of people thought I said that I wasn’t Black. And I never said that.”

When asked by Maday to clarify what she means, the Raven’s Home star explains, “When I say that ‘African American’ doesn’t align with me, that label, it doesn’t mean that I’m negating my Blackness or I’m not Black. It means I am from this country. I was born here. My mom, my dad, my great-great-great-great-great — that’s what I’m saying. The pure logistics of it.”

Raven-Symoné and her father, Christopher B. Pearlman – Al Pereira/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

“I understand my history. I understand where my ancestors come from. I also understand how much blood, sweat and tears they’ve soaked into this earth in order to create the America that I live in today: free, happy, tax-paying American citizen,” she continues. “I also know that when I visit another country, people don’t say like, ‘Hey, look at that African American over there!’ They say, ‘That’s an American.'”

Maday chimes in to agree with her wife’s point of view, adding, “I think it makes so much sense, because I don’t go around introducing myself as a Welsh American or as an Italian American. My mom was born here, so I’m an American, for all intents and purposes.”

Watch Raven’s full clarification in the video below.

Raven has come a long way since that 2014 interview, although that wasn’t the only time the star made controversial comments that went viral. In February, while sitting down with ET for a rETrospective of her career, the star recalled her tumultuous tenure as a co-host on The View from 2015 to 2016.

Raven firmly asserted that she would not do a talk show again after her year on the daytime program, but emphasized that she learned a lot during her tenure. “That was a learning experience. I learned a lot on that show; I learned a lot about what I should say yes to and what I shouldn’t say yes to, I learned how to bottle my emotions real quick for cameras as best as I can, within certain reason and I learned that the hair and makeup on that show was amazing.”

“I learned that I have interesting views — pun intended — and I also learned that some conversations are couch conversations for home and not for live television,” she added. “I learned that television is television. And sometimes they have to do things to make good television. And I don’t know if everybody knows that. I’ll keep it like that.”

Still, she doesn’t regret taking the opportunity. “You have to try out everything to find out who you are,” she said. “I think it’s very important that you do that for yourself because going into it while you’re growing up, your parents create this bubble for you of how they want you to be, your friends mold you, and then you have that moment where you’re like, ‘But what do I want?’ The only way you can figure that out is to try different things.”

“That’s what I do in this industry; I try as many things as I can (and) if they succeed, let’s keep going. If they don’t, thank you much, moving on. I needed that, I needed to understand that I’m not good at live television and I’m OK with that,” she shared.

As for the future, Raven told ET that “there’s a lot of stuff on the horizon” that she’s very excited about and “will make my heart happy as a creative, that will make my heart happy as that little girl who wants to create and produce and direct and do all these things.”

“I’m getting that opportunity and I’m really excited to see what’s on the horizon for me. I’ve worked really hard for this and I’m excited to see what happens,” she said.


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