Jennifer Beals was born on December 19, 1963, on the south side of Chicago, Illinois, to Alfred and Jeanne Beals. The Flashdance actress was up in a mixed-race family since her father was African-American and her mother was Irish American. Alfred, her father, was a grocer who also owned numerous other companies. Her mother, Jeanne, is also a former teacher. On December 6, 1974, when the actor was nine years old, her father died suddenly at the age of sixty-one.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times (via UPI), Beals claimed she was “acutely aware” as a child that she was “different.” She also described being called a “whitey” in Chatham, a mostly African-American community where her parents raised her. Beals described her childhood in the region throughout the 1960s and early 1970s as “extremely strange” as a white person living in the neighborhood.
Jennifer Beals on Diversity and Ethnicity
She talked at length about her experiences growing up as a multiracial child in Chicago during her award speech at the 4th Annual Power Up Premiere Gala in 2004. As she grew older and became more conscious of television and publications, she sought pictures of girls who looked like her, and as a mixed-race kid growing up in Chicago, there wasn’t much there, “positive or otherwise.”
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She said that she was confident of her “otherness,” which was so evident at times that she wondered whether anybody could see her. “I was that invisible,” she noted, warning everyone in the room that when society fails to “write your narrative,” an unconscious message is delivered that the tale is not worth sharing. However, she had the impression that she was different for a purpose, and that it wasn’t some “terrible error” to live as an undocumented person in the eyes of society. Beals added in her complimentary speech that individuals perceive their lives as a story from a young age, to which they are constantly exposed most of the time.7
According to the actress, exposure changes the story of the life they construct for themselves via their imaginations and the imaginations of others. “We are always in the process of inventing ourselves,” she said.
Jennifer Beals on ‘The L Word’ – A Tribute to Multiracial People
While discussing her critically successful television series The L Word, she disclosed that her character, Bette Porter, was not born multiracial. Beals, in fact, urged the show’s creator that the character be made multiracial. During her address, the actress discussed how she was a part of a story that offered “some type of mirror” to those who may have never seen themselves portrayed. “I am really delighted to be a part of the L-word,” the actress said of her performance. A highly opinionated Beals then stated how knowing that we all live in society as one greater extended community is rewarding.