"Lizzie McGuire" star Lalaine Vergara-Paras is opening up about the effects masking her ethnicity in Hollywood have had on finding her identity as an adult.
Vergara-Paras reflected on Instagram Wednesday about feeling out of touch with her Filipino heritage, revealing that "most of my life growing up I was forced to look as 'white' as possible."
In a caption accompanying a photo of herself in a feather top and floral print skirt, she wrote, "These days I struggle to find photos where I look as ethnic as possible. Or like in this photo the most East Asian I've ever looked. In order to see, for most people, you have to zoom in on ma face."
Vergara-Paras, 31, said she's embracing her true self, instead of conforming: "In case you still don’t understand, I love my face in this photo."
The actress and singer is best known for her role as Miranda Sanchez, a Mexican-American student who spoke little Spanish, on Disney Channel's "Lizzie McGuire" from 2001 to 2004. Sanchez was best friends with Hilary Duff's title character.
At the time, she was referred to mononymously as Lalaine, dropping her last name because it was deemed "too ethnic." USA TODAY has reached out to Disney for comment on Vergara-Paras' post.
Vergara-Paras' honesty prompted fans to share similar stories from their own experience growing up as persons of color.
"Thanks for sharing this. As a clearly Hispanic woman, I hated myself growing up," @frolicintheforest commented. "I wanted white skin, light eyes, light hair. I’ve learning to embrace my ethnic side as an adult. It was a struggle though."
User @ely.lamay.jeffers added: "I feel this so hard. I literally wrote an essay once about how I tried to be as white as possible growing up because I saw how hard it was for my brother and sister, who were darker than me, in school. All old photos of me I just look sick and sun-deprived. It was a real childhood struggle."
"It's bizarre to look back on but growing up as a Ghirardelli-skinned Ghanaian-American and seeing so few non-white kids on Disney Channel shows, I thought I had to present myself as a white kid to have value," @psawyerschue wrote. "You always stood out as an incredible quiet fire on ("Lizzie McGuire") and I'm sorry there weren't more kids onscreen that looked like either of us."
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Lizzie McGuire's Lalaine Vergara-Paras was made 'to look as 'white' as possible' during childhood