Charlize Theron says she benefited from having the 'right' skin colour growing up in apartheid-era South Africa
Theron was born in 1975 in Benoni, a town outside Johannesburg, in the midst of apartheid.
During a recent appearance on the National Public Radio (NPR) podcast, the actor explained that she grew up surrounded by different cultures on her parents’ farm, regarding the children of those who worked on the farm as family.
It was only when she began attending an art school in Johannesburg at the age of 12 or 13 that she “really got to witness firsthand the atrocities of apartheid”.
“History was leaning very much into our white history. The heroes of our story, of our founding fathers, were all white. That was really the story that we were all told,” the Bombshell star said.
“This climate that we’re in right now with our polarising political views in this country [America], it was very similar in South Africa.”
Theron explained that she would be invited for sleepovers at friends’ houses, only for their parents to refuse when they discovered there were black workers living on the actor’s family farm.
The 44-year-old said she was “blessed” to have been raised by a mother “who was just aghast by all of this”.
“[It’s] a lot to reconcile with when you realise that you benefited under an administration, a nation, a country, because you had the ‘right’ skin colour,” she said.
“I benefited. My life was more comfortable because of the suffering of a lot of people who just by chance were born in the ‘wrong’ skin colour. That was a lot for me to carry; it still is. It’s something I’ll carry for the rest of my life.”
During her interview on the NPR podcast, Theron also spoke about deciding to adopt as a single parent.
The Oscar-winning actor has two children: Jackson, whom she adopted in March 2012, and August, whom she adopted in July 2015.
“Everything that I hoped would happen during my adoption process did happen because these two babies were meant to be in my life – and they’re my children,” she said.
“It’s definitely something that we still need to work on, this concept of what a family looks like and what constitutes the ‘right’ family or a ‘strong’ family or what we think that should look like.”
She highlighted the stigma that continues to surround single-parent families.
“It’s just so unfortunate. I know so many people who would be incredible parents,” Theron said.
“My fight was a little bit easier because of my circumstances, but I would want that for all women who want to share their life and be part of raising another young, small child’s life.”