Nkechi Amare Diallo is a former civil rights activist and former African studies instructor, but you might know her better as her birth name, Rachel Anne Dolezal. Dolezal is the white woman who managed to "pass herself off as black" for ten years and, in fact, became president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP.
She said that at age five, she began identifying as black, drawing self-portraits with crayons "using the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon." During an interview with Matt Lauer on The Today Show, Dolezal claimed that her identity is complex and that is why she never corrected reports that stated she was black. When Lauer accused her of deceiving people by not being forthcoming about her race because it worked in her favor, Dolezal brushed the comments off, stating that she didn't believe that was fair because she has had her own black experience.
"I do take exception to that," Dolezal told Lauer, apparently referring to the term deceiving. "Because it's a little more complex than me identifying as black or answering a question as black or white."
When a suspicious local reporter asked her frankly, "Are your parents white?" the video went viral and Dolezal landed herself a nice chunk of fifteen minutes of fame. Here are fifteen facts about this perplexing story.
15 Her Past Relationship Woes
There is no love lost between Rachel Dolezal and her ex-husband, Kevin Moore. The couple married in 2000 but their union lasted only a few years. By 2004, Dolezal had filed for divorce citing physical, emotional, verbal and s*xual abuse. She also filed for sole custody of their only child, Franklin. According to Joshua Dolezal, Rachel's brother, she confided in him about the rocky marriage, saying, "He hasn't hit me yet but he's thrown me by my hair twice. I'm scared. The other day I was walking out of the bathroom and he bumped me with his hip and I fell down." Joshua Dolezal put this information in his memoir, "Down from the Mountaintop." While Moore has yet to make public comments about his ex-wife's recent fame and controversy, it's obvious there is no reconciliation in this former couple's future.
“Please remember that Franklin is my son and tells me everything,” Moore wrote Dolezal on July 9, 2004, according to official court records. “We both know the things that you have said to other adults about me in the past, but please try to remember that the things that you have said are not actually true.”
14 Her Parents Severed Their Relationship With Her
Lawrence "Larry" and Ruthanne Dolezal reacted pretty much how any parents would if they found out that their completely Caucasian daughter had switched ethnicities. Wh-whaat? How is that even possible? Ruthanne explained it by stating that her daughter, who they have not spoken to in years, is a master of disguise.
"Rachel has chosen to be someone she's not," Ruthanne said in the first interview that blew their daughter's cover. "She's chosen not to just be herself but to represent herself as an African-American woman or as a biracial person. Yes, Rachel is a master artist and so she's able to disguise herself and make her appearance look like any ethnicity. She could have accomplished the work she's set out to do in the beginning by being herself and being a white woman who's an advocate for the African-Americans."
“I don’t see why they’re in such a rush to whitewash some of the work that I have done, and who I am, and how I’ve identified,” Rachel Dolezal said about her parents on The Today Show. “This goes back to a very early age with my self-identification with the black experience as a very young child.”
13 Despite Everything, She Has Vowed To Return To Black Activism
"I definitely feel like in America... there is still a line drawn in the same, there still are sides," Rachel Dolezal said in an interview. "Politically, there is a black side and a white side. And I stand unapologetically on the black side." Her recently released memoir, In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World promises to address the transracial issues that she faced in her childhood as well as the controversy that has surrounded her ever since her interview on the street with a local Spokane, Washington reporter went viral.
"I don't identify as African-American," Dolezal said. "I identify as black so I'm part of the pan-African diaspora. I stand with my own sense of the self and my internal values. And I also stand with the greater cause of challenging the myth of white supremacy."
12 The "Dad Issue" With Albert Wilkerson
The issue of Rachel Dolezal's dad is what helped propel her into the spotlight for her fifteen minutes of fame. Albert Wilkerson is a volunteer and activist who met Dolezal at Human Rights Education Institute. Dolezal worked as the educational director at the institute in Idaho from 2008 to 2010.
“We have worked together on educational and community things,” Wilkerson said when asked about his relationship with Dolezal. “Primarily in education. It has been a good acquaintance.”
An acquaintance is not the same thing as the tight-knit father/daughter relationship that Dolezal described to the media. Dan Dolezal, the brother of Rachel's biological father, Lawrence "Larry" Dolezal said that hearing that his daughter called another man her father upset him terribly.
“I think Albert was kind of baffled as well,” Dan Dolezal said in an interview. “When she started calling him Dad two or three years ago, it caused my brother quite a bit of pain.”
11 SNL Fans Have Begged Maya Rudolph To Impersonate Her
"I've been getting that thing kind of a daily basis," Maya Rudolph admitted when it came to people coming up to her and telling her that she would be perfect at playing Dolezal on an SNL skit. She finally complied but only for a moment on her former co-star Seth Meyers' show, Late Night with Seth Meyers. Apparently, fans of the famous sketch show had been hounding Rudolph ever since Rachel Dolezal's name gained popularity in the news, figuring that the funny lady would be as perfect imitating Dolezal as Tina Fey was with her Sarah Palin impersonation. Myers pretends to be the reporter and Rudolph donned what she called her "Rachel Dolezal wig." When asked if either of her parents were African-American, Rudolph pointed up at the wig and imitated Dolezal's confusion and irritation while being interviewed.
10 Her Younger Brother Sold Her Out To The Media
Or spoke his piece – however you prefer to think of it. Ezra Dolezal, the younger adopted brother of Rachel has been open about his feelings on his sister's race. After his older sister had moved to Spokane, Washington and started settling into a new life for herself, she called her younger brother with a warning.
"She just told me, 'Over here, I'm going to be considered black, and I have a black father. Don't blow my cover," Ezra Dolezal said. According to Ezra, she also urged him to refer to himself and Zach Dolezal, who is also African-American and adopted as her "blood brothers" rather than her adopted brothers. The younger Dolezal thinks that he knows where his sister's obsessions started. "She used to tell us that teachers treated her differently than other people and a lot of them acted like they didn't want her there," Ezra said. "Because of her work in African-American art, they thought she was a black student during her application, but they ended up with a white person." After this incident, Ezra stated that he noticed his sister becoming "hateful to white people."
9 Skin Deep Issues - Has She Been Honest About Her Transformation?
When Matt Lauer asked about her complexion, which has darkened over the years, she said, "I certainly don't stay out of the sun." Then she added, "and I also don't, as some of the critics have said, put on blackface as a performance." Unfortunately for Dolezal, Perez Hilton got his hands on the cold hard liquid truth... that Dolezal had been a faithful customer at a tanning salon called Palm Beach Tan in Spokane, Washington and regularly enjoyed the particular brand of a spray-on tan called "Mystic Tan". Seeing as how so many photos of Dolezal in her younger and visibly obvious Caucasian days have surfaced, we are not sure how she thought she could get away with lying about not tanning. "I certainly don't stay out of the sun" is a perfect example of lying by omission.
8 Her Brother Claimed That She Brainwashed Their Younger Brother
Lawrence "Larry" and Ruthanne Dolezal adopted four black children between 1993 and 1995; Zach, Ezra, Izaiah, and Esther. These children joined their family in addition to their two older biological children, Joshua and Rachel. Somewhere down the line, the family dynamic was horribly damaged and not made better when Rachel found out that her parents had come forward claiming that the NAACP president of the Spokane chapter was their white daughter who was misrepresenting her race.
In fact, after this revelation, it was later discovered that Rachel had lied on her job application, listing "black" as her race. She resigned from her position and a bitter war between herself and her parents ensued. She fought for and got full custody of her younger adopted brother, Izaiah, who calls her "his real mom" and she calls him "her birth son". Her other adopted brother, Ezra, claims that their sister brainwashed Izaiah into believing that their parents are racist. Ezra has given many interviews stating that he and his siblings were raised in a happy, loving home and denies that his adopted parents are racist.
7 Dolezal Has Seemingly Paved The Way For Others With Transracial Issues
Ja Du was born a white male named Adam but said that he identifies as Filipino and when he's around the music and food of the Filipino culture, he feels like he is in his own skin.
“I’d watch the history channel sometimes for hours you know whenever it came to that and you know nothing else intrigued me more but things about Filipino culture," Ja Du said. As for his preferred mode of transportation, he drives his purple custom Tuk Tuk around town which is a popular form of public transportation in the Philippines.
After Rachel Dolezal appeared on an episode of Dr. Phil, public awareness for the term "transracial" started to gain traction. Ja Du was inspired to create a Facebook group for people who consider themselves to be transracial. And some might say that we have Rachel Dolezal to thank.
6 Are Her Children Affected By The Negative Attention?
As of this writing, it is known that Rachel Dolezal has two biological sons, Franklin and Langston. She was also granted legal custody of her adopted son (and former adoptive brother) Izaiah. From all accounts and judging by the way she gushes about her love for all three of her children in interviews, it would be an easy assessment to say that Rachel Dolezal is a caring mother. But some critics of hers are worried about her children and how her lies and the negative controversy surrounding her might affect them one day.
One example of this is Rachel's many calls to the police for being the target of hate crimes. In one instance, she claimed that someone had come onto her property and left a noose hanging in order to taunt her and scare her children. Reporter Jeff Humphrey told her that it was later discovered that it was just a rope left behind by a previous owner and Dolezal claimed that she wasn't sure if that was true or not. When Humphrey pushed further suggesting she made up the hate crimes, she claimed that she would never instil this kind of fear in her children.
5 Kelly Osbourne Got In Trouble For Dressing As Dolezal For Halloween
When Kelly Osbourne took to her beloved Instagram in 2015 to post a photo of her in a very unique and "with the times" Halloween costume, she couldn't have had a clue of the outrage that she would receive. She probably just thought that she was being creative, with a costume that she took straight from the headlines. But by dressing up in a curly wig and posting the caption, "'kellyosbourne #CallMeRachel #MyCasualLook" - her Instagram followers knew just the Rachel that she was referring to and they were not happy about it. One of her followers wrote, "'WOW I actually thought you knew better... #fail #fail #fail."
Another one wrote, "This from the same person who was up in arms when her BFF made an insensitive comment about zendaya..." referring to Osbourne leaving the show Fashion Police after Giuliana Rancic made politically incorrect comments about singer Zendaya, commenting on her dreadlocks and stating that she probably smelled like "weed".
4 Not Everyone In Her Family Is Against Her
Esther Dolezal, who prefers to go by "Luna" according to her social media profile, is the younger adopted sister of Rachel. The younger Dolezal has been committed to her blog throughout her older sister, Rachel's journey in the media.
“I grew up in a pretty messed up family," Esther wrote on her public blog. "And by messed up, I don’t necessarily mean dysfunctional (we were that too), but just plain strange. I am a self-proclaimed orphan, so I have no mother to celebrate.”
"Esther aligned herself with Rachel and we haven’t had any contact with her," Ruthanne Dolezal, who adopted Esther at just three months old in 1995 with her husband, Lawrence "Larry." "She has decided not to have contact with us for over a year. Esther suffers from reactive attachment disorder and she seeks to cause trouble in the family. She is a chronic liar.”
3 She Had A DNA Test... Just To Make Sure?
Dolezal said that she knows who raised her but there was no biological proof that Lawrence "Larry" and Ruthanne Dolezal are her biological parents. She goes on to say that despite the existence of her birth certificate, she can not prove that they are her actual parents since she doesn't know of any medical witnesses to her birth. When someone on the "Glenn Beck Radio Program" heard an interview of Dolezal stating that she knows who raised her but there was no biological proof that Lawrence "Larry" and Ruthanne Dolezal are her biological parents, they suggested a DNA test and Beck said, "I don't need the proof! I have the picture of you with the freckled face and the blonde hair! You're clearly white! You freak!"
Dolezal ended up having a DNA test done. The results? 100% European. Color no one shocked. Dolezal said, "I don't need a lab to tell me who I am."
2 Her Brother Faced Allegations Of Assaulting A Black Child (But Was Cleared)
Rachel isn't the only Dolezal to make waves in the family. Though these are two very different ways of making waves, it was Rachel who accused her parents of finding a way to connect them. Her biological brother, Joshua Dolezal, an associate English professor and writer based in Iowa, was accused of inappropriate conduct with a minor, possibly a member of their family, and when their mother, Ruthanne Dolezal was asked to comment on the allegations that her son was facing, she said, "We will not comment on that." Her husband added, "It's better if we don't, it's a separate matter."
But in an interview, Rachel implied that her parents outed her as a white woman to the media as revenge because she chose to side with the person accusing her brother of the very serious crime. In the end, the charges were thrown out and Joshua's name was cleared but it appears as though the Dolezal family will be serving a life sentence in severed family ties.
1 The Viral Video That Started It All
It all started off with a seemingly simple enough interview on the street between Spokane, Washington's KXLY Channel 4 reporter, Jeff Humphrey and the president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, Rachel Dolezal. Humphrey asked Dolezal about various hate crimes that she had reported over several years which Dolezal was willing to talk about at great length. But as soon as Humphrey asks her a certain question (which we can assume is why the interview was taking place) Dolezal reacts as if she's been insulted and walks away, ignoring Humphrey.
The question? "Are you an African American?" It went something like this... Humphrey asked if her dad was ever able to make it to a ribbon-cutting ceremony in January. Dolezal said that her dad was unable to as he is suffering from lung cancer. Humphrey assures her that he would have been very proud of her had he been able to make it and then goes in for the kill. "Are your parents... are they white?" Humphrey asks and with that, Dolezal promptly exits, stage left and right into viral video fame.