The British hitmaker, whose maternal grandfather is Yemeni and maternal grandmother Egyptian, detailed the bullying she experienced growing up and how it forced her to suppress her Arab identity, revealing that she regrets not embracing her heritage and roots.
“I had suppressed who I was because I wasn’t proud,” said the 27-year-old. “I had been bullied into thinking I should be ashamed of my identity, so I didn’t talk enough about my heritage in interviews. It makes me sad to think about it now,” she added.
The singer, who was joined by her mother Norma during the interview, says she now wants to represent the Arab world more now, explaining that her reluctance to embrace her heritage was due to lack of representation for her culture while growing up.
“When I was younger, I didn’t see enough representation of Arabs in magazines or on TV, and when I saw people who looked like my granddad they were always misrepresented. I regret now that I didn’t talk about it more, but I was young and scared. I’m trying to make up for it now,” stated the “Holiday” singer.
The 2011 “X-Factor” finalist revealed that growing up her grandfather used to play Arabic songs for her. She also spoke about attending Islamic school as a child.
Despite feeling unable to discuss her heritage during the early days of her career, Thirlwall revealed that she is now “connecting” with herself and is even learning Arabic.
She said: “As an adult I’m connecting more with my Arab side – it’s a shame that it’s taken me until now to understand that. Being Arab is a beautiful thing.”