The Mixed Race Project: Meet Leslie & Hank’s Family

June 4, 2012 |  Category:   photography

I don’t know why it takes so long to get a new Mixed Race Project feature up (no, scratch that…I do know why), but I’m excited to introduce Leslie & Hank’s family from Long Beach, California. I was particularly excited to have the opportunity to photograph a family with older kids while we were out in LA earlier this year and both Leslie and Hank were so thoughtful with their interview questions. I hope you enjoy their feature as much I had the pleasure of meeting them.


Every time I publish a new family, it gives me renewed energy for the project. I may not have the time to devote to it as I’d like and it may take forever to get a new family feature up, but going through the photos and reading through the written interviews gives it a renewed purpose and reminds me why I started the project in the first place. As we do every year, we’ll be out in the Pacific Northwest this August. If you live in Portland or Olympia (I think we have Seattle covered! I may still be looking for a Seattle family) and would be interested in participating in the Mixed Race Project, email me at

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  • gia June 4, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    Wow, great family. I really enjoyed reading about them. I have a friend who is 30 like me, and she is deeply offended when people ask her what she is (she is asian/vietnamese). It surprised me to hear that, because if I ask someone that, it is purely me wanting to get to know them. Those kinds of miscommunication worry me, but I’d like to have faith that my pure intentions shine through. It’s nice to hear that maybe they do.

  • oni June 4, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    I grew up and currently live in Long Beach, and wholeheartedly agree with them when they talk about how racially diverse it is. My mother also made the conscious decision to send me to school where a multitude of cultures and ethnicities were represented. As a result I have never felt defined by any one culture and have the pleasure of taking part in many different celebrations (like Cambodian New Year which is a big deal here). I’m am able to meet and relate to so many different people and am so happy that others are raising their kids the same way.

  • FrenchGirl June 4, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    As a French reader, I am always amazed by how important the race and the background are in the United States. To me, when someone is 5th generation French, I never ask what his/her background is, whereas I’ve been asked many times by American friends what mine was. It’s a very unexpected cultural difference, just like it was impossible to be “only” French or American. I guess the model of integration in the society makes those differences.

    We never use the word “race” and talk mostly about different cultures, and diversity is always seen as a positive thing on the general opinion (even thought it is not always the case at the individual level). The notion of race is seen in french as pejorative and will not be used. The community thing is also less an issue today, since the french model enhances the assimilation and not the valorization of the different communities.

    I find this Mixed-Race project very interesting and I love reading about those families. I love the care we can feel on your pictures.

  • Nancy June 4, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    I’m kind of in love with this family! The kids are gorgeous. Also, what Hank said about people asking “What are you?” is interesting because I am Jewish and caucasion but I am asked that question often too because I have olive skin tone and I’m married to a Puerto Rican, so sometimes people get confused or curious.

  • Sharon @ Currently Coveting June 4, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    I’m so happy to see another entry for The Mixed Race Project. I want to give you continued encouragement and support for this really great and awesome project. I feel that this is a thoughtful, important, and very relevant thing that you are creating. I look forward to seeing it develop and evolve as time goes on. Thank you Jenna!

  • Tina June 4, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    I agree with commenter French Girl about how it seems race is so important in America. I grew up biracial in Northern California and spent many, many years satisfying the curiosity of strangers, etc. as to what my racial background is. It seems it is never enough to be “American” in America. Once I moved to London at age thirty, I was suddenly 100% American. I don’t think I have ever been asked my ethnic background here, except on NHS forms!

    Anyway, this is another lovely family you and I appreciated reading their views about their kids’ generation and the idea of being multiethnic now. My husband (biracial as well), daughter, and I are also a black/asian/caucasian mix.

    Do keep up this project!

  • Jennelle June 4, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    Yay, glad to “meet” another family! Being a part of a mixed race family myself, I would love to see this project continue on.

    Oh, and should you need another family from NYC we’d totally be interested in sharing our story :)

  • Aya June 4, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Thank you. I love this project. What a gorgeous family!
    I related to the generational difference between the father and his kids. For my father growing up in Iowa in the fifties and sixties, being Sicilian-Japanese was difficult. For me, growing up in the eighties and nineties in Berkeley, CA it’s been a point in pride. I get the questions all the time and my reaction is heavily reliant on how I am asked. Sometimes it’s invasive–when it’s the first question, when they ask me “what are you?” or when they don’t take “American” as my answer for “what is your nationality?” (I am answering your question. I am nationally American). Other times people are curious and kind and I am happy and proud to share. My boyfriend is Polish and Welsh and I can’t wait to stir the pot some more. Ethnically ambiguous is where the world’s heading! Can’t wait.
    phew…long comment. sorry.

  • Pink Ronnie June 4, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    Beautifully shot and curated, Jenna.
    Ronnie xo

  • Elle June 4, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    I used to get super annoyed/ near offended when people would ask me “what are you?” or “what nationality are you?” <- thinking they're being more politically correct but actually being more dumb because they don't know its definition.
    I was really annoyed because it wasn't my friends or acquaintances because they were curious (which is completely normal), it was strangers. My initial reaction was "I don't you, why should divulge my personal information to you?"

  • Roseann June 4, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    This is really beautiful, and such an important endeavor. Your photography is inspiring. You should publish a book!

  • Christine Witt (Brush Dance) June 4, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    Beautiful family. I hope you’re able to do more of these, but also know how time has a habit of slipping away from us – especially with children, jobs, etc.

  • jen June 4, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    i truly love these series. it’s so fascinating. i too have bi-racial kids but i live in oakland so it’s kind of the norm here.

  • Kate365til30 June 5, 2012 at 12:15 am

    Beautiful project and beautiful photo. I love forward to more!!!!

  • mickie June 5, 2012 at 10:17 am

    loved this so much 😉

  • Shirley June 5, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    I agree with Roseann that this series should be published into a book! Not that you need to add more work on your plate, but it would be amazing. I was dead tired from work, putting toddler to bed, etc before reading this but I am so glad I did. I loved this family and can see how much care and joy they put into raising their family. I am Chinese and my husband is Caucasian/Jewish and I can relate to how the father felt about being asked his racial identity. I grew up in a mostly white area very close to the south and the questions were asked more out of ignorance and bigotry (WHERE.ARE.YOU.FROM? spoken very slowly and loudly even though I spoke fluent English). I can only imagine that he dealt with a great deal more prejudice, but the experience certainly shaped my world view and life experience. I agree with them that this next generation will be just fine- we live in a diverse enough area now that hopefully my daughter will not feel the same isolation that I did growing up. Thank you so much for taking the time to write/take photos and share these stories. They are so, so important. Wonderful work!

  • siri June 6, 2012 at 5:58 am

    I love that last quote from Hank. Says it all.

  • Simone June 6, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    If I have to be honest race confuses me enormously. My husband is partly Indonesian, our daughters are blond-ish with blue eyes.
    Thinking about Prince, who qualifies as black/ afro-american? And what about Rashida Jones? What about her beautiful mother, I mean she is a caucasian (or whatever you are supposed to call it) and then people look at her childeren and they are defined as on the other side of an invisible line, or they might define themselves on the other side of that line. Of course the line is only real if you give it importance.
    Ideally it should be inconsequential but on the other hand it is relevant to know where you come from.
    As a child, good friends of my mother who were originally from Surinam, they have 4 childeren and all of them have a different shade of brown, their youngest (twins) are fair and blond with green eyes. The more I think about it the weirder and more contrived it gets you know? It cuts through hearts and is so ruthless thinking in that way or running into people with that thought-proces. I (a blond Dutch girl/ at the time) was named after Nina Simone (an afro american singer).

  • Sheila June 6, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    I love your project!! I was eager to get to know another family. The Stories, the photos, something that united us all. Keep the extraordinary work Jenna!!!

  • Kaci June 7, 2012 at 10:53 am

    To the reader above, you can simply be American in America, but if you’re talking about ethnicity/race, then you can’t just simply be American. I think people often confuse the two…

    Sometimes it confuses me how someone can pass off as American (as an ethnicity) if he/she is white. But if he/she is something other than white, even if he/she was born and raised in America, there is always that expected ethnic attachment. Like how someone would call themselves Japanese-American (even if they’re a 3rd generation American).