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Multiracial Voices : What's Your Sound?

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

September 11, 2007

Comments (4)

What do genetics have to do with your voice?

If you come from a multiracial or blended ethnic heritage, your voice may be just as intriguing to listen to as your physical image is to see.

What's your sound?

Biracial Family

Do you have a blended ethnic heritage that has given you a unique voice or vocal attributes?

Earlier yesterday on CBC Radio One, I heard an interesting segment about how in Canada there are now quite a number of people who have entered into mixed marriages, that is to say, people of different ethnicities marrying each other, and how those unions have produced a new, fresh cultural reality in Canada.

According to the program, there is more diversity in phenotypes (what you look like), and business people, particularly those in advertising, have been quick to build commercials and ad campaigns around individuals with blended heritages for their racial ambiguity and cosmopolitan appeal.

To present some well known examples of celebrities with a mixed heritage, some people who come to mind are Tiger Woods, Vin Diesel, Tyson Beckford, Soledad O'Brien, Halle Berry, Eartha Kitt, and Alicia Keys.

While it's obvious in print or on camera, it isn't as obvious when you are listening to a voice over, however, I think we should delve into this a bit further.

Sometimes when you listen to a voice you can classify their regional background if not nationality. It's easy for instance to pick out a Brooklyn accent, the Cockney accent or an Aussie, but it is a little bit harder to pigeonhole a hybrid voice type.

Perhaps you were born of parents from different ethnic backgrounds and can elaborate more on how you feel your voice, whether in timbre (vocal quality / color) or accent, is unique due much in part to the blended genetics you are blessed to have.

Can you relate to what I've said?

Add a comment mentioning what makes your voice different and the cultural heritage you possess as well as where you grew up.

Cheers,

Stephanie

©©©iStockphoto.com/Ronnie Comeau

Related Topics: Accent, Celebrities, radio, union


Comments


    Lookin for some more inspiration?

    Consider the phenomenal careers of these dedicated VO folks who've inspired me:

    Phil Morris, Kevin Michael Richardson, Alex Fernandez, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Dave Michie, Iona Morris, John Garry, Denise Dowse, Al Chalk, Cree Summer, Mark Gerson, Cristina Soria and certainly Rodney Saulsberry, a man who has shared his experience so generously with so many.

    (And I had the honor of representing Eartha Kitt, George Lopez, Amy Hill, Paul Rodriguez, Chuck D., and so many others celebs who did such wonderful work that they teased buyers into hiring more and more scale players in their genre.)

    Not droppin' names - just showin' that celebs sometimes help the big picture by opening up the minds of buyers for up-&-coming scale players, and offering some names that others can study as role models.

    -Nancy Wolfson
    braintracksaudio.com

    Posted by:

      I'd say that Genetics has little to do with what we sound like. If we are born to Indian parents in London, we'll sound cockney. However, if our parents moved to Glasgow instead of London when we were 2 years old, we'll be impossible to understand (as all Scots are :-0). How we sound has a lot less to do with our parents than where we were raised and have lived.

      Without realizing it, as kids we mimic our peers. If our best friends speak with a particular accent, we morph our accent to resemble theirs. Or we mimic the sound of people who have done something to which we aspire.

      I don't have mixed racial heritage but I've been in the US for 18 years after spending 7 years in the Middle East and living my first 19 years in the UK. A lot of the work I book through my agent is for clients looking for a hard-to-place accent. No-one can tell where I was born, much less my ethnic heritage.

      Diversity casting for both on-camera and VO is increasing. Advertisers can appeal to the complete spectrum by using actors whose ethnicity and accents are ambiguous. Having parents of different races will rarely be a help. Moving around a lot (especially as a child) will be a huge plus.

      Posted by:

        This is going to be long and I am exhausted so there will likely be typos, but this is a subject that is very dear to me.

        Today, I am a black man, but I wasn't black until 5th grade... that's serious. I grew up in a neighborhood that was amazingly diverse. My first kiss at 9 years old was Sharon... caramel skin and a slight southern draw. My first kid-girlfriend was Yong Suk. Her family moved in next door to mine, straight from Korea. My first REAL girlfriend was Sue, a self described "hilljack princess". My best enemy/friend (you know how kids are) was Tony. I had never seen anyone with darker skin and his family was from Alabama. The boys from West Virginia, Matthew and Patrick lived 4 doors down and they were at my house to play every morning during summer vacation. I was BLESSED to be surrounded by this rainbow during my formative years. The thing was... I didn't think about it. Nobody had a color, we were all just who we were.

        My parents-dad mostly-REFUSED to let me speak in any way that would insinuate that my brain was not functioning at full capacity. I would have paid dearly for using the word "aint" in my house. THEN, when I was in the 5th grade, the school system began counting kids for desegregation. They told me I was black, I told them they were wrong. I had ROSY CHEEKS for goodness sake! They made me call my mother from the school office and my world came to a philosophical stop sign as she said "If they must call you something, they can call you a Negro."

        Have you ever had your heart just stop beating for a moment????

        Well, here I was, a black, negro, rosy-cheeked child, lost in my formerly safe little sensible world. I didn't talk like the other black kids. I didn't dress like them. I didn't act like them. Somebody was not playing fair.

        As I grew older, into my teens, I learned to turn the "ying yang" on and off, depending upon the audience.
        I became kind of a class clown and I could make you laugh a la Richard Pryor or Robin Williams, depending on who you were. Eventually I got my first gig doing mornings at an urban station and the complaints came rolling in. "Who is the white man?" "Why do we need a white guy on the station?"

        I was amazed. I was articulate, intelligent, had opinions and a sense of humor, so I had to be white? Wow...

        Well, I wanted the job so I changed my sound. Over the next few days, each day I went a little deeper into the stereotypical urban radio male persona. I did that every day for 4 years. When I left the station, it took me a year to get back to my regular voice. During that time it was very difficult to get commercial work. I couldn't shake that sound. You see, the black male was more than a voice, he was the person I became which is why I can't do an impersonation or character today without waving my arms and making faces. I have to BECOME the voice, not just do it.

        The changes I went through to accommodate the racial wants of people around me really bugged me... then. Today, I realize that there was far more benefit to the turmoil than I realized.

        Posted by:

          Chuck,

          I feel your pain. I am a black female. On urban radio, it wasn't unusual for me to be told I sounded white. I do remember being asked by the general manager of a white rock station to fill in during a station emergency.

          On the other hand, I struggle with posting my picture on websites, because then the general market client assumes I have an "ethnic" sound.

          I know that I sounded "white" on urban radio because I spoke clearly, that is the way I was raised. Not black, not white, just plain old clear speaking!

          What's a girl to do?

          Posted by:

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