‘Where you from?’ LBC podcast asks how backgrounds shape some of today’s household names

23 May 2022, 11:41 | Updated: 23 May 2022, 14:45

“Where you from?” What makes this question so important? Why do people ask it and why is it interesting to them?
“Where you from?” What makes this question so important? Why do people ask it and why is it interesting to them? Picture: LBC/Alamy
Lillie Almond

By Lillie Almond

“Where you from?” It’s not a bad question - until it’s followed by, “Where you really from?”

Everything is about intent

Yo, I’m reporting from a lido, mid-pandemic - about Covid-safety measures. A woman comes up to the surrounding fence and starts asking the life-guard about senior swim.

She turns to me, and says: “What about you, where did you come from? I mean, you didn’t come from England.”

The lifeguard looks at me and I look at him.

The woman’s monologue at me continues for a while: “Oooohhhhh, so you must be his girlfriend, then?” She points at the lifeguard - grasping for why the girl with brown skin is sitting by this pool in rural England.

The woman ends with some weather talk, telling me that the soon-coming rain here will be “nothing like the type of rain that you’ve seen.” I’ve never been to Zambia, where my parents were born, so this is a really fascinating comment.

“Where you from?” What makes this question so important? Why do people ask it and why is it interesting to them? … and what does it really mean?

LBC reporter Lillie Almond sits down with big names to explore the question "Where you from?”

Lillie asks the impact that the question, "Where you from?" has had on these peoples’ lives. We explore how it makes them feel - and learn how their journeys have been shaped by this discourse.

Subscribe and listen to "Where you from?" on Global Player.

Ill-intent? Questionable. Worth discussing? Bring it.

I love my brown skin, the way it glows in the summer and reminds me to stay true to who I am.

And I have no beef with anyone asking where I’m from, I’m well proud of my background. The question is not bad in the slightest.

Moreover, questionable words don’t always equate to bad intent. Language dates and becomes problematic when it wasn’t initially meant to be - and that’s a challenge we can overcome together, if we choose to.

Yet we’re in a really polarised space today, man. Some people don’t like those who don’t match their demographic, and they show it in creepy, insidious ways. I come across a lot of weird comments that are not okay - and shady intent that shows an unwelcoming side of the world.

When people don’t think our first answer to the question is enough - and when they pursue, asking where I’m ‘really’ from - what are they actually getting at?

Why do they want this second answer? The first question may have had no ill-intent, but why do they ask this follow-up? Some questions and acts of profiling are meant with bad energy (consciously or not).

And unconscious bias? Maybe that still equates to inherent racism. This manifests itself in deep-seated issues; some of us still have to work infinitely harder than our peers for less money and less progress.

This has taught me a lot and it’s taught my family and friends a lot too. We see it and we clock it - and yo - we love who we are. So, imagine the impact it’s had on the people who’ve become household names - who’ve made it real big, who are absolutely slaying; the gamechangers.

So, I’ve made this series, “Where you from?” to unpack all of this, to ask champions how they feel about that question - and to learn how their answers have made them who they are today.

And when I say champions, I am not kidding. It’s been humbling hearing from: David Lammy, Nadiya Hussain, Nish Kumar, Harry aka White Yardie, Kwajo Tweneboa, Nazir Afzal, Patrick Hutchinson, Jaspreet Kaur, Sacha Brooks, Fazer, Benjamin Alexander and Shannon Singh for this series.

This conversation lends itself to infinite spaces, because of who it is relevant to: everyone. It isn’t exclusively specific to me, or to these brilliant stars we hear from in the podcast; it’s North/South, it’s 0121, it’s post-codes, it’s where we find ourselves in society, it’s class, it’s community, it’s family, it’s our past, present and future.

It’s everything.

“Where you from?” has been in the making for a lifetime - not just of mine, but of those we hear from in the series, and of all of us who’ve faced adversity while being our brilliant selves.