Trisha Goddard says she thought racist abuse would end after Leigh Francis' Bo' Selecta apology — but it got worse
WHEN Bo’ Selecta! comic Leigh Francis finally apologised for his portrayal of Trisha Goddard on the show, she hoped it would end the years of racist abuse she and her family have endured.
But instead, the presenter and talk show host was bombarded with vile trolling which left her telling her daughter Billie: “I’m sick of being black.”
Trisha, 62, was in tears as she discussed the toxic online response with Billie, 30.
The star, who as a child tried to hide her skin colour from bullies using talcum powder, told The Sun: “I said, ‘Bills, I’ve decided I’m not going to be black any more’.
“She felt so sad for me, and I said, ‘I’m too exhausted. I can’t use talcum powder, it doesn’t fly any more. And when it rains, people will see I’m not white. I’m sick of being black’.”
She added: “We were laughing through the tears but it is hard. It is weird to find it so hard just being the way you are.”
The backlash against Trisha started after Leigh publicly apologised last month for impersonating her by wearing a rubber mask that exaggerated her nose and lips on his hit C4 show in the early 2000s.
His remorse was prompted when Trisha commented on his earlier Black Lives Matter Instagram post, describing the pain his insensitive impression had caused her.
She said: “Everybody was jumping on it, and I just put a very polite message, because I’m old school, saying, ‘Yeah, this is great, but are you aware of the hurt, to not just myself but a lot of people of colour, this caused?’ ”
Leigh — who now plays the character Keith Lemon in comedy panel show Celebrity Juice — initially deleted Trisha’s comment.
He then had a long conversation with Billie in which she told him how she and sister Madison, 26, were bullied mercilessly at school because of his cruel depiction of their mother.
Trisha said: “She told him about her experiences as a direct result of his characterisation of me.
“I didn’t know the extent of what my daughters went through.
“He was devastated, and the next thing I knew there was an apology on his Instagram. I didn’t ask, I didn’t know, I wasn’t expecting.
Every time one of us speaks out, we think maybe the networks won’t touch us again because they see us as troublemakers
“He took my remarks down pretty much minutes after I put them up, so I just thought, ‘He won’t be the first, won’t be the last’.
“Then he chose to apologise — and that was when s**t started.”
Trolls accused Trisha of trying to ruin Leigh’s career and told her to learn to take a joke.
Others claimed she was “jumping on the bandwagon” or using the issue to try to revive her career.
Trisha, who now lives in the US, said: “People say things like, ‘You’re doing this to resurrect your career’, and I want to say, ‘F*** off’.
“Every time one of us speaks out, we think maybe the networks won’t touch us again because they see us as troublemakers.
“So many black singers and celebrities have had the same experience. Your fear is that if you rock the boat, you won’t get work again.”
In fact, Trisha has been speaking out for years about how offensive she found Bo’ Selecta!, which also mocked other black celebs such as Craig David and Spice Girl Mel B.
She said: “I don’t like blackface full-stop because of the history of it, but the big lips, the big nose, the Jamaican accent — it was the worst.
“I was amazed at how many people said they felt deeply uncomfortable watching Leigh’s show but like me, they were told it was just a joke.
"I’m not the only one but everyone thinks you are a spoilsport if you speak out.”
She added: “Has it affected my mental health? Yeah, I’ve got pretty low, I’ve got pretty down about it. What have I done wrong here?”
The vile messages Trisha receives daily are also a cruel reminder of the racism she has faced all her life.
Last month she broke down in tears on ITV show Lorraine as she recalled mixing talcum powder with water as a little girl and applying it to her skin to pretend she was white after being bullied.
She told The Sun: “I felt ashamed and was beaten up and called the N-word.
"I didn’t want to tell Mum because she was from the Windrush generation that helped Britain — they were working their guts out. I thought I’d failed.”
Trisha’s mum Agnes, a nurse, died of lung cancer in 2004.
In the 1950s she had migrated from Dominica to Britain in response to a government appeal for labour after World War Two.
Trisha recalls her mum’s work ethic and her strength in standing up to racist skinheads.
She said: “When I was a little girl we all went on a picnic with Mum and these skinheads surrounded us.
“We were having fish and chips and Mum jumped up and said, ‘Big men, big men, come and threaten a woman and her babies. Come on, big men’ — my mum was brilliant — and they went away.”
But there is also pain when she recalls how terminally ill Agnes was nursed by the family — including Trisha’s white stepdad, who at the time she thought was her natural father — while Bo’ Selecta! was at its peak.
She said: “One of the really painful things I’m almost scared to talk about was in 2004 when he (Leigh) was at the height of his popularity doing that.
“We were nursing Mum through her final days. Dad was nursing her at home. It was just a s**tstorm on top of another s**tstorm.”
While Trisha didn’t let the offensive characterisation take over her life, she found it did make the family tragedy harder to deal with.
She said: “His characterisation of me wasn’t all-consuming — it was just another piece of s**t in the puzzle. The hardest thing was Mummy going through that, and driving to Norfolk to her.”
Despite the trolling, Trisha is glad that conversations about race are finally happening.
And she welcomes Leigh’s apology, as well as one from Ant & Dec, who did a blackface sketch on Saturday Night Takeaway in 2003, for which they recently said sorry.
It’s unfair that the Ants and Decs or Leigh Francises of the day are having to post a personal apology – when it should have been the networks
But she would rather the apology came from TV executives instead of it being left to individuals.
She said: “The message should not have come from Ant and Dec.
“Their message should have been a tiny part of it. It should have been the network saying, ‘As a result, we’ve moved on from there and as a result of X, Y and Z we’ve done better’.
"Any of us can come up with ideas that are a bit dim or downright offensive. In TV we don’t just come up with something that goes straight on air. There are producers, there are executive producers, there are commissioning editors.
"It’s a whole network decision that was done in those days. When these things happened there were entire organisations signing them off.
“In many ways it’s unfair that the Ants and Decs or Leigh Francises of the day are having to post a personal apology — and both of us get s**t for it — when it should have been the networks.”
While Trisha supports the message of Black Lives Matter, she is sceptical about some elements of the movement.
The campaign has come under fire for supporting far-Left policies and allegedly anti-Semitic tweets sent from the BLMUK Twitter account.
Speaking about Black Lives Matter, Trisha said: “I’m not saying I’m against it but a lot of times groups start as being angry against the system and then become a system themselves.
"There’s all this political debate about the group and it detracts from the actual issues.”
Instead, Trisha believes the most important way to tackle racism here is with education.
She supports the Black Curriculum campaign, which seeks to change the UK school syllabus so black history is taught.
We owe them the truth about how Britain was built — the blood, sweat, pain, the tears
She said: “We owe young people a path to not feeling disenfranchised, not feeling frightened, not feeling hijacked. We owe them the truth about how Britain was built — the blood, sweat, pain, the tears.
“They deserve honesty and truth, rather than this stupid whitewashed version that is causing a whole section of Britain a lot of pain and emboldening another section of Britain into absolute nastiness driven by some kind of fear Britain is going to be overrun.
“This isn’t about political correctness. It’s about the facts.”
For Trisha, the current debate about racism is just the start of what she hopes will be long-term change. It is something she wishes happened when she was younger.
Racism is something she “lived quietly with” for years, Trisha said, but now there is the momentum to shout it down.
She added: “There are people coming up, black, white and brown, and they deserve a better world.
“This is not just a hashtag for a day. It should be a long discussion.”
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