In today’s day and age, wearing makeup is becoming the norm. There’s no woman’s face in the world that doesn’t have a touch of foundation, mascara, lipstick, and other makeup on it. But, another thing that’s becoming the norm is getting rid of all these things off your face when the day comes to an end.
But, one woman never took off her makeup, she kept it on even when she was going to sleep. She wouldn’t remove her makeup, and instead, she slept with the makeup she wore the previous day. Her daughter was always wondering about her mother’s strange habits but never asked her why she did it. And, even when she managed to ask her why she’s doing that, she would never answer. The girl knew that there needed to be something in the past that made her mother behave like that. So, she decided to dig deeper and what she found out would change her in many ways.
For Gail Lukasik, her mother was always her role model. Alvera Rita, Gail’s mother, was a stunningly beautiful woman, and it was pretty straightforward for her to get anyone she wanted to get. She met Gail’s father, Harold, during WWII. And, Harold (as many guys think) thought he knew every little thing about his wife. But, facts would prove him wrong, because his wife was hiding one really dark secret from everybody in her life, including her family.
Harold and Alvera were an instant match. They both had a fantastic sense of humor. But, Alvera was amazed by Harold’s joyful persona and a remarkable sense of humor. The two felt an instant connection between them and knew that they wanted to be together for the rest of their lives. But, Harold wasn’t aware of the mistake she was about to make.
After WWII ended, back in 1994, the two decided to get married, and bought a house in a working-class neighborhood in Parma, OH. And, after two years, little Gail was brought to this world.
According to our norms, Gail had a pretty normal childhood. She had two loving parents along with her side, who spent most of the time taking care of her. But, Gail didn’t stay blind to her mother’s seemingly mysterious behavior.
While she was still growing up, she would notice some unusual things that her mother was doing each and every day. And although she tried asking her mother numerous times, she never got an answer. But, Gail was mostly stressed about one thing.
Alvera had one particular rule when it came to her makeup. And, that was the fact that she always had to wear even a light foundation when she went to sleep. And, her daughter thought that it was strange that her mother was doing that. So, she decided to ask her for the reasoning behind this. And here’s something that her mother gave her as the answer as to why she was wearing makeup during the night. “Well, Gail, you never know when you are going to get sick. What if, in the middle of the night, the ambulance would come? You always want to look your best, because you would get treated better at the hospital.” But, Gail wasn’t satisfied with that answer, so she decided to dig deeper.
Gail also noticed that her mother would never go out in the sun except when she was wearing a hat on. She also always covered her hands with gloves. She basically avoided the sun at all costs. But, the way that Alvera talked about her family mystified Gail the most, and she couldn’t wrap her head around it.
She would always ask questions about Alvera’s parents. Gail was mostly interested in her grandfather because of the fact that she never met him. Azemar Frederic, Gail’s grandfather, was a figure in her life that she never met. She always asked questions about him, but her mother would only give her vague answers that were really short and didn’t actually answer the questions.
Among these questions were questions like when her grandfather was born, or when did he die. But, her mother’s answers would always be that she doesn’t know or she can’t remember, and this was really strange to Gail. She couldn’t understand how her mother knew nothing about Azemar, her grandfather.
Not seeing or meeting her grandfather was one thing, but she never saw any photos of him either. She just couldn’t wrap her head around it. So she went with her gut feeling and dug deeper. And, after a couple of years, she finally gathered the strength to look for the answers to her questions by herself.
After nearly 5 decades of staying quiet, Gail decided to start looking for her grandfather. And, that was the first piece of the puzzle that she decided to solve. She found microfilm and started looking for him. She was pretty consistent despite the fact that she couldn’t find anything about him. And when Gail was about to give up, she found something that sent shivers down her spine.
She put in the 1900 Louisiana Census records, and she came across the name she was looking for all the time – Frederic Azemar. There were lots of Frederics in the column, and she started reading the info that was beside them, and that’s when she noticed something really strange.
All the names in the column had the letter “B” next to them. She didn’t know what this meant, so she started looking for an explanation.
The letter “B” beside the names of the people in the column meant that they were black. The letter was explaining their skin color.
Gail didn’t know if her mother knew about it. But, she decided to look it up before she confronts her. So, she asked the state of Louisiana to send her a copy of her mother’s birth certificate. A couple of days after, she finally had the piece of paper in her hands. And, when she took a look at it, she couldn’t believe her eyes.
She got the birth certificate, and she quickly started going through it. But not too long after she started reading it, she ran into some unfamiliar acronym that stood under one section. The acronym was “col.” She didn’t know what this acronym stood for, so she decided to get in touch with the state again and ask them.
She spoke with a person on the phone, asked what the “col” acronym stands for. Not too long after she spoke to the person, she got a letter explaining the acronym to her. And, when she opened the letter to read it, she was shocked.
The letter was explaining the acronym for Gail, and in it, she read that the acronym meant “colored.” Gail was left speechless. She didn’t know if her mother knew that in her certificate of birth, it said that she was colored. She didn’t know what to do with the information she had. She decided to hold on to the information and dig deeper in order to find out more about her mother’s past before she confronted her.
Gail kept the information to herself for the next couple of years. And, she constantly had questions running through her head. She wanted to know if her mother knew about the situation if she knew the information written on her birth certificate. She also wanted to know why she was hiding this and why hasn’t she shared anything with her family. And, one day, Gail decided to put an end to everything and get the answers to each and every one of her questions. So, she decided to confront her mother.
After waiting for two whole years, Gail finally got the strength to confront her mother about the information that was written in her birth certificate. So, she asked her mother to sit down and decided to ask her the questions that were echoing in her mind for the past two years. The first answer that Gail got left her speechless.
After confronting her with the question, her mother gave Gail a short and straightforward answer. “I don’t know what birth certificate you have, but mine says I’m white!” she stated. But, Gail was not satisfied with this answer because she knew that her mother was lying, so she asked her one more question.
Gail was calm because she knew what she saw. She told her mother that she found all the documents and that she knows that her grandfather was also listed as black. She thought that now she had her mother between a rock and a hard place. She explained how she found the birth certificate and what the acronym “col” stands for, she also showed her the B beside her grandfather’s name. And this finally left Alvera quiet for some time. And, once she started talking, she explained why she did what she did.
With a sad look in her eyes and trembling voice, she said. “You have to promise me, you will never tell anyone until after I die.” She stopped again, to gather her thoughts, “Because how will I hold my head up with my friends if they know?” Gail didn’t know what to say, but the words that were about to come out of her mother’s mouth would break her heart even more.
So, everything started to make sense for Gail. Her mother’s wearing makeup all the time, hiding from the sun, wearing a hat, and gloves all the time… Alvera was passing for a white woman throughout her life. But what Gail couldn’t seem to understand was why Alvera would be pretending to be another race?
To be fair, in all her photos as well as in real life, Alvera looked white. But, in her birth certificate, it was clear that she was black. So, how did Gail’s mother manage to hide that?
Alvera knew that her husband would never accept her if he knew that he was a black woman. So, when they met, she had to cut off her parents to marry her loved one. Alvera Rita also explained to Gail that her parents were black as well. Her grandfather was African-American, and her grandmother was mixed. She had to leave them in her past if she wanted to start a new life as a white woman. But why did she change her race?
Well, as we mentioned before, Gail’s father had many different opinions from her mother. And, as it was typical for those times, he wasn’t too fond of African-Americans. He would continuously say racist stuff, which made the two constantly argue because of their different views. Alvera knew that her husband would never be that if she was black, so she had to change her race if she wanted to get married to him.
“I know my mother wanted a better life for herself. And the way she saw that was to pass for white. She would have more opportunities for employment and in society in general. To do that, she had to turn her back on her mixed-race heritage and leave her family behind. It was a big sacrifice. She could never live her true authentic self. “Gail stated.
After her mother’s death back in 2017, Gail Lukasik decided to publish her mother’s story in her book “White Like Her: My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Passing.” In it, she talked about all the struggles that her mother had, and why she had to do that. But, she also gives her own opinion on the whole ordeal.