Tamera Mowry-Housley looks back on childhood stardom — and competing for just a few roles for Black girls

Are the Kids Alright? is Yahoo Entertainment's video interview series exploring the impact of show business on the development and well-being of former child entertainers, from triumphs to traumas.

Looking back on her time as a child star in the '90s, what stands out to Tamera Mowry-Housley is that a lot of roles were off limits to her.

"When I started in the business, I mean, it was like there was one or two or three roles that came up and everybody and their mother — meaning a woman of color, if it was for a woman of color — were trying out for that role," Mowry-Housley tells Yahoo Entertainment. "And it was like, 'Oh my gosh, I hope this time I get a chance,' you know, and I can remember feeling that there just wasn't enough and you get, you know, nervous about that."

Still, she and her twin sister, Tia, and their younger brother, Tahj, managed to snag roles on Full House and, for the girls, Sister, Sister, their own sitcom on ABC's highly rated TGIF lineup, which aired for six seasons beginning in 1994.

Tamera Mowry, right, starred alongside her twin, Tia, in
Tamera Mowry, right, starred alongside her twin, Tia, in Sister, Sister from 1994 to 1999. (Photo: ABC/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Yet even once the Mowry twins were a big deal, they faced obstacles because of their race and gender. Like that time that an unnamed magazine refused to put the girls on their cover, simply because they were Black.

"When that magazines denied us, that's when racism really started to rear its ugly head in our lives. And it was very unfortunate," Mowry-Housley says. "When you are clearly not given the opportunity, when all the other variables add up that you should, that's when you go, 'Oh, damn. We've shown A, B, C, D ... the entire alphabet of reasons why we should be on this cover, but you're choosing to not put us on your cover, because you said, 'It was because you guys are Black.' And they said, 'You don't fit our demographic.' Literally."

The actress's mother had warned her daughters that such incidents might happen when they first showed interest in the entertainment industry. They had been inspired while watching soap operas, especially Days of Our Lives. The women were so glam, even when they were just sitting at home, awaiting more dramatic adventures.

"I remember asking my mom, 'How do you get into TV like that? I want to, I want to do that,'" Mowry-Housley says. "But my mother, she did say, 'I just want you to know, not only are you a woman and it's gonna be harder, but you are a Black woman, so it's gonna be double, double hard. So you're gonna have to work extra hard. I don't want that to deter you from achieving your dreams… Never give up and work hard at it. You can, you can achieve it."

Three decades later, Mowry-Housley says she sees somewhat of a change for the better.

Tamera Mowry-Housley looks back on her time as a child star. (Photo: Paul Archuleta/Getty Images)
Tamera Mowry-Housley looks back on her time as a child star. (Photo: Paul Archuleta/Getty Images)

"I feel very blessed to be alive now and being able to see this beautiful shift, because women of color, people of color have been very vocal about the discrepancies in pay and in opportunity and roles in Hollywood," Mowry-Housley says. "And also the acknowledgement, you know, being nominated for awards."

Mowry-Housley herself has had a long career, appearing in shows such as Strong Medicine, Melissa and Joey and, most recently, the Masked Singer. She also co-hosted The Real from 2013 to 2020, and currently hosts Hallmark's Home and Family and a new baking competition, Baker's Dozen, which debuts Oct. 7 on Hulu.

— Video produced by Olivia Schneider and edited by Jimmie Rhee