Alfonso Ribeiro (as Carlton) and Tom Jones sing on an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
YouTube screenshot

I was probably in my early teens when I first realized Tom Jones wasn’t black. My first exposure to him came when Alfonso Ribeiro did his “Carlton” dance on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.  Then there was that episode during which Jones actually appeared, and here was this man with an Afro and some seriously tanned skin. Jones looked black to me. But, of course, after research—and back then, that meant the good ole encyclopedia—Jones’ background had nothing black about it.

After decades of questions, Jones must have gotten tired of people asking about his nonexistent black background, and the singer has decided to get a DNA test. The 75-year-old singer says a lot of people still think he’s black.


“When I first came to America, people who had heard me sing on the radio would be surprised that I was white when they saw me. Because of my hair, a lot of black people still tell me I’m just passing as white,” Jones said in an interview.

Jones was born Thomas Jones Woodward in Pontypridd, South Wales. His mother Freda was of Welsh and English ancestry, and his father was of English descent. Even his mother was questioned about her ethnicity when she was born. According to Jones, she was born with dark patches all over her body.

Nowadays, DNA tests that trace your ancestry are pretty commonplace. From to 23andMe, with something as simple as a sample of your saliva, you’ll be able to get information about your ancestry.

What will be interesting to see with Jones’ results, if he makes them public, is whether the speculation about his African ancestry is true. Considering that a lot of British people are descendants of Vikings, Romans, Indians and Africans, Jones may not have to wonder much longer where his tan and his coarse hair come from.

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