What these 5 interracial couples want you to know about America and race.

On a plane ride back from Ketchikan, Alaska, a flight attendant stopped to compliment a passenger on his startling blue eyes.

Days later, the flight attendant, Mardra, received a three-page handwritten love letter from Chris, the blue-eyed passenger, with his phone number inscribed at the bottom. They met in person on a layover two weeks later, the entire flight crew in tow to catch a glimpse of the fated mystery man.

"You know, I was married, and I have a child," Mardra told Chris. "If you're not fine with that, thank you for coming out."


"I would love to take you out to dinner," he replied. A year later, they were married.

Chris and Mardra marrying in 1981. Photo courtesy of Chris Jay.

Though their earnest romance might seem like it was lifted directly from the pages of a Nicholas Sparks novel, Chris and  Mardra Jay will tell you there's more to their story.

It was the 1980s. She was black, and he was white. It had been a long time since 1967, the seminal year that Mildred and Richard Loving famously used their own love to overturn the ban on interracial marriage. Still, there was a long way to go.

Mardra recalls that often her husband's acquaintances wouldn't treat her with respect.

"They would say, 'You know your wife is colored, right?' Right in front of me," she says, adding that she felt like the two of them were a classroom for people who had never been exposed to an interracial couple.

Chris, 67, and Mardra, 72. Image courtesy of Chris Jay.

Now in their 60s and 70s, Chris and Mardra know there's been a lot of progress since they were young. Once a rarity, multiracial children are the second-fastest growing segment of the U.S. population according to official census data, and interracial marriage has lost much of its former taboo.

We spoke to four other interracial couples about their relationships in America today, and how far they think the nation has come.

1. Jill and Juan Cortés.

Juan, 60, and Jill Cortés, 55.  Image courtesy of Jill Cortés.

Though no one would say it, Jill Cortés often suspected the neighbors were only polite to her and her Latino husband, Juan, because of his social status.

"Sometimes I feel that they wouldn't have talked to us, but they did because Juan was a doctor. If he was a blue-collar worker, maybe people wouldn't have associated with us," she recalls.

Juan said that friends and family were always supportive, though he didn't remember a lot of interracial couples — or racial tolerance — growing up when his family would visit Texas.

"I remember being a teenager and being afraid to walk into a restaurant," he says. "I worry it's headed that way again."

2. John Krause and Maria Chua.

John Krause, 48, and Maria Chua, 45. Image courtesy of John Krause.

When John Krause and Maria Chua got married, they had to contend with racism from his mother.

One night after dinner, she took Maria aside to tell her that "it would be very difficult for the children."

"It literally got to the point where I had to tell my parents, if I have to pick between my parents and Maria, I'm picking Maria," Krause says, adding that, "sometimes people don't realize when they're being racist."

John's parents eventually came around, and the couple now has two daughters.

3. Neelam Pathikonda and Lisa DeWolf.

Lisa DeWolf, 43, and Neelam Pathikonda, 39. Image courtesy of Neelam Pathikonda.

After meeting on Facebook through mutual friends, Neelam Pathikonda asked Lisa DeWolf on a date.

"I saw Lisa and pretty much lightweight stalked her online," Neelam says with a laugh. After they met, Lisa sold her house, quit her job, and moved to L.A. to be with Neelam. They married in 2013, in a traditional Hindu ceremony.

Neelam Pathikonda and Lisa Dewolf during their wedding. Photo courtesy of Neelam Pathikonda.

The wedding made some family members — especially those who hadn't originally supported their union— change their mind.

"With the legalization of gay marriage and our big Hindu wedding, my mom definitely came around. She realized that this wasn't a phase," Neelam says, adding that it had been 12 years since she had come out.

When the couple finally had a child, Neelam's father came around too.

Lisa and Neelam are nervous about what a Trump presidency will mean for them and their daughter. Still, they don't plan on giving up their rights anytime soon.

"I think that certainly there has been progress made. Queer clubs used to be raided by the police, and as a community, we've come so far and we're still demanding more," Neelam explains.

4. Ben and Constance Hawkes.

Ben, 30, and Constance Hawkes, 29. Photo courtesy of Ben Hawkes

Growing up as millennials, Ben and Constance Hawkes noticed a change in how mixed-race couples were treated.

"I've been pleasantly surprised with how supportive my friends and family have been," Ben says, acknowledging that being white, he can't speak for his wife's experience.

For Constance, she's had to contend with annoying comments about how "well-spoken" she is or people's ideas that racism no longer exists.

Despite the deep hostility felt through the election cycle, Ben and Constance are hopeful.

"We've just seen so much more representation of mixed-race couples in TV shows, in the media," Constance explains.  

The last law banning interracial marriage in the United States was officially repealed in Alabama in 2000. Yet today, race relations in the U.S. are at a boiling point.

We've come a long way since 1967, but these couples and their experiences shed light on ways we can create a more tolerant world.

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Women around the world are constantly bombarded by traditional and outdated societal expectations when it comes to how they live their lives: meet a man, get married, buy a home, have kids.

Many of these pressures often come from within their own families and friend circles, which can be a source of tension and disconnect in their lives.

Global skincare brand SK-II created a new campaign exploring these expectations from the perspective of four women in four different countries whose timelines vary dramatically from what their mothers, grandmothers, or close friends envision for them.

SK-II had Katie Couric meet with these women and their loved ones to discuss the evolving and controversial topic of marriage pressure and societal expectations.

SK-II

"What happens when dreams clash with expectations? We're all supposed to hit certain milestones: a degree, marriage, a family," Couric said before diving into conversation with the "young women who are defining their own lives while navigating the expectations of the ones who love them most."

Maluca, a musician in New York, explains that she comes from an immigrant family, which comes with the expectation that she should live the "American Dream."

"You come here, go to school, you get married, buy a house, have kids," she said.

Her mother, who herself achieved the "American Dream" with hard work and dedication when she came to the United States, wants to see her daughter living a stable life.

"I'd love for her to be married and I'd love her to have a big wedding," she said.

Chun Xia, an award-winning Chinese actress who's outspoken about empowering other young women in China, said people question her marital status regularly.

"I'm always asked, 'Don't you want to get married? Don't you want to start a family and have kids like you should at your age?' But the truth is I really don't want to at this point. I am not ready yet," she said.

In South Korea, Nara, a queer-identifying artist, believes her generation should have a choice in everything they do, but her mother has a different plan in mind.

SK-II

"I just thought she would have a job and meet a man to get married in her early 30s," Nara's mom said.

But Nara hopes she can one day marry her girlfriend, even though it's currently illegal in her country.

Her mother, however, still envisions a different life for her daughter. "Deep in my heart, I hope she will change her mind one day," she said.

Maina, a 27-year-old Japanese woman, explains that in her home country, those who aren't married by the time they're 25 to 30, are often referred to as "unsold goods."

Her mom is worried about her daughter not being able to find a boyfriend because she isn't "conventional."

"I really want her to find the right man and get married, to be seen as marriage material," she said.

After interviewing the women and their families, Couric helped them explore a visual representation of their timelines, which showcased the paths each woman sees her life going in contrast with what her relatives envision.

SK-II

"For each young woman, two timelines were created. One represents the expectations. The other, their aspirations," Couric explained. "There's often a disconnect between dreams and expectations. But could seeing the difference lead to greater understanding?"

The women all explored their timelines, which included milestones like having "cute babies," going back to school, not being limited by age, and pursuing dreams.

By seeing their differences side-by-side, the women and their families were able to partake in more open dialogue regarding the expectations they each held.

One of the women's mom's realized her daughter was lucky to be born during a time when she has the freedom to make non-traditional choices.

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"It looks like she was born in the right time to be free and confident in what she wants to do," she said.

"There's a new generation of women writing their own rules, saying, 'we want to do things our way,' and that can be hard," Couric explained.

The video ends with the tagline: "Forge your own path and choose the life you want; Draw your own timeline."

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