Rachel Dolezal Is a 'Master Artist': She's Always Been 'Very Good at Doing Her Makeup,' Says Her Mother
“She is a master artist. She is very good at doing her makeup,” Rachel’s mother, Ruthanne Dolezal, tells PEOPLE in an exclusive interview.
“She was always winning prizes she was always at the top of everything – top of her class, top of any kind of exhibits she put [her work] into art shows,” Ruthanne adds.
But from an early age, Rachel, 37, also used her artistic abilities to disguise herself.
“She could look like any ethnicity,” Ruthanne says. “She has made herself look Asian before; it was a special event, a Chinese dinner. She always got attention.”
When Rachel applied to the historically black Howard University, she sent her portfolio of art, which featured “all African-American portraiture,” her mother says, adding, “I am sure they made an assumption she was black, but she was not.”
Rachel was accepted on a full scholarship and her artwork won several top prizes in school shows before “they started to set her work aside – this is what she told us,” Ruthanne explains. “So it wouldn’t get judged because she was winning so many prizes from the jurors.”
Since graduating from Howard in 2002 (summa cum laude with a master of fine arts degree in arts and culture, according to her LinkedIn profile), Rachel has forged a career as an advocate for the black community, working as a professor of black studies at Eastern Washington University for more than eight years, and more recently, as the president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP since November 2014.
Through it all, Rachel’s artistry has remained a constant in her life.
On her personal blog, she describes herself as “an award-winning Mixed Media Artist with over 20 exhibitions in 13 states, internationally, and at the United Nations Headquarters.” Among the 11 positions listed on her LinkedIn page, the longest running is: “Master Artist, Model, Ethnic Hair Stylist, and Piano Teacher” at Dolezal Studios (from January 1997 to present). The description reads: “Award-winning international artist, with master works in painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking and collage.”
Now some of that artwork is allegedly for sale on eBay.
A user named pinkwestie024 has listed two original drawings, allegedly by Rachel, with a sales pitch for the buyer to “Own a Piece of History!” The starting bid for both pieces, drawn in charcoal on elk hide, is $5,000, with a much steeper “Buy It Now” price of $50,000.
The description for both listings, which were created by a “dealer or reseller” who appears to live in Madison, Mississippi, reads: “This beautifully crafted, framed drawing is by none other than Rachel Dolezal, of recent national renowned! A hand-drawn charcoal depiction of a black man adorns elk hide leather – bridging Rachel’s youth spent hunting elk in Montana with her deep involvement in the black civil rights movement. This is a true gem of artwork, great for any family room, office, or wall. Even better, half of the proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity to help build homes for those in need.”
As of Monday afternoon, neither drawing has received a bid.
Rachel’s parents tell PEOPLE they have always supported both her art and her interest in African-American culture.
“We thought it was great she identified with African-Americans and was involved in their causes, and we were very much on board with ethnic diversity and having friends of all different diversities,” Ruthanne tells PEOPLE. “But the deceptive part, and when she was doing her makeup and wearing her hair to look like a black woman and saying she was [a black woman], that is where she crossed the line and it was not okay with us.”
“She was very gifted in so many areas. She is still very gifted,” Ruthanne adds. “Having become so deceptive and false in what she alleges, you just think something has gone wrong in her thinking patterns. She is not being rational. I cannot explain it. I do not know what it is that caused her to go this direction.”
Rachel, who resigned from her NAACP position in a statement Monday, will also sit down for a live interview with Matt Lauer on the Today show Tuesday. Stay tuned for more coverage.
• Reporting by CHRISTINE PELISEK