IT used to drive me mad. I’d be watching a sports event with a group of white friends or family. A British sportsman or woman of colour would step up to take their turn. “I wonder where he/she’s from,” someone would ponder. The question would float bumpily in the air, a couple of folk would shift buttock cheeks, one might stare hard at the screen pretending they hadn’t heard the question, until eventually I’d say “Britain, I’m sure.”

“No, but I mean really from.” The conversation would move on, but I’d sit bemused and a wee bit resentful about why it always had to be like this. Why did it matter where someone was from, or where their parents were from when they were representing their country or team at the highest levels and entertaining us with their sporting prowess? Surely all that mattered was their talent?

But actually, I’m wrong. After watching British 18-year-old Emma Raducanu’s mesmerising performance in the US Open on Saturday night, winning in straight sets in the final to Canada’s Leylah Fernandez, I felt an emotion I can’t describe.

As the daughter of immigrants and the mother of mixed heritage children, I felt an overpowering joy to see a woman from a multicultural background step up. And for the first time, I thought we all need to know exactly where she and her parents are from.

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We need to know that her dad is Romanian and her mother is Chinese and that they are immigrants who came here from Canada when Emma was two years old. That she speaks Romanian and Mandarin and that she credits her Chinese mother for instilling self-belief in her, her Romanian dad for being hard to please and appears aware and proud of her heritage.

We need to know this because the very word ‘immigration’ – a natural process that has been taking place for millennia – has become a toxic and negative word in these times. Certain sections of the tabloid press love an anti-immigrant story – think of the clicks, the advertising, the sales – but don’t expect a front page splash if you’d like to write about a celebration of multiculturalism, or the sterling charity work being done at some gurdwaras or that mixed heritage people are the fastest-growing group in the UK. The Raducanu story can’t be consigned to the middle pages. It is big. Really big.

In years past, as a filmmaker, I’ve pitched positive stories of immigration to a row of bored faces to be told it’s all ‘too niche’ and caught the next train back to Scotland vowing never to darken their doorsteps again.

With broadcasters, mercifully, the situation has improved significantly, as can be seen by Black to Front, a ground-breaking day of programmes on Channel 4 last Friday fronted and produced by Black on and off-screen talent. From Big Breakfast to Hollyoaks, “niche” went mainstream and the hope is that huge initiatives like this can be built on, and have real and lasting legacies.

Adding to this are people like Emma Raducanu. Just as she has become a magnet for multi-million pound sponsorship deals from some of the biggest brands, so she will, whether she likes it or not, become an ambassador for the enrichment that immigration brings.

Already the language has changed when it comes to Raducanu. Tabloids are telling us her parents ‘moved’ here when she was two. ‘Moved’ sounds so much more palatable than ‘migrated’, and we are told the quintessentially British Tim Henman has been her secret mentor, supporting her in the absence of her parents at the tournament.

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She single-handedly has put a face – and a wholesome, sweet and appealing one at that – to the immigration debate, removing the narrative from being solely about amorphous masses coming over here stealing our jobs, or pitching up from Afghanistan via France on a dodgy inflatable dingy.

Understanding her heritage clearly matters to people. Even as she balletically traversed the court at the Arthur Ashe stadium, striking each ball with precision and intelligence, the question “I wonder where she’s from” was being widely pondered: Type her name into Google and, surprise surprise, most searches are about her parents.

But Raducanu is more than that. Her appeal is global. She has not only personified the positive side of immigration, but her mixed heritage makes her more marketable on a much wider stage. She has international appeal which transcends borders and insular nationalisms, and a story that resonates around the world.

Looking at the images of her leaping around a photographic studio in an eclectic mix of Valentino paired with trainers and a pigtail for her interview with Vogue confirms that she has a unique story to tell, one we haven’t had amplified for far too long and one that many people chose to ignore.

So, go on Emma, tell us where you are really from. We need to know.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.