Rachel Dolezal, the NAACP chapter president who resigned this week amid accusations that she has been lying about her race, spoke out about the controversy on the Todayshow Tuesday.
"I identify as black," Dolezal, 37, told Matt Lauer, adding that she has had "self-identification with the black experience" since she was a young child.
"I was drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon," she said. "That was how I was portraying myself."
Dolezal came under fire last week after her parents, from whom she is estranged, revealed that she has no black ancestry, despite Dolezal claiming for years that she is partially black.
"I did feel that, at some point, I would need to address the complexity of my identity," Dolezal - whose parents released photos of her as a teen with long blonde hair - told Lauer when asked if she was surprised by the accusations. "I've had to answer a lot of questions throughout my life."
It was also revealed that, in 2002, Dolezal had previously sued Howard University, where she obtained a masters degree, for discriminating against her partially because she was white. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed.
Responding to critics who have likened Dolezal to people who wear blackface, she explained: "I have a huge issue with blackface. This is not some freak Birth of a Nation mockery blackface performance. This is on a very real, connected level."
Watch Dolezal's full Today show interview below: