Writer and actress Meera Syal spoke of her "schizophrenic" childhood in the Midlands struggling to fit in as "the only Asian in the village".
The TV and film star described how she was forced to "swap masks and juggle accents" to bridge the cultural divide between living an Asian life at home and growing up in an all-white environment.
Ms Syal said her experience mirrored those of thousands of second generation immigrants who struggled to forge an identity for themselves.
She also said she was worried that some youngsters from ethnic backgrounds were abandoning attempts to integrate altogether. Ms Syal was in her native West Midlands to deliver a keynote speech to the Association of Colleges annual conference at the ICC in Birmingham yesterday.
She told delegates: "My childhood was unconventional to say the least. I grew up in Essington, a small mining village in Staffordshire.
"It was very old-fashioned and full of very eccentric characters that spoke in very broad Midland accents.
"I think of it as a cross between Crossroads and Twin Peaks. In some ways it was very challenging because we really were the only Asians in the village. We were the only non-white people that many people had ever come across in their lives. I remember local kids rubbing my skin and saying 'does it come off?'"
Ms Syal said the experience – upon which her semi-autobiographical first novel Anita and Me was based – also helped shaped her future path into comedy.
"I had comedy around me every day. The comedy of two completely different people trying to make sense of each other and live together cheek and jowl.
"Outside the house I had to be accepted as part of the gang so I changed personalities right up to swapping accents. I changed my costume. Indian costume at home to bell-bottom trousers outside."
Ms Syal added: "Most of the people who are from immigrant or newly arrived families live this schizophrenic culture.
"Some abandon all attempt at integration and retreat into their enclave. It is very depressing to see more and more young people disengage from the cohesion of society where everyone is respected."
The 43-year-old stressed it was as important the host culture "do their homework" on immigrants in the same way they made efforts to get to know British culture.
Despite her struggles, Ms Syal said she "really loved her childhood" and now appreciated the different outlook on life that being the off-spring of first generation immigrants afforded her.
"It means most of my life has been a bit of an experiment creating a brand new culture with no role-models to lead the way. For me and my generation home was Britain and that is where we have to compete."
Ms Syal, whose mother was a school teacher in Wolverhampton for 40 years, revealed the difficulties she had bucking family expectations and pursuing a career in the arts.
"I was an oddball," she said. "The only Indian girl whose best subject was English and on top of that wanted to be an actress."
Ms Syal shot to fame in the hit BBC comedy series Goodness Gracious Me which she acted and starred in and in 1997 she was awarded an MBE.