Rachel Dolezal, the former president of the NAACP's Spokane, Washington chapter who resigned amid accusations that she lied about her race, told "Today" co-host Matt Lauer on Tuesday that her "self-identification with the black experience" began at the age of 5.
"I identify as black," Dolezal responded after Lauer asked if she is an African-American woman.
But she said it's a "little more complex" than simply identifying as another race, starting when she was young.
"I was drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon, black curly hair ... that was how I was portraying myself," she said. "It was a little more complex than me identifying as black."
Dolezal went on to decry her parents and those seeking to "rush to whitewash" her work and her identity, though she admitted that she knew that she would likely need to address the "complexity of [her] identity" at some point.
Her parents are the ones who came forward last week to say their daughter is white, touching off a national frenzy.
Dolezal also pushed back against Lauer's question about when she started "deceiving people," claiming that the situation is more complex than simply looking at it through a lens of dishonesty.
While Dolezal said that she was initially described by media outlets as "transracial," reporters soon began calling her biracial or black; she never corrected the record.
"It's more complex than being true or false in that particular instance," she said.
As for her complexion and questions as to whether she has intentionally made her skin appear darker, Dolezal said that she doesn't make any efforts to avoid the sun.
"I certainly don't stay out of the sun and I also don't — as some of the critics have said — put on black face as a performance," she said. "This is on a very real connected level."
Despite all of the controversy, Dolezal said that she would make the same choices again if given the chance. She also defended a lawsuit in which she sued Howard University in 2002, claiming that she was discriminated against because she was white.
All that aside, she told Lauer that she's hoping her situation sparks positive discussions.
"As much as this discussion has somewhat been at my expense recently in a very sort of viciously inhumane way ... the discussion's really about what it is to be human," she said. "And I hope that really can drive at the core of definitions of race, ethnicity, culture, self-determination, personal agency and ultimately empowerment."