MasterChef's Melissa Leong moved to tears over racist remarks
Lisa Wilkinson received an emotional response from MasterChef judge Melissa Leong when she was asked about the racism she has faced, while appearing on The Sunday Project.
Wilkinson reminded the judge of an upsetting incident that forced her co-star Jock Zonfrillo to stand up for her after the show received a racist, hateful complaint.
“Jock posted a comment that someone left. It was a particularly racist comment, were you glad that Jock called that out,” Wilkinson asked.
“To be a white man calling out racism is important,” replied Leong.
“You know Jock has become such a dear friend he’s one of my work husbands and he’s just a great human being in terms of the way he sees others, that right there is a perfect example of allyship.”
Earlier this year, Jock posted a comment that referenced Melissa as a “gook” – a horrifically racist remark.
“She’s actually Melissa, she’s my work wife, my sister, my mate... She’s a woman whose origin happens to be different from yours, but why does that make you so afraid?” wrote Zonfrillo.
“I feel sorry for you that you cannot see past the colour of someone’s skin or actually the fact that they are just different than your white a** in any way.”
Wilkinson went on to ask Leong if she had experienced racism growing up.
“Yeah absolutely. I think as a kid, you just want to be accepted by the people around you and largely I was,” she responded.
“I remember very clearly times in my childhood at school where I would be called names and I would have to go home and ask mum what does this mean and to have a parent explain what racism means that’s something that you don’t forget.”
“How did your parents handle that?” asked the host.
Leong replied: “I mean my parents are Chinese, so they are very matter of fact about things and emotions are not really at the fore of how to explain things, so they just said this is what it means, and this is why it was said but don’t pay any attention to it, be who you are and brush it off.
“It isn’t until later in life that you reflect upon the experiences that make you, and you realise the impact it might have made.”
Leong became emotional when Wilkinson asked her if the memories still “sit” with her today.
“Yeah it’s tough as a human being I pride myself on being resilient and being competent and smashing through all the challenges that I have,” Leong explained.
“I think it’s important to be vulnerable and to pay attention to your emotions. If the experiences in my childhood have helped me become strong, then I can articulate those experiences and perhaps tell people out there that have gone through the same thing that they’re not alone.”
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