Ever since I realised that my Year One teacher could have used some creative license and given the extremely talented, albeit slightly chubby Indian girl (me), the part of The Virgin Mary in the nativity play, I have felt that roles in Australian print and visual media are far too conventionally cast. Of course, I did not draw this conclusion when I was six years old, despite being the smartest person on the planet (according to my dad).
But growing up watching Oprah Winfrey become the most influential woman in the world reinforced to me that a person’s value transcends their racial background, and they can grow to be a significant voice in society – if given the right opportunities by media power-brokers willing to take risks.
Of course, you also have to be brilliant at what you do – like Lee Lin Chin and Waleed Aly. This week’s announcement of their Gold Logie nominations was so wonderful to hear, especially after the anti-mosque banner at Friday night’s AFL game, and the anti-Islam and anti-fascist violence at the Halal expo in Melbourne, which had made for a worrying weekend for all decent, peace-loving Australians.
I was thrilled to learn of the nominations of Aly, a Muslim who openly discusses his religion, and Indonesian-born Chin, as it reminded me that Australian culture has a long way to go before it is totally dominated by racial discord, no matter much the grossly misnamed ‘pro-Australia’ groups and the rise of ISIS have all of us concerned for our future. The nominations made me feel safer, and gave me hope.
But do not think for a second that Aly and Chin were nominated in the name of ‘diversity’ in the wake of the #oscarssowhite controversy – they were nominated because they are both excellent at their jobs, and are immensely popular. Aly and Chin have rocked Australian television, not only by representing sections of our community that are under-represented, but also by being influential in many other ways not directly related to their ethnicities.
Simply put, they have smashed some major stereotypes to develop their broad appeal. Chin is a highly trusted news source, a cult fashion icon, and as her work on The Feed demonstrates, a skilled comedienne. Aly was recently awarded the GQ Media Personality of the Year for his contribution to Australian media, and his offering of factual-based perspectives on controversial issues such as pro-rape internet trolls in his ‘Something We Should Talk About’ segments on The Project, has revoluntionised the thinking of thousands of viewers.