We met twenty years ago, Russell Crowe and I.
Yes, I know – a very long time ago.
Since then, many life lessons have unfolded for me and, in a funny way, have lead back to him - a formidable figure of Hollywood success unwittingly instrumental in my small, relatively insignificant journey, just as so many inspirational powerhouses have been - like Oprah (of course) and Jana Wendt, both legendary female journalists.
Then there’s been Jeff Wiggle and Lucy Liu: high-vis Asians also showing me what was possible.
Russell Crowe is neither female nor Asian – but just like these other influences, he is a storyteller and his part in my story began long before I met him.
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Perhaps it’s when you first noticed him too - watching Romper Stomper, or maybe it was Gladiator.
In 2000 I started working at Channel Nine and on day one, my gruff boss told me, "You’re the first non-bloody-WASP I’ve ever put on TV." He snorted, "and don’t get any fatter in the face".
And that was that: my induction to national commercial television. Two days earlier, I had been working at the ABC as a cadet journalist covering serious political, court and police stories, sometimes arts yarns but never interviewing celebrities for celebrity’s sake. So when my new Chief of Staff said, "You’re going to interview Russell Crowe," I couldn’t have been more thrilled.
I had studied Romper Stomper in depth, an early movie starring Crowe as an angry and misguided skin head, during a time in my life where microaggressions were wrapped up in comments like ‘you’re Asian so you must be smart’, ‘you’re Asian so you must be rich’ and direct abuse like ‘F**kin' smack’ (a derogatory word for a Chinese person).
This was commonplace, and was wrapped up with the fetishisation of Asian women. John Kizon – Perth’s answer to all the characters in TV series Underbelly – singled out me and my Asian friend Emma to invite into his stable of pole dancers in Japan. He assured us the pay and conditions would be excellent. We didn’t go.
Romper Stomper left an indelible mark on me when I was studying Asian Studies at University, trying desperately to make sense of my identity and how that identity was perceived by white ‘others’.
It gave me a way in to try and comprehend the most extreme ways of thinking.
In my second year, I attended a BBQ where a young man a few years older than me with a swastika belt told me all the reasons that I should be dead. I was the only non-white-Caucasian person at the party.