When I heard the good news back in November 2019 that I’d been selected as a State Finalist for the 2020 Miss Universe Australia program, interestingly one of the first questions I got asked by a colleague was whether the Miss Universe Australia organisation "would really pick another Indian as they already had one?"
To explain, I am an Australian born and raised in Melbourne with parents who originate from India, having migrated here in the '80s. Miss Universe Australia 2019 was none other than phenomenal lawyer Priya Serrao, who is also of Indian heritage.
As shocked as I was by that question, it wasn’t the first time I’d heard something similar.
Watch: Amanda Fotheringham, a proud Gamilaroi and Muruwari woman, talks us through the awkward questions she often gets asked as a young Aboriginal woman. Post continues below.
Questions like this reflect an inability to see people as individuals beyond overt, skin-deep, superficial factors like ethnic background. An inability to look at two women as different human beings with unique capabilities, backgrounds and experiences, simply because we have ethnicity in common.
In the lead up to the competition finals, I noticed people commenting in online forums that I didn’t look 'Australian enough'. Since winning, I’ve had non-Australians admit that I challenge their perception of an 'Australian beauty queen' as I don’t fit the tall, blonde ‘beach babe’ Aussie stereotype.