In a world where history is often one-sided and voices are stifled, amplifying conversations that tell a different side of the story is a new kind of superpower.
Over nine episodes the collaborators and best friends delve into the history of the debutante ball, both in Australia and overseas, and discuss how a symbol of white colonial supremacy and patriarchy has become a force of empowerment for Aboriginal women.
“Miranda and I met at a panel at NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art) that I was speaking on after I had just written my first play in 2013,” Nakkiah told The Spill podcast. “Miranda had just starred in The Sapphires and I was a massive fan.
“We were having drinks in the foyer afterward and we just gravitated towards each other. Maybe because we were both at the stage of deciding whether or not we should have a third drink, we realised we were both having the same internal monologue. Then we became best friends.
“We were the only two Aboriginal women in the foyer,” Miranda added. “I just sidled up to Nakkiah because I needed to create a safe space for myself.”
As their friendship grew, the two women often found themselves deep in conversations about race, sex, gender and politics. Or, as Nakkiah puts it, “all the things you’re not meant to talk about”.
Realising the power in amplifying these conversations led to their first foray in the podcast world, with the popular podcast Pretty For An Aboriginal.
Listen to Nakkiah Lui and Miranda Tapsell talk about Debutante: Race, Resistance & Girl Power on The Spill. Post continues below.
When it came time to create a new podcast, Miranda and Nakkiah found themselves continually gravitating back to the idea of debutante balls in Australia, thanks in part to their own family histories.
“The idea of the debutante ball is something that just kept coming up again and again between us,” Nakkiah told The Spill. “Miranda’s mum was a debutante and my mum runs an Aboriginal debutante ball in Mount Druitt in Sydney that I help her with.”
“It’s a great in for a conversation about race and gender,” Miranda continued. “The debutante ball was an institution that didn’t include women who were Black or women who were poor and it was essentially a meat market. They were showing off women like cows.
“We unpack that idea and talk about the historical context, explaining how many Aboriginal communities have managed to flip it and make it a really empowering celebration for Black people.”
During the recording and production process for Debutante, the duo travelled to a number of international locations for interviews and experiences including London, Los Angeles, Minnesota, and Atlanta and while they were blown away by the generosity of their interview subjects, not everything went to plan.