In 2009, Stan Walker walked into a room full of Australian Idol producers and was told he was too lazy to win.
It was the pre-production auditions: contestants face two before the televised audition in front of the show's celebrity judges. Walker sailed through the first audition, but during his second he was confronted with racist stereotypes.
"You know, you Polynesians think you can just walk in here and just sing, but you're all lazy," one man said.
Watch: Stan Walker's Idol audition. Post continues below video.
"So what will happen if it comes to rock week? What would you sing?"
Walker told him he'd sing Metallica, and the man asked him to do so.
"Well, what would happen if it came to country? What would you sing?"
Johnny Cash, Walker replied. He sang that too and asked if the man wanted him to sing anything else. He didn't.
"I felt like he was testing me," Walker explained to Mamamia's entertainment podcast The Spill.
"And I'm so glad he did because ever since then, it's been like that and I learned from the very beginning, my first audition, what I was walking into in terms of what I was going to have to face as a Māori young man living in Australia."
Listen: Stan Walker speaks to Mamamia's entertainment podcast The Spill. Post continues below audio.
Walker said that was a defining moment for him: one that stuck with him throughout his entire Idol journey, which ended in a 2009 win, and the following 11 years of his career.
The Idol winner, 30, has just released a book Impossible: My Story, documenting his personal journey with physical and sexual abuse, cancer and identity - plus how he struggled in the first couple of years after Idol to control his own career direction and outrun the 'Idol curse'.
Walker told The Spill there were times his career was threatened because his management wanted him to be something he wasn't.
"I almost got a video clip cancelled because I always do my [shirt] buttons up to the top, and a lady who was there working for our team at the time, she was going to me 'maybe do the button undone' and I was like, 'nah, I'm alright'."