MasterChef’s Melissa Leong’s powerful message on racism

"To be a white male calling out racism is important."
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She was the breath of fresh air MasterChef Australia needed and now Melissa Leong has become one of the 2020 TV stars we can’t get enough of.

But during an interview with the Sunday Project, the food writer shared some heartbreaking details about what it’s been like dealing with racism throughout her life.

WATCH BELOW: Junior MasterChef 2020 teaser

Ahead of the Junior MasterChef premiere, the judge reflected on the moment when her fellow judge Jock Zonfrillo called out a racist comment aimed at Melissa.

“To be a white male calling out racism is important,” she told host Lisa Wilkinson.

“Jock has become such a dear friend of mine – he’s one of my work husbands and he’s just such a great human being in terms of the way he sees others. That right there is a perfect example of allyship.”

Melissa then explained that she “absolutely” encountered racism growing up in Australia.

“I think as a kid you just want to be accepted times by the people around you and largely I was but I remember very clearly times in my childhood at school where I would be called names and I would have to go home and say to Mum ‘What does this mean?’

“To have a parent explain what racism means in terms that affect you, that’s something that you don’t forget.”

“I remember very clearly times in my childhood at school where I would be called names and I would have to go home and say to Mum ‘What does this mean?'” (Credit: Ten)

Melissa then revealed that her parents handled the situation by explaining what the racist comments meant and why they were said, but told her not to pay any attention to it and to brush it off and be herself.

“It isn’t until later in your life that perhaps you reflect upon the experiences that make you you and you realise what an impact it might’ve made,” she added.

The MasterChef judge went on to say that whilst dealing with racism is “tough” and that she prides herself on her resilience and competence, she thinks “it’s important to be vulnerable and to really pay attention to your emotions.”

“If experiences in my childhood have helped me become strong then I can articulate those experiences and perhaps tell people out there that have gone through the same thing that they’re not alone.”

In a heartwarming message to children of varying ethnic background, Melissa remarked: “As a veteran outsider of many decades I would want to say to you that your place in this world matters. You do deserve to be seen and to be heard and for your heart and your soul to be accepted and you will find your people. So be kind to yourself in that process because this is the making of you.”

Melissa (pictured with fellow judges Jock Zonfrillo and Andy Allen) is one of the new MasterChef judges. (Credit: Ten)

Since she joined the new MasterChef judges Jock and Andy Allen, Melissa’s popularity has soared to new heights, though she hasn’t been immune from online trolling.

In a previous chat with Who, Melissa explained that her strategy to dealing with negativity is to focus on what she does well, being grateful for the positive aspects and owning who she is.

“I’ve spent a very long time learning how to be comfortable in my skin and that’s the best I can do,” she explained in July.

“Not everybody is going to like what you do. Nobody is universally loved and I think when you can accept that you can focus on being the best version of yourself you can be. As for trolls and the like, I don’t want to let any of that noise weigh me down so I’m not paying attention to any of it at all.”

When it comes to trolls and negativity, Melissa doesn’t give it any notice. (Credit: Ten)

With Junior MasterChef now airing on our screens, Melissa can’t help but admire the sheer talent of the young chefs on the show this year.

“In a word, these kids were inspiring,” she told Woman’s Day in September.

“To have 14 enthusiastic, good-hearted clever and creative juniors to spend this season with was such a bright spot in a crazy year.”

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