Lisa Wilkinson gets an emotional response out of MasterChef judge Melissa Leong in her upcoming interview with The Sunday Project, after asking the star about the racism she has faced.
Reminding the judge about an incident earlier this year, Wilkinson asked Leong about how she felt when her MasterChef co-star Jock Zonfrillo stood up for her when somebody made a particularly racist comment.
“Jock posted a comment that someone left. It was a particularly racist comment, were you glad that Jock called that out,” Wilkinson asked.
“To be a white man calling out racism is important,” replied Leong. “You know Jock has become such a dear friend he’s one of my work husbands and he’s just a great human being in terms of the way he sees others, that right there is a perfect example of allyship.”
Earlier this year, Jock posted a comment that referenced Melissa as a “gook”, a horrifically racist remark.
“She’s actually Melissa, she’s my work wife, my sister, my mate… She’s a woman whose origin happens to be different from yours, but why does that make you so afraid?” wrote Zonfrillo.
“I feel sorry for you that you cannot see past the colour of someone’s skin or actually the fact that they are just different than your white a** in any way.”
Wilkinson went on to ask if Leong had experienced racism growing up.
“Yeah absolutely. I think as a kid, you just want to be accepted by the people around you and largely I was. I remember very clearly times in my childhood at school where I would be called names and I would have to go home and ask mum what does this mean and to have a parent explain what racism means that’s something that you don’t forget,” she replied.
“How did your parents handle that?” asked the host.
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“I mean my parents are Chinese, so they are very matter of fact about things and emotions are not really at the fore of how to explain things, so they just said this is what it means, and this is why it was said but don’t pay any attention to it, be who you are and brush it off. It isn’t until later in life that you reflect upon the experiences that make you, and you realise the impact it might have made.”
Leong, getting emotional, was then asked by Wilkinson if the memories still “sit pretty close” to her.
“Yeah it’s tough as a human being I pride myself on being resilient and being competent and smashing through all the challenges that I have,” Leong explained. “I think it’s important to be vulnerable and to pay attention to your emotions. If the 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.”
The Sunday Project airs on Network Ten at 6.30pm.