Sitting in a boardroom of 10 people, as the only non-white Australian, discussing how to promote a new documentary on white privilege…
Krit: I’ve got a few ideas! I’ve thought about these short skits we could do that aren’t too confrontational – keep it light and humorous but give a brief glimpse into how white privilege operates in the Australian context. I’ve also got a colleague at a university who’s happy to give us access to her students for a screening followed by interviews. I’d be keen to do some promo on radio too.
Boardroom: Ok…well thank you…this is quite a heavy topic so approaching it we have to be sure that if we make any statements, through content or in general publicity, it has to be by someone who’s qualified.
Krit: Well besides my Master’s degree in Education that focused on diversity and 10 years experience working in equity, I’m a brown face who comes up against the subject matter on a daily basis. What further qualification do I need?
Boardroom: Yeah…this is really tricky…it might just be safer not to go down that road because we wouldn’t want you to say something that could backfire on you.
Krit: Oh don’t worry, I’m ready. If you’re concerned with being controversial, the documentary is on white privilege – it’s already controversial! We’re airing it anyway so why shy away from it?
Krit: Can I ask how many people in here have watched it?
Boardroom: *1 Person Raises Their Hand* I saw the first ten minutes.
Krit: Really?! How are you gonna call this meeting and none of you have even watched it? You can’t even speak to it yet you’re questioning my suitability. This is pointless!
Boardroom: Well let’s all just keep thinking about it some more and send your ideas through.
You can guess where that led! The middle of f.cken nowhere. 9 white people sitting around a table in a boardroom, telling the only person of colour they’re not fit to comment on white privilege! Da fuq?! This shoulda been a scene in the damn documentary! Shit would be hilarious if it wasn’t so tragic. These people had absolutely no clue that there was something amiss with what went down. It wasn’t even a blip on their radar yet it’s stuck with me as one of the defining moments of my time in Sydney.
Sometimes it takes stepping away from a bad situation to realise just how detrimental it is. That’s where I’m at right now and why I’m finally inspired to write again [apologies for the absence but this piece should explain why]. Having recently relocated to LA and being so far removed from Australia for a decent amount of time has given me the chance to really reflect. I always knew Sydney wasn’t a good fit for me and I never made that a secret but I’m only just becoming aware of the extent of the damage it’s had on my whole state of being.
Back in 2014, after three months of living in Sydney, I wrote the following:
“Aye? But you’re living the life!” What does that even mean?! We only need to look at the recent deaths of Robin Williams and Simone Battle to see that looks can be deceiving. Those really hit home for me, especially Simone’s passing – so young and talented with so much potential and promise. I met her after G.R.L’s showcase and thought to myself she coulda easily been one of my friends. To think she saw no way out except suicide is devastating.
Don’t worry, I’m not that far gone! I have my rough days though. I’m grateful for where I’m at but we all have our struggles. Our individual conflicts may or may not seem that major in the grand scheme of things but I think it’s important to take time to address them properly, regardless. Mine are relatively simple – new city, new career, no friends, no guidance.
Ok it’s not that destitute but to come from full immersion in university/school environments for the last ten years which I’d say are the single most easiest places in the universe for meeting heaps of like-minded people to going part-time in the ‘sea of celebrity’ is an adjustment. I worked in education for ages and mentoring played a huge part in my life. I’ve been part of communities rich in role models, sharing experiences and advice on how to navigate the spaces we’re in but out here I’m still kinda searching for that. I’ve got some solid friends in Sydney but we’re all spread out and on completely different schedules. I’ve honestly felt like a drifter [a little reminiscent of the isolation I first experienced in Ohio].
Re-reading this 2.5 years later and it still rings true. The only difference is I met some amazing people who helped me to survive.
Nothing can take away from the impact they had on me [they all know who they are and what they mean to me because I’m all affectionate and soppy and shit like that!] however at the end of the day, they alone couldn’t offset the toxicity I was immersed in. I’ve always considered myself to be a strong person, firm in my values but having your mind inundated with fake and destructive shit non-stop for that long will take its toll on you, no matter what.
Lemme give you a couple more examples of the ignorance I encountered…
Network Exec: Australia is a lot more progressive than you think. The only reason there aren’t more Polynesians on tv is because we just don’t have the numbers. Proportionally you’re being represented. I know the numbers. It’s my job.
Krit: Really? Then how do you explain the fact that we make up 42% of NRL players yet we haven’t got a single reporter or commentator across any sports programming?
Network Exec: Look I know what you’re saying but it just comes down to numbers. Trust me, I want more of you on tv, I do. I’ve done more for your communities than you’ll probably ever know. It’s the government. We need to let more foreigners into the country so that people here can get used to you and so you can be integrated then that will change minds and attitudes. Our government is ridiculous because it’s against it but I’m all for it. I actually prefer dark men. Can I just say one of the greatest things about multiculturalism is – when you have a black and white couple they make the most beautiful babies!
What in the actual f.ck?!
Or how about this:
Publicity Manager: This looks great on you.
Krit: Really? I’m not feeling it. It’s not my style.
Publicity Manager: Kanye would wear it.
Do I look like f.cken Kanye? That was a big problem agents and managers encountered – they had no idea what to do with me. No idea how to dress me, no idea how to sell me or who to sell me to simply because they’ve never had to deal with anyone who looks like me. Not only that but I was from New Zealand which made it even harder. In the end I decided to go out on my own and hustled my own opportunities. Now that part I’m no stranger to. Most people don’t realise that this was all done without any financial/professional support from my employer or a manager – I had to make things happen through my personal networks.
I was busy as hell and in an industry where booking work and staying relevant is an indication that you’re doing well, it looked like I was killing it. Travelling every week, running around events none of my peers could, clothes coming at me left, right and centre and pulling off these massive grinds – I even tricked myself into thinking I was cracking it.
It was quite the opposite. I had lost myself.
Guidance, development and alignment. That’s what I was missing. To be completely void of three massive components that were integral to reaching my levels of achievement in the past left me static in Australia.
While I had some wonderful people in my corner, I had no strong industry mentors who had been where I was and could truly understand what I was going through as a Pacific person in Sydney. There are two facets to this:
- You can count on one hand the number of Pacific people represented on screen in Australia – at that point in time I was the only person of Pacific descent hosting on mainstream television and I can only think of one Pacific actor who was on a primetime show. There isn’t exactly a massive pool of people to link up with.
- Pacific people working in television can be phonies too. In my first week of arriving, I reached out to an island brother who had worked in Australia for years and had been quite outspoken about the discrimination he faced. While he initially made out he was eager to catch up, he brushed me off. Thankfully I met Pacific entertainers who became great friends but I would eventually come to encounter others in media who reeked of inauthenticity. It became clearer that people only got in touch when they wanted something or someone I had access to. Of course I exploited that for what little value it was worth but it really shone a light on the gatekeeping and the unprofessionalism our people can operate within. It’s a real shame.
When I sat down and really thought hard about it, the only ways in which I upskilled in 2.5 years was my ability to be comfortable in front of a camera and basic video editing. I covered those off early on in my first year. For someone starting out fresh in a field that’s brand new to them, you need more than that to get ahead. You need management who has a vested interest in your development.
Never had that. If anything, I was working under people who were threatened by my ambition and did what they could to hinder my progress. You’ll get that – when you start pulling off stunts that your “superiors” can’t, you’re showing them up so they’ll do what they can to “put you in your place”. They need to justify their position and so they’ll go to great lengths to sabotage you and bring your ass back down to earth. Anyone who’s worked in a hostile environment knows how mentally abusive this is. To have none of what you do valued. To be disrespected. Every day was a battle. A game of political chess. I had played it before but not so ferociously. While I had some triumphs here and there, I was only ever moving sideways. Never up.
When your values don’t align with your work, you’re not gonna be happy. Mines were constantly butting heads and anything that resembled an achievement was in fact quite empty. Towards the end of my stint, I booked a few gigs where there were clear positives BUT they would always be tainted by some resistance that threw the alignment out of whack.
As a newcomer in entertainment who was starting from scratch, my priority was getting my career off the ground. Everything else came to a halt. Whenever time permitted, I dipped back into the school/community scene to give talks and run workshops but they were few and far between.
All of these things contributed to my suffocation. I was dispirited and I didn’t even know it.
When I got my visa approved in December, I was too hype cuz I’d been working towards it the whole year. I rushed to book my airfares to get through the gates before Trump’s inauguration cuz who knows what could happen.
Because of that shotgun decision, I came out with everything up in the air in regards to employment and accommodation but things are working out. I knew they would. “Fortune favours the bold” my friend told me. Within a couple of weeks I was in a new role hosting and after 9 months of living out of a suitcase, I can say I finally have a permanent address!
What’s really giving me peace of mind though is the joy of learning again. I recently signed with a new agency who are the JAM and they envision me going into acting and recommended I start taking classes. In just two weeks I’ve already noticed a huge shift in me. I’m stimulated and I’m excited. It shows too. Everyone around me can see it. It’s only because of this sudden change in me that I’m cognisant of what I’ve been through. Being faced with such a stark contrast is a wake up call that something was wrong. That’s when I knew I had buckled. In so many ways I fell and I fell hard.
As I continue to take these classes, not only am I hungry for any knowledge I can get my hands on about this new craft, I’m slowly peeling back the different layers of myself and getting to the bottom of who I am. It’s therapeutic as f.ck and why I’m writing again. This also marks the three ingredients I’ve been yearning for – development, guidance and alignment. I’ve got those again. Who woulda thought that LA of all places would give me space to breathe?
This transition alone has made the effort of moving out here worth it. For that, I’m thankful and I can appreciate my time in Sydney more now because without it, my approach to this new chapter of my life wouldn’t carry the same fervor. For anyone out there going through his or her lull, I hope this helps you snap out of it or just realise that you’re in it. To get out feels f.cken bomb.
A colleague of mine was talking about this Blog and how she thought I would be interested, and then I look into it and” Heey its You. Aw huge smile, sad, angry and then Proud at the end.
Good on you couz, I knew you were gonna do great things.
I look forward to reading more on your amazing journey 🙂
Readin this and almost in tears, because you’ve been in the light, and treaded through the darkness, and still you push through. Please continue on being an inspiration. I know you don’t do it for that, but man when I read about your journey, I feel like I have no other choice but to push through. Fa’afetai lava
You the f.cken man Gee, very good read
Wow, I felt that. On point. White supremacy is so ingrained in this country. I’ve been working remote in indigenous communities for a few years and it’s an absolute eye opener. It breaks me to the point I’ve had to leave Australia immediately & continuously over the years and my backpack has been my home for 19 months.
Thank you for speaking not up but out because they aren’t higher than you.
Aww Big Bird. I’m forever your angus fan x
I fucking love you.
Hey there. We have a mutual sis in common (Aaradhna) and she lead me here. I’m from Sydney and spent the past 10 years in New York City, so we missed each other. I just moved home and I’m now taking the exact same meetings you’ve described; one after another. Nothing has changed here and it is disappointing and frustrating to say the least. Proud of you for the work you did in Australia and the recognition you achieved; believe me, I understand how tough and brutal it is. Wishing you all the best in LA! Never stop believing in yourself.
Very insightful bro. Good to see that you’re in a good place and everything is going swell. Living in Sydney but only working in construction, I haven’t been exposed to the kind of bullshit you have but it’s cool to hear about it from someone who was in the media industry. I’m currently studying journalism and hope to pursue a future in the Australian media so you’ve kind of made me step back a bit haha hope the gig in the US works out for the best bro.
Thank you bro! For the past 4 years I’ve been hovering and monitoring your journey. Definitely an icon to me bro – I’ve only found out recently that, this is YOUR journey. I am destined to my own, but I admire your integrity, willingness to learn, hard work and just straight-upness in your work!
Just an upcoming artist trying to make a name for himself in NZ, because I felt like Uni wasn’t cutting it for me. But first, is analysing myself and what toxic things to remove out of my life to flourish.
Aaaanyway, bro I took so much out of this and I’m not a bit reader if it doesn’t interest me. And this had me on the edge! Thank you for sharing brother, I will meet you one day and will see you at the top over a beer. Cheers!
Wow, beautiful read 👌🏼 Keep up the amazing work!! This piece was just so inspiring 😇
Awesome to see you writing again – you have such a strong voice and great insight. It’s always challenging to put yourself out there but you do it every time with a certain amount of “swag”, humour and gravitas… the photos are great!!!! Hahaha, reminders of your journey over the past few years and how much you managed to achieve in spite of such a suffocating and stifling environment – I’ve seen them all before but seeing them in the context of your writing made me smile… being able to reflect on the good and the bad is important – it’s cathartic… you do it well so keep it up..
It takes a strong being to be able to recognise that they need to align themselves – especially when your entire environment is influenced so strongly. Thank you!
I can’t imagine how bad it had to be that, as a man of color, you felt freer to run back to the US in these crazy times!! I’m happy for you that you have found peace and are seeing the positive in what seemed like a really shitty situation. I have felt that disconnect and pain- and it is much sweeter in the other side- when you feel valued and appreciated for who you are!!
When you are settled- I’d love to talk to you about coming back to Lehigh for some talks or events.
Jessica H. Class of ’94
LU Black and Latino Alumni Network for Community and Equity Vice Chair
Hey bro this was an insightful read into the places you have been that we will never tread but through your write up I have gained wisdom. I too have experienced this “resistance” to the “pacific island renaissance ” in the spheres I walk in. I see you giving back massively in the future to pacific youth and up & comming artists/sportsman/media talent. Looking forward to seeing what more you have to grow into in LA. Chur my bro
I have every confidence in you Kiwi. So proud of you and we’re all growing (hard lessons are like fertilizer). Keep going, they say people only throw stones at trees bearing fruit. You are bearing fruit. Lots of love and good vibes for this new chapter.
Hey my friend I am so so happy to hear you’re in a good place not just physically but mind and spirit! You keep your head up high, continue to walk tall and Pacific proud and know you will always have me in your corner to say “Get your shit together bro YOU CAN DO THIS!” 😂. Nah but you know i’m supporting you 💯 and will always have dinner ready for you when you come back home 😉. Conquer the world my friend and enjoy the ride! Keep writing its beautiful and inspiring!! And hey I might need you to help me with my studies so I’ll send you a message on messenger cause I deactivated face book to concentrate this year lol.(Academic writing is killing me lol…but only if you have time all good if not 😉😁) But hopefully we talk soon and you just be safe over there. Always have a pepper spray on you!!! You never know lol. When you come back home dinner is on!!!!
Alofa tele atu,